Bringing medical
projects to life.

Our Story

Medthink can help your medical project become a reality.

Medthink offer a range of bespoke services to enhance your medical business, whether it be a device company, pharmaceutical organisation or clinical practice.

Medthink will work closely with you to achieve your goals and future direction.

Dr James Muecke AM

James uses his broad expertise in medical research, education, and project management, coupled with writing, photography, music and film production, marketing and social entrepreneurship, to help bring medical projects to life.

He has worked as a visiting medical consultant for over twenty years at the Royal Adelaide and Women’s & Children’s Hospitals and in his own private practice in Adelaide.

James has undertaken ophthalmic projects in eleven low-income countries in Asia and Africa. He co-founded the not-for-profit social impact organisation Sight For All, which he has chaired since 2009.

For his humanitarian efforts, James was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in 2012. In 2015 he was EY’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year for Australia, and in 2019 received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Adelaide. James is the current Australian of the Year for 2020.

James is a passionate and at times confronting keynote speaker, drawing on over 30 years of medical experience working in some of the poorest countries in the world.

 

Mena Muecke OAM

Mena throughout her career has built a reputation for having a diverse set of design and management skills. With over 20 years’ experience as an interior architect, her design development, space planning and project management work has been applied to many corporate and hospitality projects in both the residential and commercial sectors.

In 2008, Mena refocused her energies to join James in championing the fight against blindness in Australia and abroad with the social impact organisation Sight For All.

In her voluntary role as Events Director, Mena has created several iconic and unique events which have collectively raised over one million dollars for improving eye health care in low income countries. Mena also plays a vital role in the marketing and publicity of Sight For All and is a co-founder of the Vision 1000 social investment initiative. For her humanitarian efforts, Mena was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2018.

Mena loves a challenge and is very passionate about development, project management, and brand creation and promotion.

Our Services

Brand Ambassadorship

Communication is a key ingredient in marketing these days, and the spoken word remains the most powerful means of communicating your ideas and infecting people with your passion. As a Brand Ambassador, James can help promote your service or product through persuasive presentations and powerful video content. Reach your target audience and put your business at the forefront of the health industry.

Contact James if you’d like to speak to him about communicating your next great medical idea.

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Keynote Presentations

James is an enthusiastic and engaging keynote speaker, and is keen to speak at your next event.

Following his medical internship in 1988, James lived and worked as a doctor in Africa and subsequently as an eye surgeon in the Middle East, battling malaria, wild animals, rebel soldiers, and insurgent groups. He founded Sight For All in 2008, turning his passion and boundless energy into a fight against blindness in the Aboriginal and mainstream communities of Australia and some of the poorest countries of the world.

In 2016, James had to prematurely retire from surgery as a result of a neurological disability that impaired the function of his dominant hand.  Throughout his career, he has been a researcher, a teacher, an author, a musician, a photographer, and a film creator, and uses his many skills to deliver passionate, fascinating, and at times confronting presentations about his life, work, philanthropy, and social entrepreneurship.

Contact James if you’d like him to speak at your next corporate or medical event.

Keynote topics

Building resilience – a personal and global journey

James’ career as an eye surgeon, humanitarian and social entrepreneur has enriched his life with extraordinary characters and confronting experiences. He has witnessed powerful stories of resilience that he wants to share with the world – a man who woke blind in both eyes, a group of disabled children in an impoverished country, and a global health crisis crying out for help. And through the re-telling of his own story of loss, James explores the critical elements needed to build resilience, at all levels.

Harnessing your passion to change the world – the art and science of social entrepreneurship

James is an eye surgeon, humanitarian and social entrepreneur, and for 30 years has been fighting blindness in Australia and some of the poorest countries of the world. In this fascinating and at times confronting keynote presentation, James uses powerful stories from his work with social impact organisation Sight For All, to outline the three key elements of social entrepreneurship – a spirit of adventure, a humanitarian spirit, and an entrepreneurial spirit. He also discusses the ingredients that make up an entrepreneurial spirit and how you can harness your passion and use these ingredients to change the world for better.

