About Robert Lustig
Dr Robert Lustig is Professor of Paediatric Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr Lustig has become a leading public health authority on the impact sugar has on fuelling the diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome epidemics, and on addressing changes in the food environment to reverse these chronic diseases.
In his New York Times bestselling book Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processes Food, Obesity, and Disease, Robert documents both the science and the politics that have led to the current pandemic of obesity and chronic disease. In the Fat Chance Cookbook (available for free), Robert provides practical examples for applying healthy eating principles with recipes by Cindy Gershen.
Robert has fostered a global discussion of metabolic health and nutrition, exposing some of the leading myths that underlie the current pandemic of diet-related disease. He believes the food business, by pushing processed food loaded with sugar, has hacked our bodies and minds to pursue pleasure instead of happiness; fostering today’s epidemics of addiction and depression. Yet by focusing on real food, we can beat the odds against sugar, processed food, obesity, and disease. His latest book Metabolical weaves the interconnected strands of nutrition, health/disease, medicine, environment, and society into a completely new fabric by proving on a scientific basis a series of iconoclastic revelations.
Lesson 1: Self-soothing is required, since no one else will 10m 29s.
Lesson 2: Pleasure is not happiness — the more pleasure you seek, the more unhappy you get 13m 04s.
Lesson 3: Anxiety is excitement about the future; but the future never comes 19m 25s.
Lesson 4: You know more than everybody else, so be humbler than everybody else 24m 56s.
Lesson 5: Institutions don’t love you back 33m 11s.
Lesson 6: First-class people hire first-class people; second-class people hire third-class people35m 53s.
Lesson 7: Speak to the ventriloquist, not the dummy 37m 38s.
Lesson 8: 90% of the work gets done in 10% of the time 39m 14s.
Lesson 9: Marketing uses information to espouse your point of view; propaganda uses disinformation to espouse your point of view 40m 39s.
Lesson 10: There is only one dogma, and that is, there is no dogma 43m 08s.
Robert Lustig: [00:00:00] Everything we knew 10 years ago is already wrong. Everything we know today will be wrong 10 years from now. That’s why you do research. That’s what research is, is overturning the previous generations dogma. But then if that’s the case, then shall we say non discerning member of the audience will say, well, wait a second.
If what we’re doing today is going to be proved wrong 10 years from now, why are you doing it? And why are you going to base anything on it?
Duff Watkins: [00:00:28] Hello, and welcome to the podcast. 10 lessons that took me 50 years to learn where we dispense wisdom for career and life. My name is Duff Watkins and I’m your host. I never thought I’d have an opportunity to combine neuroendocrinology and YouTube sensation, but today is the day because our guest is Dr. Robert Lustig. Rob, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us.
Robert Lustig: [00:00:49] Thanks for having me. I really appreciate Duff. I can’t tell you; you know, I do a lot of speaking and I do a lot of consulting. No one has tapped me for my wisdom, just from my knowledge. So, this is, this is very special.
Duff Watkins: [00:01:03] Thank you for that.
Okay. Now I don’t want to talk about your six books. I don’t want to talk about the 100 peer reviewed articles. I want to talk about. YouTube, because as I understand it, you must correct me if I’ve got it wrong. But in 2009, you simply filmed the lecture. It was just one of your lectures. You teach at the university of California at San Francisco.
And I checked this morning, that lecture, which is called Sugar, the Bitter Truth has now been viewed over 13 million times. It’s a 90-minute lecture. There’s also an abbreviated version available, but listeners, viewers whatever you’re doing, hit pause, go watch. Lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig sugar, the bitter truth, because it is.
Changing life altering. So, what’s the story behind the YouTube
Robert Lustig: [00:01:49] clip? I, I wish I knew. The fact of the matter is I was asked by the UCSF continuing medical education office to participate in a program that they sponsor called mini med school for the public. And it had been my, it was my first time doing it and I showed up and there were 200 people in the audience, and I thought that was it.
I didn’t even know there was a camera in the back of the room. I had no idea this was being taped. I had no idea that it would be shown on UCTV. I had no idea that YouTube would get it. I had no idea that anyone would watch it. I didn’t think my mother would watch it. And in fact, she didn’t, but apparently 13 million other people have, and I have zero.
Clue as to why it’s a 90-minute lecture on carbohydrate biochemistry. It makes no sense at all. But then again, most of the stuff on YouTube makes no sense at all.
Duff Watkins: [00:02:44] Well, one thing I’ve noticed about your career is that you really go after the goliaths I mean you big pharma, big sugar, big corporate processed food companies, the government entrenched medical interests.
You, you hunt big game.
Robert Lustig: [00:02:58] Well, to be honest with you, I wasn’t hunting anything. You know, I’m just a doctor, you know, unfortunately for me I’m an obesity doctor, you know, I, I started out being a pediatric endocrinologist, taking care of short kids, and then the short kids got fat on me, and it happened on my watch.
And now as a neuroendocrinologist I was prepared when the hormone Leptin. Was first discovered in 1994 this is a hormone that fat cells make that goes to your brain and tells your brain, you know what? I’ve got enough energy on board. I can burn energy at a normal rate. I can engage in expensive metabolic processes like puberty and pregnancy.
What we realized very quickly was that for whatever reason in obesity, leptin wasn’t working. So, I was in the right place, and I was studying patients who had this problem of leptin not working. And, you know, I’ve parlayed it into a 25-year career, but I had absolutely zero intention of bringing that, you know, into the public sphere, you know, it was basically, you know, just medical knowledge, you know, medical practice, but something happened in 2006, that sort of changed my life.
