Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Kevin Laugero




Ph.D., Department of Physiology

University of California, Davis


Office:     430 West Health Sciences Dr.

                 University of California

                 Davis, CA95616


Phone:    (530) 752-4173


Fax:        (530) 752-5271


Laugero Lab




Dr. Laugero is a systems physiologist and research nutritionist with over 18 years of experience studying the interrelationships between chronic stress, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function, food intake, and energy metabolism. Dr. Laugero, a California native, received a Bachelor's degree in biological science from California State University Fresno and a Ph.D. in physiology from the University of California, Davis. As a National Research Service Award NIH Fellow, Dr. Laugero received his postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Francisco where he studied the interrelationships between chronic stress, neuroendocrine function, and energy metabolism. Subsequently, he spent 4 years in the biotechnology industry as a drug discovery scientist at Amylin Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Laugero joined the WHNRC as a Research Nutritionist in 2006. Over the past 9 years at the WHNRC, the Laugero lab has focused on translating his previous findings on the interrelationships between stress and nutrition in animal models to humans. Dr. Laugero is also Adjunct Associate Professor of Nutrition in the Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, and a founding member of a University of California multi-campus Stress, Environment, and Weight Center (SEW).



Research Program   


The Laugero lab (Stress Biology and Nutrition Research Lab; /pandp/docs.htm?docid=20877) conducts research aimed at supporting the Human Nutrition National Program, which is to define the role of food and its components in optimizing health throughout the life cycle for all Americans by conducting high national priority research (/research/programs/programs.htm?NP_CODE=107). The Stress Biology and Nutrition Research Lab at the WHNRC studies the mechanisms of stress-eating and nutritional and metabolic regulation of stress response systems to help expose new targets aimed at improving metabolic and mental health. A central aim of the research program is to identify nutritional and metabolic phenotypes that help explain individual variation in the brain's response to psychological stress and link between stress and chronic disease. A multidimensional approach (Nutritional Psychoneuromics) is used in clinical and community studies. Methods enlisted by the Stress Biology and Nutrition Research Lab include functional brain imaging (fMRI), metabolomics, neuroendocrine and autonomic nervous system assessment, dietary assessment, and focus groups. Currently, the Stress Biology and Nutrition Research Lab is investigating the effects of dietary glutamate on body weight maintenance following dietary-induced weight loss (/research/projects/projects.htm?accn_no=423649), the metabolomics of stress resilience or vulnerability (/research/projects/projects.htm?accn_no=426826), and the effects of consuming a healthy diet on stress system responsiveness (/research/projects/projects.htm?accn_no=426826). Dr. Laugero is the lead scientist representing the western region for an ARS multi-site, community study, titled Healthy Eating and Lifestyle for Total Health (HEALTH; project#0500-00087-001-00D). The HEALTH study was conducted to address in 5th grade children and adults factors that prevent and promote Dietary Guideline adherence and how these factors relate to obesity across different racial ethnic groups.


Research Accomplishments 

  • Dr. Laugero's recently published neural and neurocognitive findings in adults (e.g., and children ( showed that degraded executive function may promote vulnerability to emotional overeating as early as preschool ages which, in turn, may lead to learned habits of sugar and high-fat food overconsumption over a lifetime. Strategies to lower stress and improving executive control during early childhood hold promise to enable healthier decision-making about food.


  • Demonstrated for the first time that sugar, but not artificial sweeteners, suppress the brain's stress response in humans ( Sugar consumption has been linked to a suppressed stress response in rodents, and following on this seminal work Dr. Laugero recently translated his findings in animals to humans in a ground breaking longitudinal study using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to establish the existence of a metabolic-brain stress pathway in humans. These findings provide physiological evidence as to why sugar may positively reinforce its habitual consumption in people experiencing persistent stress and why some people should be more aware of whether stress or anxiety is triggering overconsumption of high sugar foods. Furthermore, these stress-modulating metabolic pathways existing outside the brain may provide new therapeutic access points to modulate stress-associated diseases of the brain (e.g. major depression).


