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Is sugar the next tobacco?

Among the least likely viral megahits on YouTube is a 90-minute lecture by the food scold and pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig, entitled “Sugar: The Bitter Truth.” He delivers it in a windowless room at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. The talk is simultaneously boring and powerful, combining the gravitas of a national health crisis, the thrill of conspiracy theory, and the tedium of PowerPoint slides. Midway through the talk he scans the hall for approval. “Am I debunking?”

The UCSF extension students mutter “yeah”—most of them, at least. Lustig has a way of seeking validation and pissing off people at the same time. His combined love of showmanship and need for approval led to acting in 12 musical-theater performances during his three years as an undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His greatest role yet may be as the loudest, most contrarian voice in the public-health debate over why we get fat and what we should do about it.

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