And I was asked to give a talk at the national Institute of environmental health sciences. So, part of the NIH. So, in research triangle park, it’s where the toxicologist hang out. And they were having their hundredth anniversary symposium. It was a two-day symposium. The first day was going to be on things that have gone right in the last hundred years.
So, lead poisoning and pollution and asthma, and the second day was supposed to be on new challenges. And so, it was on obesity and metabolic syndrome and ADD, and Autism. Okay. So, they asked me to give a talk on what I thought was the biggest environmental contributor to the obesity epidemic. That was my charge.
And I sat down. I said, well, what am I going to say? What in the world can I say, you know, in terms of an environmental exposure? And so, I thought myself, all right, I’m a pediatrician. Kids are the canaries in the coal mine. Kids now get two diseases that they never got before. And not only that, but these are the diseases of aging canaries in the coal mine.
Two diseases are type two diabetes and fatty liver disease. And I was certainly up on both of those. And I said, why are kids today getting these two diseases? So, I opened up my biochemistry textbook from 1974 and I basically traced how fat ends up in the liver. And at that point in time, the only thing that made fat in the liver was alcohol, but kids don’t drink alcohol.
So, then I looked at the carbohydrate section in the book and I realized, wait a second sugar. It’s metabolized just like, alcohol and then I started looking at the various similarities and the parallels between this molecule called fructose, the sweet molecule and sugar, the addictive molecule. And alcohol, which is also addictive and it turned out they were virtually identically.
The way the liver handles, the two are virtually identical. So, I went to this meeting in North Carolina, and I basically gave a talk saying, I think that the sugar that’s in our food is the driver of this obesity epidemic. The talk ended and it was the bathroom break, and everybody left and I’m standing and talking to some people, and I have to go to the bathroom.
No, one’s coming back in. So, I go to the bathroom, and they actually tackle me in the bathroom and say, oh my God. Oh my God, this is it. This makes so much sense. You’ve got to tell the entire world about this. I mean, this is a bunch of toxicologists, you know, and they’re going nuts because sugar is a toxin and you know, they went, you have to tell people this, and I guess I’ve been telling people this ever since.
Duff Watkins: [00:07:08] Therein lies the problem though, because there’s a lot of people that don’t want to hear it.
For example, I’m from North Carolina originally. And you know, you mentioned a couple of the major food groups, sugar, alcohol, you left out tobacco, you know, say where I come from North Carolina, we think tobacco is a major food group and everybody ought to have five to six servings a day, you know? So, so you’re going against, well, entrenched financially substantially backed interest, the sugar industry. And that’s what I, that’s what interests me about how you’ve made a career out of, first of all, how you’ve survived. Second Yudkin did not really. And, and how you’ve.
Robert Lustig: [00:07:46] Yudkin, John Yudkin was a very smart guy, but he only had correlation. He didn’t have causation and back then correlation doubled as causation.
Cause we didn’t understand the difference. And the fact is that he ultimately got thrown under the bus by his nemesis his competitor Ancel Keys. Now through the fifties sixties and into the early seventies, the two of them duked it out. Was it sugar or was it saturated fat, which was the cause of heart disease?
And there were three things that happened in the 1970s that basically sealed Yudkin’s fate. The first was that we learned about this molecule that runs around in our bloodstream called LDL low density lipoprotein. And we learned that LDL levels seem to predict heart attacks, at least in a certain population and brown and Goldstein won a Nobel prize for discovering this.
Then we discovered that dietary fat raises your LDL. Which is true, still true. And then we learned that LDL levels in the general population correlate with the risk for heart disease. So, if dietary fat is A, an LDL is B and heart disease is, C. We learned that A led to B and B correlates with C, so A must lead to C.
Therefore, no, A no C get rid of the dietary fat. Especially saturated fat, lower your LDL levels and prevent heart disease. And that was the end of John Yudkin. They threw them under the bus.
Duff Watkins: [00:09:27] Reputationally wise, not literally I would like to point out. Yes.
Robert Lustig: [00:09:31] Well, pretty close. You know, he, they took his they even took his office away, you know, at the university of London, you know, I mean, he, he, he, he basically suffered the wrath of academia and that’s, you know, sort of, one of my lessons that I’ve learned, you know, is institutions.
Don’t love you back. You know, he worked for a very long time and was thought of very highly. And then all of a sudden there was a little, you know, shall we say a kerfuffle and you know, they washed their hands of him pretty quick. And I’ve seen this now from medical institutions in particular, but institutions in general now for quite a while.
Duff Watkins: [00:10:13] for the, those who don’t know, John Yudkin was the premier a nutritionist, I guess, in great Britain at that, at that time. Lessons. Okay. We are coming to the Lessons.
All right. Number one. I like this so much because it refers to one of mine. That’s number one, self-soothing is required since no one else will.
Robert Lustig: [00:10:30] Yeah. That’s the truth, you know, it’s well, it’s especially true in academia. Bottom line is if you’re looking for strokes, you don’t belong in academic medicine. You know, you have to basically satisfy yourself and cause there, there ain’t no love lost between you and everybody else. Basically, everyone else is a competitor, not a friend.
And you know, I mean, they have to make nice, cause they all have to work on, you know, the same ivory tower, but it’s about space. It’s about turf, you basically have to be comfortable within your own skin and have your own personal integrity, you will, you will not get it from anywhere else. And I guess that means you have to have a pretty thick skin and I guess.