  • Some persons are more successful than others at losing and keeping off weight lost by dieting. Dr. Laugero and WHNRC colleagues discovered that person-to-person differences in weight loss were inversely associated with salivary cortisol concentrations (a stress index) and decision-making functions characterized by greater risk taking in obese women who underwent a weight loss regimen. Thus, higher decision making functions and stress neuroendocrine pathways can influence or be altered by the process of dieting, and these correspond to the amount of weight loss achieved (


  • The majority of the US population does not meet recommendations for consumption of milk, whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. One overarching research recommendation was identified by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Advisory Committee: More studies are needed to determine the barriers for adhering to the DGA, particularly among special populations. A multi-site study (Healthy Eating and Lifestyle for Total Health; HEALTH) was conducted to understand barriers and facilitators to adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for four nutrient-rich food groups in fifth-grade children and unrelated adult caregivers across six Human Nutrition Research Centers. For both unrelated adults and children, barriers and facilitators related to personal/behavioral and environmental factors were identified, highlighting modifiable conditions that can be used by health professionals in designing educational programs or even tailored intervention programs which could help individuals to meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (


  • Discovered a new glucocorticoid-metabolic-brain feedback regulatory pathway that prompted an entirely new model of chronic psychological stress and glucocorticoid function.  These findings elicit a new perspective on why it has been so difficult to motivate long term adoption of the Dietary Guidelines and body weight following restricted food intake and body weight loss.


  • Research findings led to patent applications, an issued U.S. patent, and contributed to the creation of a new company, Psylin Pharmaceuticals.

Selected Articles & Patent Applications 


1.       Nicklas TA, Jahns L, Bogle ML, Chester DN, Giovanni M, Klurfeld DM, Laugero K, Liu Y, Lopez S, Tucker KL (2013). Barriers and Facilitators for Consumer Adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans: The HEALTH Study. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Jul 16. doi:pii: S2212-2672(13)00527-3. 10.1016/j.jand.2013.05.004.


2.       Tryon MS, Decant R, Laugero KD. 2013 Having your cake and eating it too: A habit of comfort food may link chronic social stress exposure and acute stress-induced cortisol hyporesponsiveness. Physiol Behav. Mar 14. doi:pii: S0031-9384(13)00047-4. 10.1016/j.physbeh.2013.02.018. [Epub ahead of print].


3.       Pieper JR, Laugero KD. 2013 Preschool children with lower executive function may be more vulnerable to emotional-based eating in the absence of hunger. Appetite. Mar;62:103-9.


4.       Tryon, M.S., Carter, C.S., DeCant, R., and Laugero, K.D. (2013) Chronic stress exposure may affect the brain's response to high calorie food cues and predispose to obesogenic eating habits. Physiology and Behavior, 120C:233-242.


5.       Witbracht MG, Van Loan M, Adams SH, Keim NL, Laugero KD. 2013. Dairy food consumption and meal-induced cortisol response interacted to influence weight loss in overweight women undergoing a 12-week, meal-controlled, weight loss intervention. J Nutr. Jan;143(1):46-52.


6.       Laugero, K.D., Tryon, M.S. 2011. Stress and food intake:  What's the deal with your meal?. CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources. 6:1-13.


7.      Witbracht, M.G., Laugero, K.D., Van Loan, M.D., Adams, S.H., Keim, N.L. 2011. Performance on the Iowa Gambling Task is related to magnitude of weight loss and salivary cortisol in a diet-induced weight loss intervention in overweight women. Physiology and Behavior. 10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.04.035.


8.       Laugero, K.D. Obesity, the Economic Meltdown, and the Gut Feeling for the Foods We Choose to Eat. Clinical Nutrition Insight, 36(5):1-4, 2010.


9.       Laugero, K.D., Hanley, M.R., Parkes, D.G., and Mcgonigle, P.  Neuromedin and FN-38 Peptides for Treating Psychiatric Diseases. PCT/US2010/0168013, 2010.


