Robert Lustig

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Robert H. Lustig
Robert Lustig, March 2013.jpg
Speaking in Cambridge, MA, 2013
Brooklyn, New York[1]
EducationBachelor's, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1976.[1]
MD, Cornell University Medical College, 1980.
Residency in pediatriacs, St. Louis Children's Hospital, 1983.
Clinical fellowship in pediatric endocrinology, University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, 1984.
Postdoctoral fellowship in neuroendocrinology, Rockefeller University, 1986.[2]
Master of Studies in Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law[3]
Medical career
ProfessionClinical medical practice, teaching and research
FieldNeuroendocrinology, pediatric endocrinology
InstitutionsUniversity of California, San Francisco, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital
Sub-specialtiesChildhood obesity, metabolic syndrome
ResearchBiochemical, neural, hormonal and genetic influences contributing to obesity
WebsiteRobert Lustig, MD,
University of California, San Francisco

Robert H. Lustig (born 1957) is an American pediatric endocrinologist. He is Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where he specializes in neuroendocrinology and childhood obesity. He is also director of UCSF's WATCH program (Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health), and president and co-founder of the non-profit Institute for Responsible Nutrition.[4][5]

Lustig came to public attention in 2009 when one of his medical lectures, "Sugar: The Bitter Truth," went viral on YouTube.[6][7][8][9] He is the editor of Obesity Before Birth: Maternal and Prenatal Influences on the Offspring (2010), and author of Fat Chance: Beating the Odds against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease (2013).


Lustig grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan.[1] He obtained a bachelor's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976 and an MD from Cornell University Medical College in 1980.[4]

His pediatric residency was completed at St. Louis Children's Hospital in 1983 and his clinical fellowship in pediatric endocrinology at UCSF the following year. After this he worked at Rockefeller University for six years as a post-doctoral fellow and research associate in neuroendocrinology. Before returning to UCSF in 2001, he was a faculty member at the University of Tennessee, Memphis, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and worked at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.[4] In 2013 he completed a Master of Studies in Law (MSL) from UC Hastings College of the Law.[3]

Lustig has authored 105 peer-reviewed articles and 65 reviews.[10] He is a former chair of the obesity task force of the Pediatric Endocrine Society, a member of the obesity task force of the Endocrine Society, and sits on the steering committee of the International Endocrine Alliance to Combat Obesity. He is married with two daughters and lives in San Francisco.[4]


Lustig's research examines links between excess consumption of fructose—a component of sucrose (table sugar), honey, fruit and some vegetables—and the development of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome can include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, obesity and the phenomenon "TOFI" ("thin-outside-fat-inside").[11] Lustig's opinions on fructose metabolism and weight gain have been challenged by some systematic reviews of clinical research and some experts on sugar metabolism and metabolic diseases.[8][9][12][13]

Lustig argues that fructose can be consumed safely within whole fruits and vegetables because of the role played by the accompanying dietary fiber. But he maintains that the liver is damaged by the fructose in table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup that are added to food and beverages (particularly convenience food and soft drinks), and by the fructose in fruit juice and vegetable juice. His position is that sugars are not simply empty calories; he rejects the idea that "a calorie is a calorie."[8][11][14]

Lustig was a co-author in 2009 of the American Heart Association's guideline on sugar intake, which recommended that women consume no more than 100 calories daily from added sugars and men no more than 150.[15] That year, a 90-minute lecture by Lustig, "Sugar: The Bitter Truth," recorded in May 2009 for University of California Television,[6] went viral on YouTube. By February 2017, the video had been viewed almost seven million times.[9] The Financial Times called it "sugar's 'tobacco' moment."[16]

The suggested link between obesity and excess fructose consumption, as opposed to the excess consumption of any high-calorie food, is controversial.[note 1] In March 2015 the World Health Organization recommended that free sugars[note 2] comprise no more than ten percent of daily intake, and preferably no more than five percent (around six teaspoons or 25 grams).[19]:4[20]

Selected works[edit]


  • (2010) Obesity Before Birth: Maternal and Prenatal Influences on the Offspring. Boston: Springer Science.
  • (2013) Fat Chance: Beating the Odds against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease. New York: Hudson Street Press.
  • (2013) Sugar Has 56 Names: A Shopper's Guide, Avery.
  • (2014) with Heather Millar, The Fat Chance Cookbook, Thorndike Press.
  • (2017) "The Hacking of the American Mind", Avery.