So, I made it my version.
Duff Watkins: [00:11:18] of that from my own experience. When I used to work in psychiatric hospitals was people cannot support themselves emotionally, let alone you so stop expecting demanding, waiting for them to cause it’s probably just not going to happen.
Robert Lustig: [00:11:33] That’s pretty much.
Duff Watkins: [00:11:34] it just, as you were saying, people are so busy with their own careers lives.
Robert Lustig: [00:11:39] Right? Right. I remember when I was in college, I love theater. I love theater and I would do every show and I did 14 shows in three years. And you know, I you know, it was kind of like, there was a point in time when I thought maybe I’d ditch academia, you know, and go into acting. You know, my father famously said, Bobby, you become an actor and your mother do a Swan dive off.
Wouldn’t have been, my mother it would have been him. You know, but what I realized though, you know, hanging around all the actors is what they, the reason they were enacting was because they needed external validation for something. And I came to realize that, you know, I had my own external and my own internal validation and that’s what mattered the most.
And that’s how you, that’s how you make it through life.
Duff Watkins: [00:12:26] They ask Randy Newman, you know, Randy Newman, the singer.
Robert Lustig: [00:12:29] Yeah. Well, the, the songwriter.
Duff Watkins: [00:12:31] Songwriter, singer.
Robert Lustig: [00:12:32] Yeah, You got a friend in me. Yeah, just Disney and all that.
Duff Watkins: [00:12:36] Yeah. Why does he still tour? And he said, no one, no one applauding at home.
Robert Lustig: [00:12:43] Or
Duff Watkins: [00:12:44] if you an older generation, Bob hope Bob hope.
They asked him one time. Why aren’t you retired and fishing? He said, fish don’t applaud. So, he’s still, that’s why he was still doing those USO tours in us war zones.
Robert Lustig: [00:12:56] Right?
Duff Watkins: [00:12:57] Lesson number two. Pleasure is not happiness. And the more pleasure. You seek the more unhappy you become.
Robert Lustig: [00:13:05] So I’ve lived this myself and I think probably a lot of people have.
And it’s basically what happens in addiction. I wrote a whole book about this, the hacking of the American mind. There are two neurochemicals and they’re not the same. There’s dopamine and there’s Serotonin. And dopamine is the pleasure neurotransmitter and serotonin is the contentment or the happiness neurotransmitter.
And what we’ve learned is that everything that makes dopamine go up, makes serotonin go down. And so, the more pleasure you seek. The higher, your serotonin rises, the more unhappy you get the lower your serotonin goes. And if you don’t know the difference between pleasure and happiness, if those two are confused and conflated within your own mind, which by the way is what industry has done to us over the last 50 years.
In terms of confusing, the two, like open happiness, you know, Coca-Cola’s happy hour, five, o’clock somewhere, all of those. And, you know, I can run the litany of them, but we don’t have time. If you think they’re the same, you’re doomed, you’re just doomed. And I think that’s, what’s going on in American and probably really all over the American side, all over the world right now is the misunderstanding of these two.
Basic human emotions. There’s this thing that Aristotle. Called eudaimonia. Okay. It was not high fiveing and it was, you know, basically sitting on a rock is what it was and, you know, we’ve lost sight of that. You know, there’s, there’s a fast-food restaurant within 200 feet of wherever you’re standing right now.
And that’s on purpose.
Duff Watkins: [00:14:48] First of all, let me confirm. True in Australia. And it’s also true in Brazil where I am today, but it’s just true. I mean, pretty much all around the world. And your point is, it’s not an accident. There are people out there they’re called marketers. They basically assiduously try to cause you to conflate the notions.
Pleasure, happiness. Joy. Joy is another one I would lump in there and those are very distinct states. So, it’s, I don’t think it’s an accident that you refer to the ancient Greek philosophers, Aristotle. They’re the ones who started arresting with this pretty people need to be clear. And we’re not human beings are not clear about what makes them happy.
Robert Lustig: [00:15:25] Indeed. Everyone says that that’s the single most important thing is to be happy. And we do everything we can to deep six it and basically shoot ourselves in the foot.
Duff Watkins: [00:15:34] Very true. Well, I was going to ask you, how do you think this conflation came about but you’ve already answered it? So, I guess the bottom line is there’s a lot of money in it to make you feel that way. So therefore, we must exert some effort to resist it accordingly.
Robert Lustig: [00:15:51] And, and the things that actually increase your serotonin, the things that have been actually empirically shown to increase serotonin, and improve happiness are all free.
And in the book, I actually described the four. And they’re the four C’s connect and that does not mean on Facebook. That means face to face contribute. And that does not mean to your 401k. That means to others cope and that’s sleep exercise and mindfulness and finally cook. Cause there are actually foods that improve serotonin and there are other foods that depleted they happen to raise dopamine.
So those are four things that anyone can do. Happiness is within the reach of every single person on the planet. If they know what to do.
Duff Watkins: [00:16:37] Let me stop with cooking. For example, I know you’re a cook you’re, you’re interested in cooking. I’m one of those.
Robert Lustig: [00:16:42] I’m interested in food.
Duff Watkins: [00:16:44] I’m one of those guys. I loathe and detest, all cooking shows and all cooking shows are everywhere I ever go.
I don’t understand why people get so enamored, but you said something, or I read something that you said that actually made sense. I’ll paraphrase because I can’t recall it correctly. If you don’t know how to cook, if you don’t know how to prepare your own food, you’ll be eating food, that’s prepared for you by companies, people that really don’t have your best interests at heart.
