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

Posted on July 17 2020

The following is the twelfth 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 twelfth piece in this series, to read the eleventh message click here

Dealing with sugar toxicity - the broader picture

From a public health perspective, there are strategies that must be taken on by business, industry and government in order to reduce the toxic impact of sugar. Ultimately, the government must play a pivotal role. A multi-disciplinary team approach is needed, and one that engages medical doctors such as endocrinologists and public health physicians, neuroscientists, nutritionists, marketers, PR experts, and government representatives. Strategies at this level should be aimed at the ‘accessibility’, ‘addition’ and ‘advertisement’ “A’s” of sugar toxicity. Ultimately, it’s about accountability.

The sugar industry and the food and beverage industries will need to be included in the discussions, however commercial interests must not stop our government from introducing actions to prevent type 2 diabetes in children, young people and the community in general. Resilience and innovation will be necessary, as we have seen in other disrupted industries (for example, sugar cane could be used to produce ethanol as a clean energy source). The type 2 diabetes epidemic is the biggest health challenge facing our country, indeed the world. And it’s time for Australia to declare war on type 2 diabetes.

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


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