Tag Archives: Robert Lustig

Quiz: Are You Addicted to Food?

Don't miss "The Skinny on Obesity (Ep. 4): Sugar - A Sweet Addiction"

The latest episode in UCTV Prime’s “Skinny on Obesity” series is all about the science of sugar addiction and, if you’re anything like those of us working on the series, it’ll probably cause you to think twice when you instinctively reach for that afternoon snack.

We asked the experts at the UCSF Center for Obesity Assessment, Study and Treatment (COAST) for a little guidance to help gauge just where you fall on the food addiction scale. Here’s what they shared:

In jest, we call someone who loves and eats a lot of chocolate a “chocoholic.” But what if that could actually be true? What if we could be addicted to food much like alcohol or drugs?

Currently in the scientific community, there’s growing support for the concept of “food addiction.” Highly palatable foods activate the “reward circuitry” in the area of the brain that makes us experience pleasure.  It appears that certain people, primarily those with obesity, may have less — not more — of that pleasure response from eating, and that may induce an overwhelmingly strong biological drive to eat more.

Although there is no official definition of food addiction, we can think of it much the same way as other drug dependencies, with symptoms like:

  • eating too much despite harmful consequences
  • inability to stop thinking about food
  • repeatedly trying and failing to cut back on your food intake
  • feeling guilty about eating and overeating

It’s easy to believe that it’s simply a lack of willpower, but that is not a helpful or accurate description of the phenomena.  Food addiction is associated with a compulsive and obsessive relationship with food. People with this condition may binge eat, but that is not a necessary part of the condition. They may feel out of control and will often eat past their point of fullness. Food addicts can be any size and any age, but we largely see this disorder in the overweight to the obese.

Research suggests that the largest difference between “food addicts” and “non-food addicts” is that palatable food cues are more powerful (e.g., able to trigger cravings, enhanced motivation to seek out food, etc.) for food addicts. This is very similar to what we see in other addictions.

Take this quiz to see if you might be addicted to food—but know that this does not provide a diagnosis. Rather, the quiz can give you an idea of whether or not you score high on this food scale. If you do, you might want to seek treatment from a professional therapist with experience in this area. Resources are listed below.


The following questions ask about your eating habits in the past year. People sometimes have difficulty controlling their intake of certain foods such as sweets, starches, salty snacks, fatty foods, sugary drinks, and others. When answering these questions, please keep these certain foods in mind.

Answer Yes or No:

In the past 12 months…

  1. I kept consuming the same types or amounts of food despite significant emotional and/or physical problems related to my eating.
    YES                        NO
  2. Eating the same amount of food does not reduce negative emotions or increase pleasurable feelings the way it used to.
    YES                        NO

Select one of the following options indicating how often you experience the feeling described:

0 – Never

1 – Once per month

2 – 2-4 times per month

3 – 2-3 times per week

4 – 4+ times per week

  1. I find myself consuming certain foods even though I am no longer hungry.  
  2. I worry about cutting down on certain foods.
  3. I feel sluggish or fatigued from overeating.
  4. I have spent time dealing with negative feelings from overeating certain foods, instead of spending time in important activities such as time with family, friends, work, or recreation.
  5. I have had physical withdrawal symptoms such as agitation and anxiety when I cut down on certain foods. (Do NOT include caffeinated drinks: coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks, etc.)

According to Yale University’s Ashley Gearhardt, who developed the scale, research suggests that if you answered 3 or 4 to three or more questions, it is suggestive of eating problems that might need professional help. Here are some resources if you find yourself in that category.



Here It Is, the “Holy Grail” of Obesity Research

So far on UCTV Prime’s “The Skinny on Obesity,”  Dr. Robert Lustig and his UCSF colleagues have alerted us to the monumental scale of the obesity epidemic (it’s not just America anymore) and the primary culprit (overly abundant sugar). By now you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, yeah. Isn’t this just another diet trend we’ll all forget about when the next big fad comes along?”