Robert Lustig: [00:17:11] If you don’t know how to cook, you’re hostage to the food industry for the rest of your life. That’s their goal. That’s what’s going on in schools today, schools are getting fast food brought in and they’ve taken their cafeterias and food preparation facilities and turned it into classrooms. Okay.
Because they could, because you know, Cisco and McDonald’s and other vendors were very happy to get their claws into schools, to get them to actually turn the infrastructure over. So now they’re hostage. So, you can’t even get a home cooked meal at school and, you know, That’s why kids grades are suffering today.
And we’ve actually shown that if we reverse that we can raise grades within a year.
Duff Watkins: [00:17:56] You had a quote. I read somewhere a lot of health problems and let’s include mental aspects as well are not druggable, but they’re foodable. We can be treating with a lot of it, a lot of illnesses with
Robert Lustig: [00:18:09] food. Good, healthy, normal food.
That’s right. In fact, what we’ve learned is that the problem in chronic disease. Okay. And I’ll name them real quick, type two diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, fatty liver disease, polycystic ovarian disease. Okay. Eight diseases that are continuing to go up inexorably throughout the world.
But especially here in the United States, it turns out all of these are mitochondrial diseases. Mitochondria, the little energy burning factories inside all ourselves medicines. Can’t get there. They can’t get. And because they can’t get there, they can’t fix the problem. There is no pill for this. What does get there is food.
The problem with food is that certain foods get there and help, and the other foods get there and poison the mitochondria and the biggest poison to mitochondria. And that’s the one we give infants and call it love, which is the problem, which is the
Duff Watkins: [00:19:13] problem. All right. Let me progress. Lesson number three, anxiety is excitement about the future, but the future never comes.
Robert Lustig: [00:19:21] Right. So that sounds a little weird, but let me try to explain it. I used to be a nervous guy. I’m still semi nervous, but not quite as bad as I used to be. I used to be anxious all the time and I would say probably I lived the first 50 years of my life being kind of anxious, you know, anxious about it.
Home anxious about work anxious about money anxious about this, that, and the other thing, what I finally realized was that it wasn’t getting me anywhere. The reason it wasn’t getting me in anywhere was because I was always anxious about what was going to happen tomorrow. Well then tomorrow would come and now tomorrow will be today.
And whatever it was that I was anxious about wouldn’t materialize, which was good, except the now is worried about the next day. And the next day and the next day. And what I realized was that as long as you do that, as long as you keep focusing on the future, you can never appreciate what you have today.
And so that’s why, I mean, what I mean by it’s anxieties about excitement about the future, but the future never comes because there’s always another tomorrow. The only day when there’s no tomorrow, like the movie American beauty, the only day where there’s no tomorrow is the day you die. And if you wait till then, okay, you’ve waited a little long.
Duff Watkins: [00:20:34] Our life is experienced only in the here and now that’s the only way we can experience it. And yet we seem to defend a lot against that. My take on that point though, Rob, I would say to me, anxiety is fear. When I see people who are anxious about something, I say, simply ask yourself, What are you afraid of?
And that fear may be real. It may be imaginary. It may be rational and may be non-rational or irrational, but it’ll be based around theory somehow some way.
Robert Lustig: [00:21:02] What we’ve learned from studying PTSD and depression is they’re not quite the same fear drives both. PTSD does not raise cortisol, whereas depression does.
And there’s different pathways in the brain that ultimately lead to the two fear is the start of both of those. But there are mechanisms in place in your brain that can dispel that fear. The primary one is this area right in the front of your brain called the prefrontal cortex. That is the brake on the fear circuit.
And the point is that’s the part of the brain that is base that is under siege by our current society. That’s, what’s going wrong is prefrontal cortical dysfunction and all the stresses of your job and acculturation, stress, poverty, school shootings, et cetera. All of those basically do a number on your prefrontal cortex to put it, to sleep, to put it into suspended animation.
And it basically lets your fear circuit run wild. So that’s where mindfulness comes in. That’s what mindfulness is about is basically exercise for your prefrontal cortex to make it stronger, to make it more resilient. So, we contempt down on that fear circuit. If you can do it. That’s what you should do.
Every, you know, the concept of multitasking is like the worst thing we’ve ever done. Okay. Only 2.5% of the entire world can multitask. Everybody else has serially uni tasking. And what they’re doing is they’re driving their cortisol up and they’re actually frying their prefrontal cortex. So those of you who think you can do two things at once, I have a bridge to sell you.
Duff Watkins: [00:22:43] Yes. It’s a nonsense. Really. People simply cannot. I didn’t even know about the 2.5%, but people just can’t do it. As you say serially, uni tasking that’s the way people work. So, you mentioned mindfulness. I know what it is. What would you prescribe for somebody who is bothered by anxiety?
Robert Lustig: [00:23:02] So there are a couple of things. Number one, it, mindfulness is number one. Number two is exercise. And mindfulness and exercise together can pretty much alleviate virtually all anxiety. And all depression. So, I think that those are things that anyone and everyone can do. Obviously, if you, if you’re sick exercise becomes a problem.
So, the goal is get exercising before you get sick. Ultimately, why do you think marijuana is now legal in seven states? Hmm. And why is it that in those seven states where marijuana is legal and as the marijuana use has gone up, the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor SSRI use for depression has gone down commensurately.
Duff Watkins: [00:23:47] Like Prozac. So, more marijuana, less Prozac, so to speak.
