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'Dealing with sugar toxicity - addiction' - Dr James Muecke AM, 2020 Australian of the Year

Posted on July 02 2020

The following is the tenth in a series of weekly guest posts from 2020 Australian of the Year, Dr James Muecke AM. 

About Dr Muecke

56-year-old Dr James Muecke AM is passionate about fighting blindness. His focus is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults – type 2 diabetes – a spiralling epidemic that in some regions of Australia is impacting over one-in-ten people. It's also the fastest growing cause of vision loss in Aboriginal people and the sixth-biggest killer in this country. James wants to challenge our perception of sugar and its toxic impact on the development of type 2 diabetes.

James co-founded Sight For All, a social impact organisation aiming to create a world where everyone can see. Sight For All’s comprehensive and sustainable educational strategies are impacting on the lives of over one million people each year. 

With 80% of world blindness avoidable – and almost 90% in low income countries – James treats blindness as a human rights issue.

This is the tenth piece in this series, to read the ninth message click here

Dealing with sugar toxicity - addiction

It’s not impossible to kick the toxic impact of sugar. Personally, it’s a matter of being aware of our own addiction to sugar and slowly winding down from it. During my detox, I began with omitting the obvious foodstuffs that are loaded with sugar – soft drinks, fruit juices, dried fruit, chocolate, candy, ice cream, cakes and sweet biscuits – and avoiding granular sugar itself, for example the stirring of sugar into my tea and coffee.

Even these simple strategies caused withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, headache, sluggish thoughts, and fatigue, which began on the very first day. And the cravings were unpleasant. It was much tougher than a coffee withdrawal, however only lasted for three days, and the occasional paracetamol tablet certainly helped.

Progressing to the next level might include cutting out commercially-produced everyday foodstuffs that contain excessive amounts of added sugar such as jams, condiments, and most breakfast cereals, and white rice and heavily-processed foods that contain refined carbohydrates such as products made from white flour (white bread, pastries and pasta) and white potatoes (crisps and fries). I’m certainly not a saint when it comes to eating sugar and carbs (my in-laws call me the “Ice Cream Kid”!), however I most definitely don’t want to contract type 2 diabetes and move more, eat less sugar is a good rule to live by.

It’s easy to nominate now for the 2021 Awards, just complete the online nomination form at

Keen to learn more? Read the next blog here


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