Dr. Lustig is a neuroendocrinologist, with basic and clinical training relative to hypothalamic development, anatomy, and function. Prior to coming to San Francisco in 2001, he worked at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. There, he was charged with the endocrine care of many children whose hypothalami had been damaged by brain tumors, or subsequent surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. Many patients who survived became massively obese. Dr. Lustig theorized that hypothalamic damage led to the inability to sense the hormone leptin, which in turn, led to the starvation response. Since repairing the hypothalamus was not an option, he looked downstream, and noted that these patients had increased activity of the vagus nerve (a manifestation of starvation) which increased insulin secretion. By administering the insulin suppressive agent octreotide, he was able to get them to lose weight; but more remarkably, they started to exercise spontaneously. He then demonstrated the same phenomenon in obese adults without CNS lesions. The universality of these findings has enabled Dr. Lustig to weave these threads together into a novel unifying hypothesis regarding the etiology, prevention, and treatment of the current obesity epidemic. This has led him to explore the specific role of fructose (half of sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup) as a specific mediator of both chronic disease, and continued caloric consumption. His now notorious YouTube video, “Sugar – the bitter truth” continues its popularity with the lay public.
A native of Brooklyn, NY, Dr. Lustig went to Stuyvesant H.S. in Manhattan, graduated from MIT in 1976, and received his M.D. from Cornell University Medical College in 1980. He completed his pediatric residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in 1983, and his clinical fellowship at UCSF in 1984. From there, he spent six years as a post-doctoral fellow and research associate in neuroendocrinology at The Rockefeller University. In 2013, he obtained a Masters in the Study of Law from UC Hastings College of the Law. He has previously been a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Tennessee, Memphis. Dr. Lustig has authored 105 peer-reviewed articles and 65 reviews. He has mentored 30 pediatric endocrine fellows, and trained numerous other allied health professionals. He provides endocrinologic support to several protocols of the Children’s Oncology Group. He is the former Chairman of the Ad hoc Obesity Task Force of the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Bay Area American Heart Association. He is also president of the non-profit Institute for Responsible Nutrition.
Dr. Lustig lives in San Francisco with his wife and two daughters. Spare time (what little there is) is spent cooking, theater-going, and traveling.