Robert Lustig: [00:23:52] And the reason is because they’re both anti-anxiety agents one, you control the other one, your doctor does. So, you know, the point is that everyone seems to have an anxiety problem. This is why it’s now legal, whether it’s good or not as a different story. And we can talk about that till the cows come home.
It’s probably okay. But in children and teenagers, it’s a disaster because it delays myelination of neurons. And so, it’s been shown that chronic marijuana users in, and, you know, during childhood lose eight IQ points. Minimum. It’s a problem for the developing brain.
Duff Watkins: [00:24:31] Yeah. So, so anxiety is the problem.
It’s the unknown fear of the unknown future that keeps people up and it has an effect on your brain. And that’s what people need to know.
Okay. Lesson number four, you know, more than everybody else. So, you have to be humbler than everybody else.
Now, can I just say, this is what I’ve been saying to my producer for decades now that I know more than everybody else.
And he’s strangely reluctant to. I hope you hear this, Mr. Hossary because I’m talking to you. Why do I have to be humbler than everybody else?
Robert Lustig: [00:25:02] Very simple. You want them to listen? And the more, you know, the less likely they are to listen. And so, you want to impart your information like we are doing right now.
You basically have to respect their view. You have to respect where their head is. Here’s the way I phrase it to people. Okay. You want to change people’s minds? There are three ways to do it. Okay. Imagine that you are that here’s the guy, you know, the person you’re trying to change. Here’s you, and there’s a wall, a brick wall between the two of you.
There are three ways to get him. The first is blow up the wall, but if you blow up the wall, they’re going to run away. So that’s not going to work very well. The second way is you can try walking around the wall and sometimes that’ll work. But what if the wall is circular? What if they’re inside a circular wall and you just keep walking around and around, you’ll never get there.
And then the third way is dismantle the wall. Take it apart piece by piece and then reassemble it with you on the other side. Now, when you do that, that takes time. Okay. They can see what you’re doing. So, you’re not scaring them off. You know, you’re not generating a visceral response per se, and you’re giving them a chance to sort of understand what’s going on.
So, if you’re humble about it, if you explain what’s going on. With both cognitive information and also visceral information and take apart the wall piece by piece, you have a much better chance of being able to influence people on the other side. That is a skill that I have only learned recently. You know, I, I know tended to blow holes in walls until very recently.
And I’ve come to realize that it’s probably worked against me to some extent. And so, I’m much more cognizant of how much I know versus how much they know and what it is that I need to do to be able to impart that information in a way that will be accepted.
Duff Watkins: [00:27:03] It is, I mean, you would, I be considered you to be one of the world’s foremost experts on obesity, and I’m sure you must talk to people who know a whole heap less than you do.
For example, if you go online and look for. Sugar, the bitter truth. YouTube, it’ll come up with your 90-minute lecture and then there’ll be two-minute rants, debunking it by people who are less informed, shall we say, then you, and it must be hard to take and also when people oppose you and you just know because they have financial interest to do so.
So, it’s not, when they’re really not talking the same thing, they have motivated reasoning is the phrase.
Robert Lustig: [00:27:41] Well, you know, people always ask me, you know, who are your detractors? And I grouped them into four buckets. I call them the four DS instead of the four seasons, the four DS, the dinosaurs, the deniers, the dilettantes, and the drug addicts.
Duff Watkins: [00:28:00] Drug addicts are the ones hooked on sugar.
Robert Lustig: [00:28:02] Right, exactly. Hooked on sugar. And they say, you know, don’t take my drug of choice away. The dinosaurs, the people who can’t learn, anything there. You know, they’re, they’re just calcified and there are a lot of them, particularly in academia, sadly. The deniers. Okay. These are the people who basically are telling us that, you know, January 6th didn’t happen.
The dilettantes, the people who basically, you know, have some reason for promoting say the food industry, for whatever reason, whether it be scientists or whether it be industry spokespeople or dieticians who are taking money, et cetera. And then there’s the drug addicts. You know, these are the people who are never going to come aboard, and I’ve stopped worrying about it.
I’ve stopped worrying about those four. I’m never going to get them there, but what I’ve realized, and this is, you know, you asked me a question before we started, what have you learned? You know that you’ve never thought was true, but you know, is true. This is what I’ve learned is that cultural tectonic shifts take 30 years, 30 years.
So, I’m going to list you for cultural tectonic shifts that have occurred in America in the last 30 years. And then the question is, why did it, why did each of them take 30 years? You know, they are one bicycle, helmets and seatbelts two smoking in public places, three drunk driving four condoms and bathrooms. Now, 30 years ago, if a legislator stood up in a state house or in Congress or parliament or anywhere else proposing any legislation for any one of those four, they had gotten laughed right out of town, nanny, state, Liberty interest, get out of my kitchen, get out of my bathroom, get out of my car today.
They’re all facts of life. No, one’s complaining about any one of those things. And if you try to pull out of your driveway and you haven’t clicked your seatbelt, your kids will scream at you. So, how’d that happen? And then when you answer how it happened, then the second question is, and why did it take 30 years. Answer.
We taught the children. They grew up and they voted and the naysayers, the dinosaurs, the deniers, the dilettantes, and the drug. They’re dead. You can’t change them, but they will die one way or the other. And this is what I have learned in the last, I would say year or two, and it’s actually given me lots of solace.
Because what I realized is, you know, I won’t see the end of my work turning into policy. I’m just, you know, a cog in the wheel of, you know, societal, cultural, tectonic change. And I’m comfortable with that. These things take a long time.