Blinded by Sugar – the toxic impact of sugar and the rise of type 2 diabetes

Blinded By Sugar tells the story of Neil Hansell, a man who woke one morning blind in both eyes due to neglect of his diabetes. In this confronting 20-minute keynote presentation, Dr Muecke discusses why type 2 diabetes is a growing worldwide epidemic and explores a number of strategies to curb the toxic impact of sugar on our health and on our world.

Past major keynotes

2020

– NewDay Summit webinar, July 2020

– Medibank Private, Executive Team webinar, July 2020

– Australian Taxation Office, Executive Team webinar, June 2020

– Showcase SA lunch, June 2020

– Nova Systems, webinar June 2020

– SA Leaders, webinar May 2020

– AmCham Australia, webinar May 2020

– Showcase SA, webinar May 2020

– Lions National Conference, webinar May 2020

– Public Health Association of Australia National Conference, webinar May 2020

– The George Institute of Health Sciences, webinar May 2020

2019

– Executive Roundtable, December 2019

– Trinity College Speech Day, December 2019

– Raising The Bar Entrepreneurship Event, Adelaide, October 2019

– Nova Systems Annual Group Conference, Adelaide, August 2019

2010-17

– Australian Medical Student’s Association’s Global Health Conference, Adelaide, August 2017

– Social Capital Conference, Adelaide, July 2017

– ASEAN’s 50 Years Celebration Business Forum Dinner, Adelaide, March 2017

– United Nations Youth’ Annual Conference, Adelaide, March 2016

– Hollows Lecture: Cataract and Beyond, RANZCO Annual Congress, Melbourne, November 2016

– Medical Technology Association of Australia’s Annual Conference Dinner, Sydney, November 2015

– TEDx Talk: Restoring sight, alleviating poverty, saving lives, Adelaide, November 2015

– University Senior College’s Graduation Ceremony, Adelaide, December 2014

– Slipperyfish’s Positive Lunch Club, Adelaide, July 2014

– Flinders University Surgical Society’ Beyond Borders, Adelaide, July 2013

– Australian Institute of Project Management, Adelaide, April 2013

– Trinity College’s Annual Awards Ceremony, Adelaide, December 2011

– Scotch College Junior School’s End of Year Ceremony, Adelaide, December 2010

Testimonials

“Thanks James for sharing your story of social entrepreneurship with our senior leaders. Your story is one of the best lessons in resilience and belief driving action to make a real difference in our society and community. We could have listened to you all day – it was not just an engaging and interesting talk, but your humility, passion and the way you talk about the work you’ve done across the world left us all feeling inspired.”

Craig Drummond, CEO, Medibank

“It was a wonderful opportunity to hear from James, and I know that many of us listening were too emotionally moved to speak or ask a question. If we all took a moment to reflect more often on our lives I am quite sure we would all be surprised that each and every one of us can recall a moment, a time, a situation where resilience has been our saviour – and gathered unknowingly the strength to accept, embrace and go forward. James has himself applied in all he spoke about and more and his story is uplifting and heart-warming and sends a message of survival against many odds. We all do have a story to tell and James has reiterated this so very well in his talk to us today”

Lipman Karas Lawyers 2020

“James inspired the business leaders in the SA Leaders network to ‘harness their passion to change the world’ through a webinar that was engaging, powerful and truly inspirational.  Each of our members manage and operate growing businesses across a wide range of industry sectors, and the intent of the session was to engage business leaders to think beyond, to make an impact in their business, personal life, local community and beyond.  James achieved this through his ability to story-tell, engage the audience with humour, and truly inspire. His real story is evidence to others that you can change the world. Everyone walked away with a new perspective ”.

