Person of the Week: Robert Lustig, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics, UC San Francisco

Our Public Health Person of the Week series is designed to inspire & encourage students to pursue a career in the myriad sectors within global public health. Public health is far reaching and incredibly expansive, providing the platform in which to improve the lives of local & national communities worldwide. As Dr. Seuss said, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose…” – ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go!’-


Person of the Week for October, 15, 2012

Robert Lustig, M.D., is Professor of Pediatrics in Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco. He also is the Director of the Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health (WATCH) Program at UCSF. He has spent his career as a noted neuroendocrinologist, with extensive basic and clinical training involving hypothalmic development, anatomy and function. Lustig has developed a strong following in the nutrition and health world as he has warned the country about the dangers of consuming too much sugar.


Over the years, Dr. Lustig has developed a unified hypothesis centered on the etiology, prevention and treatment of the obesity epidemic that has plagued the US for many years.

Dr. Lustig has done a great deal of excellent work in the area of endocrine care, with many children whose hypothalami were damaged by various types of brain tumors, radiation, chemotherapy and various surgeries. What happened in these cases was that patients who lived had very serious obesity problems. Lustig theorized that the damage to the hypothalamus caused the inability to be able to sense the hormone leptin. This cause a starvation response.

Repairing the hypothalamus was not possible so he noted that patients had more activity in their vagus nerve, and this boosted insulin secretion. Lustig was able to give them octreotide, which is an insulin suppressive agent. He was able to get these patients to lose a great deal of weight.

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Also, Lustig was able to get them to exercise a great deal more. This work led him to develop his unified theory on obesity. This work also has led him to look into the role of fructose in the development of chronic diseases.

Lustig’s work has helped the scientific community make a tremendous amount of progress in the fight against both obesity and the related development of chronic diseases. He also is leading the public relations fight in the US against the use of high fructose corn syrup that is prevalent in so many packaged foods today.


Dr. Lustig is from Brooklyn, NY, and he graduated from MIT in 1976. He earned his MD in 1980 from Cornell University Medical College. He did his pediatric residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in 1983, and his clinical fellowship was performed at the University of San Francisco in 1984.

Over the years, Lustig has written 85 peer-reviewed articles and 30 reviews. He also has been active in these organizations over his long career:

  • Chairman – Ad hoc Obesity Task Force of the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society
  • Member – Obesity Task Force of the Endocrine Society
  • Member – Pediatric Obesity Devices Committee of the US Food and Drug Administration
  • Member – Steering Committee of the International Endocrine Alliance to Combat Obesity

What He Has Been Up To

On December 27, 2012, Dr. Lustig has a new book being released about how to beat disease and obesity by cutting out sugar and processed food from your diet. the book is called, Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease. You can order it through Amazon.

Dr. Lustig developed this notorious, popular video called ‘Sugar – The Bitter Truth’, with nearly 3Million views on Youtube! In it, he explains the vast cellular damage that is done by consuming too many sugary foods.

Where He’s Recently Been Quoted

“[High fructose corn syrup] is cheap. And because it’s cheap it started finding its way into things that never had sugar before, like hamburger buns, hamburger meat, barbeque sauce, ketchup, salad dressing. I mean pretty much everything you can imagine in the store, indeed Barry Popkin at the University of North Carolina has just done a study that shows that 80 percent of the food items, there are 600,000 food items in America, 80 percent of them are laced with sugar, added sugar.”

– Interview with Alec Baldwin, at the radio station WNYC, New York City, July 2012.

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Tweet Alert

Dr. Lustig is not on Twitter (email him and tell him to sign up!). But his video ‘Sugar – The Bitter Truth’ is tweeted about often. For example:

To Learn More

To learn more about Dr. Lustig and his groundbreaking public health work on obesity and sugar, you can read more at the University of California San Francisco website, which has his contact information.

Thank you for your outstanding work in public health, Dr. Lustig!

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