Duff Watkins: [00:30:49] They do, they do. You’re no longer part of the lunatic fringe though, which is the good part.
And you’re not out there all by yourself anymore. And I can remember the seatbelt debate and I you bet you do too, because. And of course, I’m thinking, what are we debating, you know, save lives or not save lives.
Robert Lustig: [00:31:11] Auto industry fought that tooth and nail because they had, they would have to retool.
It would cost them a couple of billion dollars and, you know, they fought it all the way till the national transportation safety act of 1979. I mean, we had the data, we had the data. Australia had demonstrated that seatbelts save lives. And they put it into practice. Now, where do Australia get it from?
They just realized it was a good idea and they just did it. And so, then we had the data and then, you know, the big three now the big two fought it tooth and nail. And that’s one of the reasons why they’re the big two now, because they did, you know, the bottom line is, you know, people have to understand that there is no such thing as the status quo.
It’s constantly shifting it’s shifting underneath your feet. And if you don’t recognize that you will be one of those dinosaurs and you will be extinct.
Duff Watkins: [00:32:02] And so to sum up your point when you do know a lot more than everybody else, and let’s face it. We do. The point is to be humble. One it’s easier on you. Easier on you, the knowledgeable person. And it’s also easier on the other person. And that probably protracts the lives of both of you.
Robert Lustig: [00:32:21] Exactly. You know, the other thing is you never, you never introduce a new concept without pushback. I mean, it’s a corollary to the same thing. You will always get pushed back whenever you introduce a new idea, it takes a while for it to settle.
You have to plant a seed; the seed has to grow. So, it might take three or four or five or even 10 hearings of the same thing before you actually see movement. It takes a while to overcome that intransigence. And if you’re not humble about it, you know, it’s much more likely you’ll generate a visceral response and make it even longer.
Duff Watkins: [00:32:53] Well, let’s return to a point you made earlier.
Lesson number five Institutions don’t love you back.
And in my experience in working in the church and in hospitals, the health system consulting to the corporate world and also in universities let me just check my records. Yes. Not a single one of them gave me a lick of love.
I want to agree with that.
Robert Lustig: [00:33:13] I wish I could say this was mine. It’s not the in fact, the next three are colleagues of mine. Joe Simone. Ran the St. Jude children’s research hospital, then Memorial Sloan Kettering cancer center. And then finally the Huntsman cancer Institute. And he famously in 1996, published a paper in the American journal of clinical research called understanding academic medical centers.
Simone’s maxims. And this is number one of Simone’s maxims, and it is the most important thing for anyone who works in academia to understand. That it is a contractual relationship, and you can end it, or they can end it and you have to be comfortable with that. Or you will be eaten by the wolves.
Duff Watkins: [00:34:00] And it’s true for the corporate world too.
I mean, all employment is an agreement basically. We would like you to do X, publish, produce, sell, whatever the case may be. And in exchange, we will give you a certain amount of Luker by which you can make your way in the world.
Robert Lustig: [00:34:15] That’s true. But in business you sort of expect that that’s sort of the way it is. In academia, you’re looking for a community. You’re looking to be part of something larger than yourself. And what you realize is, you know, you’re just, you’re, you’re just expendable. There’s nobody. Who’s not. No matter how high they are.
Duff Watkins: [00:34:34] And so the existential lesson there is, is what to have reasonable expectations. Both of your institutions, your employer?
Robert Lustig: [00:34:43] And of yourself.
Everything has a time limit. Everything has a sell by date, including your employment. And when it’s time to leave, you need to know a lot of people overstay their welcome.
Duff Watkins: [00:34:55] You see it in professional athletes and professional musicians. You see it in politicians, you see it in the corporate world and by God, I’ve done it myself. And you get a visceral reminder in the form of a foot up the ass that it’s time to move on. And, you know, I, I haven’t. It hasn’t happened that often, but I got to say it’s been a benefit to me every single time. And I look back and say, well, what the hell was I hanging around there for? Well, the answer was one of your previous lessons, because I was anxious about their future because I hadn’t, hadn’t heard your point of wisdom at that point in my life.
Lesson number six, first class people hire first class people. Second class people hire third class people.
Robert Lustig: [00:35:42] This is also Simone’s maxims. Okay. I love this one. And I’ll tell you, I have applied for jobs in the past, and I haven’t gotten them. And it wasn’t because I wasn’t good enough. It was because I was a threat.
I was a threat. And I didn’t understand that for years that they saw me as a threat because I was a smart guy. And because I had ambition and drive and because I knew what I was talking about, they saw me as a threat for their job. And so why in the world would they want to bring me. So, it took me a long time to get comfortable with that.
So, you know, I’m, I’m, again, I’m copacetic, but you know, again, Joe Simone very, very brilliant guy, very good hospital administrator. Very good homespun philosopher.
Duff Watkins: [00:36:26] My observation on that is one, the perception was accurate. You were a threat to them and two, what I’ve seen in my work as an executive search companies focus on fit, they want a person to fit in, say in corporate retrenchments the first people to go are those who don’t fit in.
It doesn’t matter so much what their performance productivity with their sales ability is those who don’t fit in are among the first because conservative companies. Values and the values they like most, very popular for them is conformity.
Robert Lustig: [00:37:00] Just remember that conservative means status quo.
We have learned this most recently. And what I’ve learned is that there is no status quo. They ultimately dinosaur themselves out of existence. And we’re seeing that in Washington right now.
