You are what you eat — but you’re not responsible for what you eat. Oh, and you’re fat. That’s the new hypothesis cooked up by Dr. Robert Lustig, one of the latest beneficiaries of unending obesity hype. Lustig’s hypothesis has attracted a lot of media attention for its claim that it is “unfair and unhelpful to blame personal behaviors, especially a lack of self-control, for the country’s rising obesity rates.” American sugar consumption, meanwhile, “Lustig compares to nicotine addiction.”
We hate to spoil the surprise of reading Lustig’s review in Nature Clinical Practice: Endocrinology and Metabolism, but here’s what his theory boils down to: We eat more of the things we like. In Lustig’s view, liking something is tantamount to addiction. If this is true, well, we human beings are not only addicted to food — we’re also hooked on sunlight, art, and family. One could even go so far as to presume that Dr. Lustig is addicted to pediatric endocrinology.
This “toxic food environment” hypothesis is based on some pretty shaky scientific foundations, too. Introducing his review, Lustig writes that “common wisdom dictates that obesity is an interaction between genetics and environment.” We’re not sure whose “common” wisdom this is, but apparently Lustig is dismissing choice out of hand. This suspicion is confirmed by one of his topic headings: “Behavior Is Really Biochemistry.” If this is really true, what biochemistry can we blame for Lustig’s theorizing?