10.    Laugero, K.D., Stonehouse, A.H., Guss, S., Landry, J., Vu, C., and Parkes, D. G. Exenatide Improves Hypertension in a Rat Model of the Metabolic Syndrome.  Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders, 7(4):327-34, 2009.


11.    Campbell, J.C., Laugero, K.D., Van Westerhuyzen, J.A., Hostetler, C.M., Cohen, J.D., and Bales, K.L. Energetic costs of pair bonding and parental care in male prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster).  Physiology and Behavior, 98(3):367-73, 2009.


12.    Mack, C.M., Soares, C.J., Wilson, J.K., Athanacio, J.R., Turek, V., Trevaskis, J., Roth, J., Smith, P.A., Gedulin, B., Jodka, C.M., Roland, B.L., Adams, S.H., Lwin, A., Herich, J., Laugero, K.D., Vu,  C., Pittner, R., Paterniti, Jr., J.R., Hanley, M., Ghosh, S., and Parkes, D.G. Davalintide (AC2307), a Novel Amylin Mimetic Peptide: Enhanced Pharmacological Properties over Native Amylin to Reduce Food Intake and Body Weight.  International Journal of Obesity, 34, 385-395, 2010, on-line 2009.


13.    Laugero, K.D.  Filling in the Gaps of Chronic Psychological Stress Disease Models:  What's Metabolic Profiling Have to do with it?  Endocrinology:  Invited Editorial/News and Views; 149(6):2712-3, 2008.


14.    Laugero, K.D., Hanley, M., Mack, C., and Parkes, D.  Compositions and Methods for Treating Psychiatric Diseases and Disorders.  PCT/US2008/001500 (Amylin 1202WO1), 2008.


15.  Mack, C.M., Wilson, J., Athanacio, J., Reynolds, J., Laugero, K., Guss, S., Vu, C., Roth, J., Parkes, D.  Pharmacological Actions of the Peptide Hormone Amylin in the Long-Term Regulation of Food Intake, Food Preference and Body Weight. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol, 293(5):R1855-63, 2007.


16.  Laugero, K.D., Hanley, M., Mack, C., Parkes, D., and Young, A.  Amylin Agonists for Treating Psychiatric Diseases and Disorders.  PCT Publication No. WO 2006/105527, 2006; U.S. patent# US 07671023, granted 2010.


17.  Weyer, C., Laugero, K.D., Mack, C., and Parkes, D. Compositions and Methods for the Control, Prevention, and Treatment of Obesity and Eating Disorders, PCT Publication No. WO 2006/105345, 2006.


18.  Applications of Incretin Mimetics for Metabolic Diseases: Preclinical Studies.  DRUG DEVELOPMENT RESEARCH 67:553-558, 2006.


19.  Dallman, M.F., Pecoraro, N., la Fleur, S.E., Warne, J.P., Ginsberg, A.B., Akana, S.F., Laugero, K.D., Houshyar, H., Strack, A.M., Bhatnagar, S., and Bell, M.E. Glucocorticoids, Chronic Stress, and Obesity, In:  Progress in Brain Research, Chapter 4: Volume 153, pages 75 - 105, eds. A. Kalsbeek et al.), 2006.


20.  Pecoraro, N., Warne, J.P., Ginsberg, A..B., Laugero, K.D, la Fleur, S.E.F., Houshyar, H., Gomez, F., Akana, S.F., Bhargava, A., and Dallman, M.F. From Malthus to Motive: How the HPA Axis Engineers the Phenotype, Yoking Needs to Wants.  Progress in Neurobiology, Volume 79, pages 247 - 340, 2006.


21.  Mack, C.M.,  Moore, C., Jodka, C., Bhavsar, S., Wilson, J.K., Hoyt, J., Roan, J., Vu, C.,  Laugero, K.D., Parkes, D.G., and Young, A.A. Antiobesity action of peripheral exenatide (exendin-4) in rodents: effects on food intake, body weight, metabolic status and side-effect measures. International Journal of Obesity, 30(9):1332-40, 2006.


22.  Laugero, K.D. Reinterpretation of glucocorticoid feedback in the HPA axis; implications to behavioral and metabolic disease.  Invited review chapter in:  Vitamins and Hormones, Volume 68.  Ed. Gerald Litwack, 2004.