SA Leaders 2020

“James Muecke has an inspiring and courageous story to tell.  He engages his audience in a way that invites them to walk in his shoes and share his experiences as if they were there.  His webinar presentation was engaging and involved the attendees as if they were present in the room.  There were multiple comments from the audience throughout the presentation that indicated they were fully engaged and enjoyed hearing about his remarkable journey.”

Matt Davey, SA Leaders 2020

 

“We asked James to inspire our groups with a presentation and discussion on social entrepreneurship. Although all of our members come from a business background, the topic was relevant and engaging. James spent the afternoon with our members and provided a forum for people to think outside of their own business and how they can make an impact within and outside of their own communities, whether they be business or personal. James is an experienced and engaging speaker and importantly provides a message that is needed across society as a whole. Inspiration is one thing but to provide a message that motivates is so much better. I would recommend James to anybody seeking these aspects in a speaker and The Executive Roundtable members certainly appreciated everything James had to say.”

Executive Roundtable forum 2019

 

“James is a true inspiration that oozes passion and dedication, which can be seen in everything that he does. The City of Norwood Payneham & St Peters had the pleasure of working with James Muecke AM to launch the inaugural Raising the Bar Entrepreneurship event in the world in October 2019.
James is personable, pro-active and was a delight to work with through every stage of the event. James’ ability to deliver an engaging, funny and inspiring talk was second to none and showed that if you have a passion for something, you truly can, change the world. As a speaker, James earns the Council’s highest recommendation.”

Raising The Bar Entrepreneurship 2019

 

“Dr James Muecke provided an insightful guest speaker presentation that was specifically tailored to our conference theme and aligned with our group messaging.  The presentation focussing on using your passion and social entrepreneurship to create change was thought provoking and encouraging.  The presentation was relevant and interesting for all delegates and we look forward to welcoming James back in the future.”

Nova Group Conference 2019

 

“James was a keynote speaker at the 2017 Social Capital Conference, a peak event for the social innovation and entrepreneurship community. His address held the audience spellbound – and received a steady flow of praise for quite some time after the event. James has the rare ability to seamlessly present both a strong rational case for change, and to humanise it. His combination of deep professional insight and personal stories is powerful. Certainly, the tremendous and selfless work he, and the Sight for All team, are doing is a story that many more people must hear.”

Professor David Paterson, Co-Founder & Chair, Social Capital

 

“I organised and was the MC of the Social Capital Conference in Adelaide in July 2017, one of the key events of Entrepreneurs Week, attracting some 250 attendees. James Muecke was one of our keynote presenters. I was fortunate to witness him from the stage and I could see how his powerful story resonated with our audience. In the breaks and also in days following the conference, I spoke with numerous people who spoke of how James’s talk and the excellent presentation media had a powerful impact, with many noting it was the conference’s stand-out keynote.”

Matthew Wright-Simon, Engagement Lead, Social Capital

 

“James Muecke is a captivating speaker. His superb storytelling, global perspective and passion for his field is a powerful combination. He engages easily with his audience, as demonstrated by his recent presentation to the Celebrating 50 Years of ASEAN Business Forum in Adelaide. He would be a valuable contribution to any event seeking an intelligent and thought-provoking edge.”

Belinda Heggen, former national broadcaster, public speaking and presentation coach, MC for Celebrating 50 Years of ASEAN Business Forum 2017

 

“The 2017 Australian Medical Students’ Association’s Global Health Conference attracted over 750 medical students from around Australia, New Zealand and the wider Pacific region. In full attendance, the delegates were delighted to welcome Dr James Muecke AM who spoke of his experience working outside Australia with his not-for-profit organisation, Sight For All. He provided practical advice and examples about the challenges and rewards of running a non-governmental health organisation, as well as inspiring stories of the positive impact that a few committed and enthusiastic individuals can achieve. Delegates were captivated by his engaging style of presentation, with images from his work overseas accompanied by anecdotes as well as key information about the population and diseases concerned. Afterwards, many delegates expressed their enjoyment of Dr Muecke’s engaging session. It provided a rare insight into the daily activities of a medical NGO, and demonstrated that a doctor does not need to be a public health physician to make a tangible impact on global health issues. I can wholeheartedly recommend Dr Muecke as a motivating, engaging and informative speaker.”