Perhaps you’ll change your tune after watching the third episode in the 7-part series, “Hunger and Hormones – A Vicious Cycle,” in which Dr. Lustig asserts that the cause of widespread obesity isn’t just about diet — or exercise for that matter. It’s about the body’s biochemical reaction to the “global industral diet,” something that science is just now able to understand. Within their grasp, Lustig says, is “the Holy Grail of obesity research” that provides a scientific rationale for why, in the last 30 years, such large segments of the population become obese at record high rates.

Contrary to common belief, Lustig argues, it’s not caused by a sudden onslought of gluttonous, lazy citizens, but the chronic failure of a hormone that’s supposed to tell your body when it’s time to stop eating. Episode three of “The Skinny on Obesity” offers a swift, visual overview of the vicious cycle of consumption, weight gain and disease. You won’t want to miss it.


The Sick Truth About Sugar

Hopefully you’re hooked on our new UCTV Prime YouTube series, “The Skinny on Obesity” (the first program already has more than 21,000 views!) If so, you’ll gobble up the second episode, “Sickeningly Sweet,” which is a heck of a lot better for you than its topic — sugar.

It took Dr. Robert Lustig 90-minutes to break down “The Bitter Truth” about sugar in his now famous UCTV YouTube video. But in “Sickeningly Sweet,” he and his UCSF colleagues, Elissa Epel and Barbara Laraia of the Center for Obesity Assessment, Study and Treatment, give you the nuts and bolts –and more –in nine informative minutes. Repeat after me: “A calorie is not a calorie.”

This isn’t just “sugar is bad for you” stuff we’re talking about. By the time you’re done watching, you’ll understand the chemical make-up of sugar (glucose and fructose), how your body metabolizes it (hint: just like alcohol, a toxin), and how and why the rise in global sugar consumption is directly linked to the worldwide obesity epidemic and the precipitous rise in metabolic disease. It’s not good for your liver, it’s not good for society and it’s certainly not good for you.

So why the heck does it have to taste so good?? Don’t worry, we’ll get to that in future episodes. But for now, let’s find out why something so sweet is making us so sick.

“The Skinny on Obesity: Sickeningly Sweet”

And here’s a trailer for next week’s episode, “Hunger and Hormones – A Vicious Cycle.”


It’s Time to Get “The Skinny on Obesity” from UCTV Prime

Is sugar a toxin that’s fueling the global obesity epidemic? That’s the argument UCSF’s Dr. Robert Lustig makes in “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” a video that appeared on UCTV’s YouTube channel in 2009 and has since gone viral with over 2.2 million views, sparking a national dialogue and warranting coverage in The New York Times and most recently on CBS’ 60 Minutes.

On UCTV Prime’s new series “The Skinny on Obesity,” Dr. Lustig and two of his UCSF colleagues tease out the science behind this alarming claim and the dire threat it poses to global public health. The first episode in the 7-part series, “An Epidemic for Every Body,” premieres today on UCTV Prime, a YouTube original channel, with new episodes every Friday through May 25. And make sure to check out “The Skinny on Obesity” website for bonus content and guest posts from UCSF experts.

Throughout the series, Dr. Lustig, a UCSF pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, and his colleagues Elissa Epel and Barbara Laraia, co-directors of the UCSF Center for Obesity Assessment, Study and Treatment (COAST), unpack the scientific and sociological factors that have contributed to the startling rise in obesity rates over the last 30 years. Featuring interviews, charts and graphic visualizations, the 6 to 12-minute episodes provide a comprehensive perspective on an issue that affects everyone, of any weight.

Here’s what’s coming on “The Skinny on Obesity:”

April 13 “An Epidemic for Every Body”
How did we get so fat, so fast? The debut episode debunks the theory that obesity only affects the “gluttons and sloths” among us and is, in fact, a public health problem that impacts everyone.

April 20 “Sickeningly Sweet”
Dr. Lustig illustrates the overabundance of sugar in today’s processed convenience foods and explains how our bodies metabolize these sugars in the same way as alcohol or other toxins, causing damage to the liver and other organs.

April 27 “Hunger and Hormones: A Vicious Cycle”
Sugar impacts the brain just as much as the waistline. In this episode, Dr. Lustig explains the biochemical shifts that sugar causes, making us store fat and feel hungry at the same time.