Duff Watkins: [00:37:16] All right. This point I got to say, I have no idea what you mean by this. So, I’m eager.
Point number seven, speak to the ventriloquist, not to the dummy.
What if he can’t tell them apart? That was my question.
Robert Lustig: [00:37:26] Oh yeah. It’s tough then. It’s tough. So, in academia, especially in academic medicine, you know, you have a hierarchy of responsibility. You have the attending, you have the fellow, you have the resident, you have the med student and ultimately. The med students talk to each other, then the residents talk to each other, and the fellows talk to each other.
And the attendings talk to each other. Bottom line is whatever the med student or the resident or the fellow said, it doesn’t really matter because ultimately, it’s going to be changed by the attending. So, you might as well just go straight to the attending because they’re the ones who are going to make the decision.
And that’s where the that’s where the battle occurs is attending to attending. So cut through the crap and go to the person who actually is in charge. Don’t pussy foot around because of politics. Just get it done.
Duff Watkins: [00:38:17] So stop the gossip and the verbalizing. Go talk to somebody who is actually has the authority, the responsibility to make a decision.
Robert Lustig: [00:38:25] Do it and just do it don’t waste time.
Duff Watkins: [00:38:30] Talk to the ventriloquist not do the dummy. Okay. That’s a lesson for life.
Robert Lustig: [00:38:35] Yeah, that’s my, and that’s my ex-boss, Walter Miller, who is one of the world’s most renowned pediatric endocrinologists. He won the lifetime achievement award from the endocrine society, the Koch award.
And that’s the first thing I learned from him. Speak to the ventriloquist, not the dummy. Okay.
Duff Watkins: [00:38:53] Lesson number 8. 90% of the work gets done in 10% of the time.
Robert Lustig: [00:38:58] So also Joe Simone, and what I’ve realized is that if that’s true and it is true, that means that 10% of the work is done in 90% of the time.
That’s the, you know, that’s the corollary. And the fact of the matter is that that is true. And, you know, we spend all this time, you know, trying to make things perfect. Perfect, perfect. Then we end up wasting a lot of time doing it and, you know, I’m sort of, I don’t have time for that. So, I realized, you know, get the majority of it done and you know, don’t worry about the rest.
Duff Watkins: [00:39:30] I quote the Hollywood writers, they, the motto in Hollywood is don’t get it right get it written. You know, just get it out on paper, you know.
Robert Lustig: [00:39:39] Just get it done.
Duff Watkins: [00:39:40] We’ll do the drafts. We’ll do the, you know, the, the, the written script is not the shooting script is not the filming script. It’s, it’s very different. Just get it down.
Robert Lustig: [00:39:48] Do you think I could have written three books if I didn’t feel that way?
Duff Watkins: [00:39:51] Well, and it, the higher notion is incremental progress. That’s how life unfolds. You make incremental progress. It doesn’t usually happen all at once. So those, downloads, 13 million downloads occurred one at a time. I guess.
Robert Lustig: [00:40:05] One at a time. Right? And that’s how do you eat an elephant one bite at a time, but you got to start. There’s gotta be the first bite and just get it done.
Duff Watkins: [00:40:14] Lesson number nine. This is the difference between marketing and propaganda folks.
Marketing is information to espouse your point of view. Propaganda is disinformation to espouse your point of view.
Robert Lustig: [00:40:28] Indeed. Basically, when companies or politicians or anyone else tells the truth about their product or their belief or their idea, that’s called marketing. Okay. And there’s nothing wrong with marketing. I mean, you can spin it any which way you want, but it’s about the truth and you are basically explaining why your point of view is such with using the truth.
However, propaganda is using disinformation. It’s using lies. That’s the difference. The difference between the two is the truth. So, when companies tell the truth about their products, their marketing, when they tell a lie about their products, that’s propaganda, and that’s true. If it’s a political party or, you know, or anyone else for that matter.
And ultimately people have to sell themselves. And the question is, what are they selling? Are they selling you the truth? Or are they selling you a lie? And I have chosen not to lie, period. Unfortunately, most other people seem to do the opposite.
Duff Watkins: [00:41:23] So this leads to my question. Do you encounter disinformation in the medical profession, medical industry call it industry?
Robert Lustig: [00:41:31] How about every single minute?
Duff Watkins: [00:41:34] Yeah.
Robert Lustig: [00:41:35] Because there’s money involved. Give you an example, statins or statins. Good for you. If you ask the drug industry, they’re indispensable. If you look at the analysis for primary prevention. For primary prevention in number of days of life added by Statins in 44 randomized controlled trials and meta-analysis at 44 randomized control trials with millions of people, average increase in lifespan using statins for primary prevention of heart disease is four days, four days.
Statins also. Lead to diabetes, Stanton’s lead to rhabdomyolysis. Stanton’s lead to numerous other side effects. So, four days versus all of these side effects and how much money? So, is that marketing or is that propaganda?
Duff Watkins: [00:42:31] Yeah. Yeah. What’s your answer to that, by the way?
Robert Lustig: [00:42:33] I would call that propaganda because it’s disinformation they’re telling you that you know that they’re going to save your life.
That you know, everyone, who’s got an LDL above, say a hundred needs a statin. Eight-year old’s need statins.
Duff Watkins: [00:42:47] Which takes us to
lesson number 10, there is only one dogma. And that is there’s no dogma.
Robert Lustig: [00:42:55] Indeed. So, everything we knew 10 years ago is already wrong. Everything we know today will be wrong 10 years from now.