23.  Dallman, M.F., Pecoraro, N.,  Akana, S.F., la Fleur, S.E., Gomez, F., Houshyar, H., Bell, M.E., Bhatnagar, S., Laugero, K.D., and Manalo, S. Chronic stress and obesity: A new view of ''comfort food.''  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(20):  11696-11701, 2003. Faculty 1000 evaluated: 


24.  Dallman, M.F., Akana, S.F., Laugero, K.D., Gomez, F., Manalo, S., Bell, M.E., and Bhatnagar, S.  A spoonful of sugar:  feedback signals of energy stores and corticosterone regulate responses to chronic stress.  Physiology and Behavior, 70, 3 - 12, 2003.


25.  Laugero, K.D., Gomez, F., Manalo, S., and Dallman, M.F. Corticosterone (B) infused intracerebroventricularly (icv) inhibits energy storage and stimulates the hypothalamo-pituitary axis in adrenalectomized rats drinking sucrose. Endocrinology, 143(12):4552-62, 2002.


26.  Bell, M.E., Bhargava, A, Soriano, L, Laugero, K.D., Akana, S.F., Dallman, M.F. Sucrose and corticosterone interact to modulate behavior, energy balance, autonomic outflow, and neuroendocrine responses during chronic cold.  Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 14:4, 330 - 342, 2002.


27.  Pecoraro, N., Francisca, G., Laugero, K.D., and Dallman, M.F. Brief access to sucrose engages food-entrainable rhythms in food-deprived rats.  Behavioral Neuroscience, 116(5), 757-76, 2002.


28.  Laugero, K.D., Bell, M.E., Bhatnagar, Soriano, S.L., and Dallman, M.F. Sucrose ingestion normalizes central expression of corticotropin-releasing-factor mRNA and energy balance in adrenalectomized rats:  a glucocorticoid-metabolic-brain axis? Endocrinology, 142:7, 2796-2804, 2001.


29.  Laugero, K.D. A new perspective on glucocorticoid feedback: relation to stress, carbohydrate feeding, and feeling better. Journal of Neuroendocrinology: Young Investigator Perspectives, 13, 827-835, 2001. 


30.  Dallman, M.F., Viau, V.G., Bhatnagar, S., Gomez, F., Laugero, K., and Bell,  M.E. Corticotropin-releasing-factor (CRF), corticosteroids, stress and sugar: energy balance, the brain and behavior.  In: Hormones, Brain, and Behavior, Vol. 1, Pages 571 - 631, 2001. 


31.  Belanger, J.M., Son, J.H., Laugero, K.D., Moberg, G.P., Doroshov, S.I., and Cech Jr., J.J. Effects of Short-term Management Stress and ACTH Injections on Plasma Cortisol Levels in Cultured White Sturgeon.  Acipenser transmontanus.  Aquaculture, 203 (165 - 176), 2001.


32.  Laugero, K.D. and Moberg, G.P. Effects of acute behavioral stress and LPS-induced cytokine release on growth and energetics in mice. Physiology and Behavior, 68(415-422), 2000.


33.  Laugero, K.D. and Moberg, G.P. Energetic response to repeated restraint stress in rapidly growing mice.  American Journal of Physiology: Section of Endocrinology and Metabolism 279:E33-E43, 2000.


34.  Laugero, K.D. and Moberg, G.P.  Summation of behavioral and immunological stress: metabolic consequences to the growing mouse.  American Journal of Physiology: Section of Endocrinology and Metabolism 279:E44-E49, 2000.


35.  Dallman, M.F., Akana, S.F., Bell, M.E., Bhatnagar S., Choi, S.J., Chu, A., Gomez, F., Laugero, K., Soriano, L., Viau, V.  Warning!  Nearby constructioncan profoundly affect your experiments.  Endocrine, 11: 111-113, 1999.





 Obesity & Metabolism Home      WHNRC Home






Last Modified: 8/31/2016
Footer Content Back to Top of Page