Cereal Killers - Film Review

Cereal Killers is a fairly low budget but well intentioned documentary that explores the growing body of evidence suggesting that the Western world's food pyramid is fundamentally flawed.

For anyone with even a passing interest in paleo, Atkins or low-carb diets, this will be nothing new. The film was produced by its main protagonists, an Irish Ironman fanatic and Professor Tim Noakes; the latter notorious for having written a book about long-distance running that recommended a high carbohydrate diet, a chapter he later made a complete U-turn on before becoming one of the world's most outspoken proponents of a low-carb high-fat (LCHF) diet for endurance athletes.

So there is (just enough) meat on the bones here for more dedicated followers of the paleo / primal lifestyle as well as those looking for a basic overview of the topic. We follow the course of a 28-day LCHF diet experiment with our gung-ho Irishman putting himself through all sorts of exams and tests, interspersed with frequent informed interjections from Sports Scientist Professor Noakes in Cape Town, South Africa.

Had this been made by someone already on such a diet in all likelihood there would have been a lot more variety than the one shown here that revolves around eggs, meat and macadamia nuts with side portions of vegetables. It consequently comes across as the stereotypical caveman-Crossfitter interpretation of paleo: somewhat limited in range and likely to be viewed with heavy skepticism by onlookers ("butter, bacon and eggs is meant to be a healthy breakfast?").

More experienced LCHF converts know there are any number of hacks on offer to tick off the 'high fat' component each day such as integrating coconut oil, olive oil, butter and avocado into the meal plan rather than letting the fats dictate the menu. With that box ticked, it leaves the rest of the day open to a vast number of seasonal vegetables and accompanying meat or fish.

Leaving aside this minor criticism, the documentary does a good job of explaining the pivotal moment in Western dietary history in the late 1970s when two contesting opinions competed for the support of the US government. On one side was American Dr Ancel Keys with his Seven Countries study that suggested a high-carb low-fat approach was the best path to health, essentially vilifying fat as the enemy. On the other was Dr John Yudkin, author of a book called 'Pure, White & Deadly', that put the blame firmly on sugar.

We know now that Keys cherry picked his seven countries from a far larger list in order to support his argument, a clear case of scientific bad practice, yet he was an avid campaigner in the US and, at that time at least, there was simply more evidence to support the anti-fat campaign than the anti-sugar. So Keys won.

Cereal Killers isn't afraid to point out the role of lobbyists representing the interests of giant agricultural firms, especially those linked to sugar, had a key role to play in this decision too. Only now, 50 years later, are we starting to see sugar rather than fat being blamed for the obesity epidemic, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes that the food pyramid has failed to prevent.

The tide appears to be turning but as yet neither the US nor UK government have been prepared to change their official stance on fat so for now we are all still advised to eat cereal, toast and fruit juice every morning (a pure carbohydrate hit with very little nutritional value).

Still not convinced the government could be wrong about something as important as this? Why not start by watching Cereal Killers, doing your own reading or trying a 28-day LCHF diet experiment? 


DietMatt Morley