Annie Collinson, Academic Convenor, AMSA Global Health Conference 2017

 

“Dr James Muecke delivered the Hollows Lecture at the RANZCO Congress in 2016. As the invited speaker for this prestigious lecture, he gave a thoughtful presentation of his journey in ophthalmology which has led to the growth and success of Sight For All as an international development agency. It was a great example of the positive impact that eye surgery can have on not only those receiving, but those giving.”

David Andrews, CEO, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists

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Medical Projects


Medthink can help bring your medical projects to life.

There are many ways we can help you achieve your goals, whether it be a medical facility, the development of a device or app, or content creation for your business. We also have the skills to launch your product, service or business.

James utilises his expertise in medical research, education, infrastructure support and health awareness, coupled with writing, photography, and music & film production. Mena draws on her experience as a commercial interior architect, event planner and project manager. Together they will work within your brief to deliver a solution that is perfect for you.

Contact Medthink if you’d like to speak to the team about making your next medical project a reality.

Current Projects

– The Specialists is a documentary series, currently in production, that explores the fascinating and yet mysterious lives of medical specialists. Episode 1 features Dr Than Htun Aung, a paediatric eye surgeon who is leading the way in the fight against childhood blindness in Myanmar. Please visit the Our Library page to view the teaser for the documentary which will be launched in early 2020.

 

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Medical Stories

Medthink loves to create and share powerful medical stories. With a strong skill set in documentary film making, content creation, and photojournalism, we can work with you to capture the essence of your vision.

Contact Medthink if you’d like us to create your next medical story.

Short films

James has produced a number of short films, many for the not-for-profit organisation Sight For All:

Little Bang’s New Eye, set in Vietnam and featuring a family from an ethnic minority group, tells the story of a young girl battling a rare form eye cancer. The award-winning film has been played at a number of international film festivals.

Please Don’t Rush is a deeply moving film set in a school for the blind in Lao that delivers an extraordinary insight into the world of blind children. It was selected for the New York and St Kilda Film Festivals.

Eyes is an award-winning music video featuring a song by Aboriginal hip hop artist Caper, using the spoken word to deliver powerful messages about eye health.

Please visit the Our Library section of this website for a wider selection of Medthink’s short films.

Documentaries

Medthink are currently producing and co-directing a documentary highlighting the ground-breaking work of a paediatric ophthalmologists’ fight against childhood blindness in Myanmar.

Photojournalism

Combining travel writing and photography has always been a passion of James’s:

Chin State Odyssey tells the story of a medical team travelling to a remote region of Myanmar to establish an eye clinic for Sight For All.

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Our Library

Stories

Please visit again to read our first story.

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Books

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The Australian Guide For Healthy Eating is making us fat and unhealthy

