Applied Research

The RHL Research Foundation is interested in developing paradigm-shifting neuroendocrinological research programs that integrate medical practice, translational science, public health education, law, and science-based policy change.

Key areas of interest currently include the following two projects that need funding.

Metabolic Matrix – Transforming the Food & Beverage Industry

The Robert H. Lustig Research Foundation has played a key role in supporting the development of the Metabolic Matrix, a science-based framework for understanding and applying metabolic health & nutrition that can transform the way we think about formulating foods and beverages. The matrix is built upon the understanding that nutrition doesn’t exist in a vacuum and that all foods and beverages are ultimately metabolized in the human body.

The metabolic matrix was born out of an industry desire to forge a new level of food system change, based on current scientific evidence. KDD, a leading food and beverage company in the MENA region, commissioned an independent scientific group of advisors to develop a new approach that linked metabolic health and nutrition. A year of intensive work resulted in the development of the metabolic matrix model. From the beginning, KDD sought to share the metabolic matrix model, and to invite collaboration, input, and critiques, to assure that the model will ultimately be useful to other interests, recognizing that for true food system change to occur, systemic solutions, not proprietary solutions are needed. Inspired by the metabolic matrix model, Swedish Hospital, part of the larger Providence health care system supporting over 100,000 health care providers, is offering an international CME symposium on metabolic health and nutrition.

Learn more at

Investigating the relationship between Sugar Metabolism & Cancer

The foundation seeks funding to test the hypothesis that dietary sugar directly feeds cancer cells and inhibits mitochondrial metabolism, which leads to growth and dissemination.

Dr. Lustig and colleagues propose to answer three questions:

  • Is there a specific metabolic switch that cancer cells flip to divert nutrients away from energy generation, and toward building components for new cells (the Warburg effect)?
  • If so, does fructose (or one of its metabolites) flip this switch (likely AMP Kinase), either directly or indirectly to drive the metabolic component of cancer cell growth?
  • Does methylglyoxal (a specific breakdown product of carbohydrate) irreversibly bind to AMP Kinase to throw this metabolic switch? Is fructose or glucose more likely to throw the switch?

Answering these questions will likely alter cancer therapeutics going forward, and will provide a metabolic rationale for nutritional therapy of cancer patients.

The metabolic matrix concept is being adopted and expressed by a growing number of interests in the food & beverage industry, healthcare, and consumer advocates. The Robert H. Lustig Research Foundation has commissioned the team of scientists behind the metabolic matrix to write a peer-reviewed “method’s paper” that describes the development of the metabolic matrix model and how it is being applied. As the work of the metabolic matrix evolves, progress is featured on the website, funded by the Robert H. Lustig Research Foundation.

The Sugar Matrix Project

The goal of the Sugar Matrix Project is to define what constitutes “added sugar” on a scientific basis. This entails defining what constitutes sugar first. For example, along the process from a corn grain via flour, starch, dextrin, maltodextrin, glucose syrup and high fructose corn syrup, where lies the border between sugar and non-sugar? Understanding the biochemistry of these sugars and their metabolic impacts is key.

This academically oriented project is independent and complementary to definitions put forward by regulatory bodies which are ultimately subject to political processes such as the FDA or FAO.

Dr. Kimber Stanhope and Dr. Robert Lustig having a little fun with the sugar matrix – a project designed to chart all the sugars in the food supply, showing their sources, processing, and effects. If interested in helping us with this project, volunteers are currently being accepted.

We actively share our data with public health leaders and organizations, and support projects like the Hypoglycemia Support Foundation Added Sugar Repository.

The Robert H. Lustig Research Foundation is funding a project related to the sugar matrix that will allow consumers to filter out all products with added sugar, currently in the food supply.