May 4 “Sugar: A Sweet Addiction”
Sugar isn’t just sweet, it’s addictive. This episode explores the cycle of addiction that sugar causes in the brain, much in the same way as drugs and alcohol.

May 11 “Generation XL”
An unnerving trend of obese infants is just one indication that obesity can be passed on from mother to fetus. This installment looks towards the next generation, with an emphasis on preventive care and pre-natal health.

May 18 “A Fast-Paced, Fast Food Life”
The pace of modern life is a key contributor to today’s obesity epidemic. Elissa Epel and Barbara Laraia explain the connection and offer practical and effective solutions that don’t involve dieting and exercise.

May 25 “Drugs, Cigarettes, Alcohol.and Sugar?”
Our experts offer a frank indictment of the country’s agricultural policy and food industry, which have made it nearly impossible to avoid sugar in our daily diet, and suggestions for possible remedies.


Monthly Highlights: April 2012

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UCTV Prime: The Skinny on Obesity

Maybe you saw him last night on “60 Minutes.” Or perhaps you’re one of the millions who’s watched his UCTV YouTube video “Sugar: The Bitter Truth.” UCSF’s Dr. Robert Lustig has made some serious waves with his research that points to sugar as a toxin that’s fueling the global obesity epidemic, and soon he’ll be coming to UCTV Prime.

Premiering April 13, “The Skinny on Obesity” is a seven-part series examining the startling rise in obesity rates and how UC San Francisco researchers like Dr. Lustig are working to combat it. Don’t miss this essential series, exclusive to UCTV Prime, a YouTube original channel. New episodes every Friday. Watch a trailer at the series page.

Emotions, Thoughts & Health: What All Aging Bodies Should Know

Our brains change as we age, and how we think and feel changes too. Could it be that paying attention to our daily lives and our aging brains might slow our cellular aging? Or that certain emotional interactions can predict relationship happiness decades later?

In these new programs from UCSF’s Osher Mini Medical School, researchers and experts share the latest science on the intersection between cognition, emotion, health and aging. It’s an exciting new frontier and you — and your brain — won’t want to miss it!

Politics and Public Service

With the recent launch of UCTV Prime’s YouTube original series “Prime: Vote,” we’re showcasing a range of new programs that canvas America’s political landscape during an important election year. Whether it’s getting a better understanding of the issues in the public debate or taking a look back at the careers and decisions of some prominent public servants, UCTV is a reliable resource for what you need to know.

Politics and Public Service Programs on UCTV


All programs repeat throughout the month. Visit the Program Schedule on our web site for additional air dates and times.

Health & Medicine

National Autism Awareness Month on UCTV

Research on Aging: Consumer Genomics/What Do People Do With Their Genomes?

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Introduction to CO2 Chemistry in Seawater

Mayan Cosmology Cycle Ends: Precision Cosmology Progresses

Toll on the Commons: What Have We Taken and What Will be the Future Costs

Fish & Chips: Using High-Tech Tools to Learn More About Fish

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Public Affairs

31st Annual Review of the Presidency: Election Year – The Obama Presidency and the 2012 Campaign

Emissions Trading and Climate Finance: Is 2012 the Dead End or the Crossroads?

Public Service – A Great Career with Michael Dukakis

The Struggle for Egypt with Steven Cook (Conversations with History)

Legally Speaking: Elyn Saks

Exploring Ethics: Healthcare Disparities –The Palliative Power of Understanding Science

From Point Guard to Mayor with Kevin Johnson (Conversations with History)

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Damned Nations: Ending the Global War Against Women and Children

Point Loma Writers: A Conversation with Christopher Hedges

To Be Human: Desire, Temptation and Spiritual Struggle: Historical Christian Perspectives on Being Human

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Arts & Music

La Jolla Music Society: SummerFest 2011: Mozart, the Sublime Spirit

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Raising Venture Capital: Some of the Important Rules Have Changed

Shining a Light on a Social Entrepreneurship Startup: Unite to Light

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New Online Videos and Podcasts

The Science of Pain

Prime: Cuts – Protecting California’s Hospitals – The Preview

Naked Art (Ep. 4): Museums Without Walls

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