It was reassuring to read in The Age over the weekend, about the push to downgrade unhealthy foods that receive a high rating on our flawed voluntary Health Star Rating System, including orange juice, some cereals, muesli bars and a range of organic snacks. It’s not just our food labelling system that’s flawed. Australia’s dietary guidelines are packed with unhealthy food and drinks. I checked out the Australian Guide For Healthy Eating poster recently and was disturbed to find that many of the foods they are promoting are not healthy at all, in fact are likely to be driving the current epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes in Australia. Where do I start? In the Cereal and Grain section of the Guide, white rice is one of the recommended products, and yet white rice is a highly processed grain, which has had its husk, bran and germ removed, in short all the good stuff. White rice is virtually pure starch, and starch is simply a long chain of glucose which is broken down into glucose when it reaches our gut. White rice is a nutrient-poor sugar hit that has driven an epidemic of beri beri throughout Asia, a neurological disease due to vitamin B1 deficiency, that causes numbness of the extremities, confusion, and other unpleasant symptoms. Why is it being promoted as “healthy eating” by our government? Products made from white wheat flour also feature heavily in the Cereal and Grain section, including a variety of pastas and breads, and processed refined carbohydrate products such as polenta and couscous. And once again, white flour is starch, in other words sugar in disguise. Whilst we’re on starch, let’s move to the Vegetables and Legumes/beans section. Should white potatoes really be there? Yet another form of starch? And don’t forget all the products made from white potatoes such as potato crisps and chips, French fries, tater tots, and gnocchi. And can tinned beetroot and sweet corn really be considered healthy? It’s a relief to at least see a few nutrient-rich carbs in this section, such as broccoli, cauliflower and spinach. The Fruits section is jam-packed with high sugar tropical delights such as watermelon, mangoes and bananas. And canned fruit is more often than not a seriously sugary dessert. Moving to the Dairy section, low-fat milks, yoghurts and cheeses get a plug, and yet these “healthy” alternatives are often higher in sugar than their full-fat relatives. Studies have shown that you’re more likely to gain weight drinking skim milk than full-fat milk. And do I really spy baked beans in the Lean meats and Legumes/beans section? One half a cup of these sugary treats contains an average of three teaspoons (12 grams) of added sugars, which is 20% of the daily limit of a 2,000-calorie diet. And why is there a Lean meats section at all? Red meat is barely visible when compared to the massive Cereal and Grain section. Red meat has been demonised for a century or more and yet it’s the refined carbohydrates of cereals and grains that are killing us. Australians need to be made aware that natural fats (saturated or other) in our diet have never been shown to cause cardiovascular disease, and that includes the fats in red meat and full fat dairy. Saturated fats in meat and dairy were dealt a critical blow in the 1980’s when fatty blockage of our blood vessels causing heart attacks was felt to be due to a fatty diet, on no scientific evidence mind you. And they have been unable to shake their unhealthy label ever since. The fact is, dietary saturated fats are critical to our health – there are a number of saturated fats that we can’t go without, fats are needed to allow absorption of many essential vitamins, and fats impart flavour to food and make us feel full after a meal. In fact, when fats are removed from products such as milk and cheese, sugars are needed to enhance the flavour and to give us that same sense of satiety or feeling of satisfaction after eating. The Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Guide For Healthy Eating is no better. In fact, it’s worse, particularly when you realise that one of the promoted items is a highly popular Australian breakfast cereal thinly disguised as “Wheatblocks”, yet in virtually identical packaging. And should graphic depictions of energy and soft drinks (that look similar to popular brand drinks), cordials, and junk food be included on any guide to healthy eating? One has to ask the question, is there a conflict of interest here? With half of Aussie adults and one third of Aussie kids now overweight or obese, and with type 2 diabetes and its life-changing and life-threatening complications on the rise, it’s time for us to admit that our experiment with a low fat-high carb diet has been a failure. There’s never been a more important time in our history to examine our diet, a diet that is killing us by the tens of thousands every year. While we eagerly await the review of our Health Star Rating System in July this year, the Australian Guide For Healthy Eating most certainly needs an overhaul when it comes up for review in 2023. In the meantime, I wouldn’t recommend it as ‘your’ healthy guide to eating.

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Dealing with sugar toxicity – accountability, addition and awareness

