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'Type 2 diabetes is on the rise' - Dr James Muecke AM, 2020 Australian of the Year

Posted on May 21 2020

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

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 fourth piece in this series, to read the third message click here

Type 2 diabetes is on the rise

Humans are physiologically hardwired to love and seek out sweet things. It’s an ancient survival mechanism that evolved to prepare our bodies for expected periods of fasting when food supplies were scarce and to warn us off bitter and potentially poisonous foods.

Prior to the 1600s, sugar was an expensive commodity, the domain of healers and holy men or an indulgence that could only be afforded by the wealthy and powerful. Its rising availability and popularity over the next three centuries, as a result of the booming sugar trade, led to diminishing costs, turning sugar from a luxury item into an everyday necessity.

These days sugar is cheap and sweet products are everywhere, however things took a turn for the worse in 1980. This was in large part due to the American Dietary Guidelines which were released that year in response to the growing numbers of heart disease that had been noted in the decades following World War 2. Based on little scientific evidence, the recommendation was to reduce dietary fat and increase consumption of carbohydrates. The result had the opposite effect – heart disease and type 2 diabetes soared.

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

Keen to learn more? Click here to read the next blog!


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