Translating Science Into Policy
Dr. Robert Lustig, MD, explores the lacuna that has emerged between medical research and policy, specifically as they pertain to metabolic disease. Taking up the cause of Dr. Jeremiah Stamler who asks, “If a researcher isn’t willing to follow his data into the policy arena, who will?” Lustig says, “My job is to translate the science into rational and effective policy.”
Via a review of recent scientific literature, Lustig dispels a series of myths about chronic disease. The first myth is that chronic disease is about obesity. Lustig points to flaws in scientific research that appears to support this myth, noting, for instance, its confusion of correlation and concordance. He demonstrates that the data instead shows the problem is not obesity but all the metabolic diseases that attend obesity: diabetes, hypertension, lipid abnormalities, cardiovascular disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, polycystic ovarian disease, cancer, and dementia.
Lustig also dismantles the myth that all calories are equal in their effect on human metabolism — a myth historically propagated by the Coca-Cola company as part of its “energy balance” initiatives. “Science tells a different story,” Lustig says, explaining that some calories are metabolized differently than others because they have different metabolic pathways. He focuses on processed foods and sugar to illustrate this point before highlighting various ways multinational corporations have used shoddy science to pollute the scientific literature.
Dr. Robert Lustig, MD, is an endocrinologist and professor of pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California-San Francisco. His areas of expertise include neuroendocrinology and childhood obesity. He is also director of UCSF’s WATCH program (Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health), and he is the president and co-founder of the Institute for Responsible Nutrition, a nonprofit that seeks to “shape the way food is produced, marketed and distributed so we can end food-related illness and promote good health.”
Lustig is the editor for Obesity Before Birth: Maternal and Prenatal Influences on the Offspring (2010) and the author of Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease (2013).
Lustig’s 2009 lecture for University of California Television, “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” has accumulated more than 10.2 million views on YouTube and was hailed by the Financial Times as “sugar’s ‘tobacco’ moment.”
- Recognize the gap between medical research and policy decisions, particularly with regard to metabolic health.
- Understand the difference between correlation and concordance in scientific literature, and how the confusion of the two has distorted scientific data related to metabolic diseases.
- Understand why all calories are not equal in their effect on human metabolism.
Disclosures relevant to speaker:
The individuals involved in course planning have no relevant financial or non-financial disclosures to report related to the planning or presentation of this course.