Making sweet products less obvious and accessible in supermarkets, delicatessens, post offices and service stations is a good idea – moving them away from check-out counters means that those reflex purchases are less likely to happen. Vending machines dispensing sugary food and drinks should be removed from government buildings, schools and universities. A system for clear labelling of the added sugar content of products should be implemented – the current nutritional guidelines on packaging offer no insight into the amount of added sugar contained within. In Australia, we have a five-star health rating system, which is voluntary, and as such is flawed. What manufacturer would voluntarily put a low rating on a food that it’s trying to sell? And there are a number of unhealthy products which are incorrectly rated as healthy – for example, orange juice receives five stars, and yet a glass of orange juice has nearly as much sugar as a glass of cola. I like the idea of a ‘traffic light’ rating for the level of added sugar, where red = harmful, orange = think twice, green = safe. Applying a levy to products containing high levels of added sugar should also be considered. There’s good evidence and sound reasoning behind this. Sugar sweetened beverages have been linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, and there’s now strong, increasing and consistent evidence that a levy on sweet drinks will effectively reduce consumption. Such a levy would also help to offset the massive cost to our health system and raise much-needed revenue for awareness initiatives. Advertising time and space for sugary products should be minimised, starting with the cessation of such adds targeting children on the internet and free-to-air TV and all the places our kids see the pernicious promotion of sugary products as “normal”. Adds promoting such products should also be removed from government facilities and services such as trams and buses. Hard-hitting multi-media awareness strategies should be introduced, as we have done for cigarettes, to inform the public of the far-reaching health dangers of sugar and the very serious complications of type 2 diabetes – check out Sight For All’s TV commercial at https://sightforall.org/news/diabetic-retinopathy-initiative.  

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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.

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Diabetes is a blinding disease

In 2018 I met an everyday Aussie bloke whose story had a powerful impact on me. Neil Hansell constructs light machinery for a living. He has a wife and four kids. He also has diabetes. A few years ago, diabetes changed Neil’s world overnight. Unfortunately, Neil had neglected his diabetes, and he paid the price. He went to sleep one evening with normal eyesight and woke up the next morning blind in both eyes. One of my surgical colleagues worked hard to retrieve his sight, however sadly, it was too late. At the age of 50, Neil was faced with the rest of his life in darkness, and all that he can see now are black objects on a grey background. Neil had to give up coaching the javelin, a hobby and a passion that gave him so much pleasure. He lost his driving licence, his independence, and his ability to see the beautiful smiles on the faces of his grandkids. Neil is not alone. Over half of all Aussies with diabetes are not having their regular all-important sight-saving eye checks. As a result, diabetes is now the leading cause of blindness amongst working age adults in this country. It’s also the fastest growing cause of blindness in Aboriginal people. If you have diabetes, make sure you have your eyes checked regularly by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

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Diabetes is a killer

There is an estimated 1.7 million Aussies living with diabetes, the sixth biggest killer in our country, a growing epidemic, and the greatest threat to our health system. Impotence, numbness and disabling pain of the hands and feet, gangrene of the feet and legs requiring amputation of the lower limbs, kidney failure requiring daily filtering of the blood by dialysis, and stroke, are just some of the life-changing or life-threatening complications that menacingly await people with this insidious disease. Heart attack is the commonest cause of death, indeed 68% of patients with diabetes will die of heart attack. Dealing with the complications of diabetes is expensive (the total annual cost impact in Australia is estimated to be close to $20 billion) and is counter intuitive – we should all be aware of the risk factors that underly most cases of diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and how we can prevent the disease in the first place, not waiting for the complications to arise before we act.

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What is diabetes?

The word diabetes comes from the ancient Greek “to pass through” and suggests excessive urination, one of the earliest symptoms of the disease. There are two main categories of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes, which makes up 10% of all diabetes, is due to auto-immune damage to the pancreas, the organ that secretes insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin is the hormone that’s responsible for moving dietary glucose from the blood into every cell of our bodies, where it’s stored and utilised as an energy source. Without insulin, blood glucose levels rise dangerously, and this can be life-threatening. The onset is usually rapid and can happen at any age. Type 2 diabetes, which makes up over 90% of all diabetes, is a progressive metabolic disorder where the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin. Modifiable risk factors include an unhealthy diet (too much added sugar and refined carbohydrate), physical inactivity and weight gain. Importantly, there is very strong evidence that type 2 diabetes can be prevented and even reversed with lifestyle behavioural changes.

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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.

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