That’s why you do research. That’s what research is, is overturning the previous generations dogma. That’s why you do it. That’s why we fund it is to be able to do that. But then if that’s the case, then shall we say non discerning member of the audience will say, well, wait a second. If what we’re doing today is going to be proved wrong 10 years from now, why are you doing it? And why are you going to base anything on it?
And so that’s known as the pessimistic, meta induction theory. Okay. That’s a real thing. You can look it up on Wikipedia. Basically, what it says is that, you know, you might as well just stop doing everything now because everything will ultimately be proven wrong.
Anyway, the point is that research and life in general society, it’s not a straight line. it’s a zigzag You know, but the point is the zigzag keeps moving forward. All right. And you can’t interrupt the zigzag. It’s going to zigzag whether you like it or not. So, what you have to be able to do is you have to put certain guard rails into place as to when you have enough information to act.
To actually change society. Okay. And that is called public health. And we have basically thrown public health into the wastebasket, into the Vitamix machine and just basically macerated the crap out of it over the last four years. And it’s time to bring back public health. And that’s what I try to do in this book Metabolical is apply those guard rails, based on what we currently do know and what then has to change in terms of both our diet in terms of medicine, in terms of healthcare, and also in terms of climate to actually save us and the planet.
Duff Watkins: [00:44:51] Let us conclude on that note with, by talking about your book. The book is called Metabolical it has been out for a couple of weeks now. It’s a wordplay on the words, metabolism and diabolical. I caught that. And a couple of, a couple of quotations though. A couple of the points from it is you contend, it’s not about obesity. It’s about metabolism. It’s all roads lead to metabolism, and you’re not what you eat. You are what you metabolize.
So, tell us more about the book.
Robert Lustig: [00:45:20] So the standard mantra is you are what you eat. That’s what everyone believes they, and the food industry pushes that like crazy. Cause then it’s about calories. You know, if you’re fat, it’s your fault. You are what you eat, et cetera. I wrote my first book, fat chance back in 2013.
Cause I knew this was not true based on my research.
Duff Watkins: [00:45:37] And can I just recommend that book to people? Fat Chance, a that’s the first book that I read by Robert Lustig. So please, if you get a chance to read that you will be rewarded Fat Chance.
Robert Lustig: [00:45:46] Well, the point was that that was eight years ago and what I realized in that book was that the mantra was wrong, and I restated it.
You are what you do with what you eat. That metabolism is more important than calories. Well, over the last eight years, I’ve realized that I got it wrong back then. I made a mistake because I now know about the subterfuges that the food industry had put into place to basically keep that status quo that led to this epidemic of non-communicable metabolic disease.
That’s transformed the entire healthcare system and also all of society. So now in Metabolical, I’m restating it yet. Again, you are what they did with what you eat. That it turns out it’s the food processing. All food is inherently good. It’s what we do to the food. That’s not, and it’s not what you did to the food as much as it is what they did to the food.
That is the food, the processed food industry, the CPG industry. And that’s where the biggest problem lies. They’re not going to change anything because this is their juggernaut. This is their gravy train. This is how they went from 1% profit margin per year to 5% profit margin per year. They are not going to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.
The pressure has to come from the outside. I don’t know if you noticed, but just yesterday two oil companies got called on the carpet by their own boards. For, you know, climate change and shell in the Netherlands is now under orders by the Netherlands government to change its practices point is that these changes come very slowly, and they come from the outside.
And the point is, I’m helping change the food industry from the outside, whether they like it or not, whether they like it or not.
Duff Watkins: [00:47:35] And we will end on that healthy note then. Is there anything else you’d like to leave our listeners?
Robert Lustig: [00:47:38] I think we’ve done pretty well. I mean, what I would say is that you can’t be afraid if you, if you’re afraid.
You’ve basically lost your voice and I’ve chosen not to be afraid and I’m not afraid of the academic machine. I’m not afraid of the processed food industry. I’m not afraid of government, you know, and that’s why I’m still standing just cause I’m not afraid. So, I would caution all of your listeners, think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and don’t be afraid to do what’s right.
Duff Watkins: [00:48:10] It takes courage to live life on one’s preferred terms and in hostile unfriendly environments, it does, it takes courage as the Stoics have said this many times. And so, to exercise, courage is not something to be taken for granted. So personally, I applaud you for doing it, and I’m also grateful for you doing it.
Robert Lustig: [00:48:29] Well, you know, the reason I’m still standing is cause I stick within the science. The science is my sword and my shield. Okay. If the, if the food industry had anything on me, they’d have discredited me long time ago. They’ve tried, they haven’t been successful. And the reason is because everything I say is backed up by science.
So, study hard, know your science. And get out there and do good.
Duff Watkins: [00:48:51] And we’ll finish there. You’ve been listening to Dr. Robert Lustig, and this is the podcast 10 lessons. It took me 50 years to learn. This episode is produced by Robert Hossary and as always is sponsored by professional development forum PDF.
You can find them online professionaldevelopmentforum.org they provide social media discussions, podcasts, parties, anything you want, everything you need and it’s all free. Online. www.professionaldevelopmentforum.org. You’ve heard from us. We’d like to hear from you. Who should we be talking to? If you want to get hold of Rob’s books, contact me. I’ll get them to you. Somehow. Our email address is email@example.com. That’s the podcast at 10, the number one, zero lessons learned.com. Go ahead. Hit that subscribe button so that you won’t miss a single episode because this podcast is the one that makes the world wiser lesson by lesson.
Thanks for listening.