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'Excessive sugar consumption causes obesity and type 2 diabetes' - Dr James Muecke AM, 2020 Australian of the Year

Posted on June 04 2020

 

The following is the sixth 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 sixth piece in this series, to read the fifth message click here

Excessive sugar consumption causes obesity and type 2 diabetes

Table sugar (sucrose) is made up of short chains of glucose plus fructose, in equal amounts. Refined carbohydrates such as white rice, white flour, and potato are pure starch, which is composed of long chains of glucose. These sugar chains are broken down in the gut and their glucose and fructose are then absorbed into the bloodstream.

As the blood glucose level rises following the ingestion of any sugar, the insulin level temporarily rises in order to move the glucose into our cells, where it’s utilised for energy or stored for later use. With excessive and persistent glucose intake, the cells become ‘full’ and can no longer take in more (insulin resistance). The overflow of glucose is ultimately converted into fat by the liver, where it accumulates, and can rapidly give rise to fatty liver. Fructose suppresses our appetite control system, has no nutritional value and virtually all is stored as liver fat.

The excess fat created by glucose and fructose is eventually exported away from the liver as harmful triglyceride and is deposited in and around the abdominal organs as visceral fat, which is far more dangerous than subcutaneous fat. The resulting increase in the waistline is a strong predictor of type 2 diabetes. A gain in weight of just 8-11kg increases the risk of type 2 diabetes by 270%.

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

Keen to read more? Click here to read the next blog piece

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