  • (2013) with R. Weiss, A. A. Bremer, "What is metabolic syndrome, and why are children getting it?", Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1281, April, 123–140. doi:10.1111/nyas.12030 PMID 23356701

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vanessa C. Campos, Luc Tappy, International Journal of Obesity, March 2016: "A high intake of fructose-containing sugars is associated with body weight gain in large cohort studies, and fructose can certainly contribute to energy imbalance leading to obesity. Whether fructose-containing foods promote obesity more than other energy-dense foods remains controversial, however."[17]

    Luc Tappy, Bettina Mittendorfer, Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, July 2012: "There are indeed reasons to be concerned about an excessive intake of fructose and a call for limiting its consumption is in place because excess energy intake in the form of fructose (just like any other energy source) is associated with excess body weight and metabolic alterations that often accompany obesity. However, there is clearly a need for more clinically relevant research before taking drastic public health actions to specifically target fructose-containing caloric sweeteners, which may divert authorities from other, possibly more important public health actions, such as promoting an increase in physical activity, a decrease in energy consumption in general and an increase in the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables because there is little evidence that fructose itself causes significant metabolic alterations when consumed in amounts that are consistent with current dietary habits. However, crucial studies that will provide definitive answers to the concerns of fructose toxicity and others which should guide decisions of public policy makers are still missing."[18]

  2. ^ World Health Organization, March 2015: "The term 'sugars' includes intrinsic sugars, which are those incorporated within the structure of intact fruit and vegetables; sugars from milk (lactose and galactose); and free sugars, which are monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates."[19]:7


  1. ^ a b c "Robert Lustig, MD, MSL" Archived 2012-01-12 at the Wayback Machine, ConnectWell.
  2. ^ Robert Lustig, MD, Benioff Children's Hospital.
  3. ^ a b "Robert Lustig, M.D., Professor, pediatric endocrinology, UCSF", University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
  4. ^ a b c d "Robert Lustig, MD", University of California, San Francisco.
  5. ^ "Our team", Institute for Responsible Nutrition.
  6. ^ a b Robert Lustig, "Sugar: The Bitter Truth", University of California Television, 26 May 2009; uploaded to YouTube 20 July 2009.
  7. ^ Kate Vidinsky, "UCSF Lecture on Sugar & Obesity Goes Viral as Experts Confront Health Crisis", University of California, San Francisco, 11 March 2010.
  8. ^ a b c Gary Taube, "Is Sugar Toxic?", The New York Times, 13 April 2011.
  9. ^ a b c Ian Leslie, "The sugar conspiracy", The Guardian, 7 April 2016.
  10. ^ "Robert Lustig", The Conversation.
  11. ^ a b Robert H. Lustig, Laura A. Schmidt, Claire D. Brindis, "Public health: The toxic truth about sugar" Archived 2016-03-10 at the Wayback Machine, Nature, 482, 2 February 2012, 27–29. doi:10.1038/482027a PMID 22297952
  12. ^ Khan, T. A; Sievenpiper, J. L (2016). "Controversies about sugars: Results from systematic reviews and meta-analyses on obesity, cardiometabolic disease and diabetes". European Journal of Nutrition. 55 (Suppl 2): 25–43. doi:10.1007/s00394-016-1345-3. PMC 5174149. PMID 27900447.
  13. ^ Rippe, J. M; Angelopoulos, T. J (2016). "Relationship between Added Sugars Consumption and Chronic Disease Risk Factors: Current Understanding". Nutrients. 8 (11): 697. doi:10.3390/nu8110697. PMC 5133084.
  14. ^ Robert Lustig, "Fructose: It's 'Alcohol Without the Buzz', Advances in Nutrition, 4(2), March 2013, 226–235. doi:10.3945/an.112.002998 PMID 23493539
  15. ^ Rachel K. Johnson, et al., "AHA Scientific Statement: Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health", American Heart Association, 15 September 2009. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.192627 PMID 19704096
  16. ^ Izabella Kaminska, "Robert Lustig: godfather of the sugar tax", The Financial Times, 18 March 2016.
  17. ^ Vanessa C. Campos, Luc Tappy, "Physiological handling of dietary fructose-containing sugars: implications for health," International Journal of Obesity, 40, March 2016, Supp 1, S6–S11. doi:10.1038/ijo.2016.8 PMID 27001645
  18. ^ Luc Tappy, Bettina Mittendorfer, "Fructose toxicity: is the science ready for public health actions?", Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 15(4), July 2012, 357–361. doi:10.1097/MCO.0b013e328354727e PMID 22617566
  19. ^ a b Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children, Geneva: World Health Organization, March 2015.
  20. ^ "WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children", World Health Organization, press release, 4 March 2015.

External links[edit]