New Evidence of a Biological Switch

Nature wants you to be fat. That's the surprising truth, and Dr. Richard Johnson joins us today to share the mounting evidence on the biological switch that makes us insulin resistant and prone to weight gain.

Dr. Johnson is an internationally acclaimed scientist and physician researching obesity and metabolic health. In this episode, he explains the disastrous effects of excess fructose on the body and how it's the key driver of insulin dysregulation and metabolic disease.

But fruit contains fructose! So does that mean you have to avoid it at all costs? Dr. Johnson and JJ discuss how to strategically incorporate fruit into your diet, who can best tolerate this type of sugar, and how much you should eat to avoid going down the wrong path.

They also discuss how the faux healthy foods we consume (starting in childhood) can lead to leaky gut syndrome and food allergies, why you won't get fat on a high-fat-low-carb diet, and what you can do to turn off the survival switch that contributes to weight gain, heart disease, high blood pressure, and more.

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ATHE_Transcript_Ep 490_Dr. Richard Johnson
JJ Virgin: [00:00:00] Hey, this is JJ Virgin. Welcome and thanks so much for joining me. This is Ask the Health Expert here. I put the Power of Health in your hands and give you access to the top people in health and wellness. In each episode, I share safe ways to get healthy, lose weight, heal your gut detox and lots more. So if you wanna get healthy and get off the dieting for life merry go round, I'll give you strategies that will help you look and feel better fast.
Okay, I just finished the. Best interview, if I can throw this out to you. This is gonna be like some mind blowing stuff. This will be the start of a series with Dr. Richard Johnson. And he's written a, a couple amazing books. The the latest one, Nature Wants Us to Be [00:01:00] Fat, Holy Smokes. And we are gonna be digging into fructose into something called the Biological Switch.
Or their survival switch. And there's so much crazy amazing information in here about leaky gut weight gain, hypertension, metabolic health. I, I just, I've literally been talking to my hero this Dr. Richard Johnson's was the one who I really studied when I wrote the Sugar Impact Diet. And so this has been just like, like, I'm giddy as you can hear.
Let me tell you a little bit about Dr. Richard Johnson and you can learn more about him, by the way, by going to And again, you'll wanna grab, Nature wants us to be fat. He's a physician scientist with an expertise on sugar and specifically fructose. And you will literally be mind blown by the things you hear him say about fructose Holy smoke.
He is. Really like internationally known for his work on sugar and fructose in obesity and [00:02:00] diabetes. He like his work. You know, he showed the fundamental role for uric acid in metabolic syndrome, and he's done loads of research, published over 700 papers, lectured in 45 countries. He authored the sugar fix with too many, the Gour and the Fat Switch in 2012.
And he is a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver. And just a super fun, cool, down to earth, brilliant scientific doc guy. So I can't wait to share him with you. You're gonna fall in love with him. We are getting him back time and time again. This is information that you can put directly into use, so stay with me.
We'll be right back.
Okay. I cannot believe I have you, Dr. Richard Johnson, my hero captive on a podcast. [00:03:00] Like, you know, it's, it's, I'm, I'm gonna like fan girl out. That's it. .
Dr. Richard Johnson: Jj, it is just wonderful to be on your show and we definitely have our stars aligned when it comes to how we view things about
JJ Virgin: Nutrition. Right. I mean when I was writing the Sugar Impact Diet, you were like my go-to guru, all things fructose.
I'm like, how is this not so commonplace? How is it that we have these products in the health food store hiding in their posing that say no sugar added that have apple juice concentrate in them and people are glugging them down thinking that it just made. Saying, and I was like, This, this, this guy gets it.
So there's so much that we could talk about. You are going to be like, I, I, I'd just love to do a series with you, but I really wanna talk about your Nature Wants us to Be Fat Book first of all, because Holy smokes the title.
Dr. Richard Johnson: It's kind of scary, isn't it? ?
JJ Virgin: Oh my gosh. Well, but, but it's true. As you start [00:04:00] like what you're gonna unpack, it'll make perfect sense to people.
And so, you know, I'd love to just start before we go there, how did you get so into this?
Dr. Richard Johnson: Oh, well, first off, I'm a very curious person, as you probably know from reading my readings or my writings and, you know I started off you know, being, I'm a physician. A physician studies kidney disease and metabolic health and hypertension.
And but very early on I wanted to do research. I, I didn't wanna just take care of patients. I love taking care of patients, but I was too curious about, you know, why they have their disease more than just how to treat their disease. And so it, you know, I, I became interested in how high blood pressure, what causes high blood pressure.
And this led me to a substance called uric. And uric acid is the substance that causes gout. You know, it's this, Oh
JJ Virgin: yeah, it, We've had David Pearlmutter on, He's one of my, he's one of my besties. . [00:05:00] Okay.
Dr. Richard Johnson: So you know about uric acid. So it circulates in our blood, it causes gout and it's associated with a lot of metabolic diseases.
We were one of the first ones to kind of link it with high blood pressure and to show actually that if you raise uric acid and animals, they could develop high blood pressure. And then we did studies in, in adolescents that were overweight and that had high blood pressure and we found that uric acid was playing a role in their high blood pressure as well.
And that if we lowered uric acid, we could control the blood pressure in them, return it to normal and like 90% of the kids.
JJ Virgin: So I wanna ask a question about that, but I have to point out a brilliant statement. You. One of just, I'm sure will be many. And you said, You know, I, I wanna do more than just treat the disease.
I wanted to know why. And it's like, when you really think about that, you go, Wait a minute. Wouldn't you need to know why they have the disease to treat it? Like, can it be that? Hello? Yes, that's
Dr. Richard Johnson: so true. You know you know, I have this rule, by the way, when you wanna learn about a [00:06:00] disease, you know, a lot of the medical students and residents, they, they always think, What, what's the newest thing?
And so, They'll Google and they'll look for the newest paper. But when I really wanna understand a disease, I'll Google or I'll, I'll go to PubMed and I'll, I'll say diabetes for example. And I'll go to the oldest paper cuz I'm curious how it was discovered. Because usually when a disease is discovered, it starts off being relatively rare.
And so it's easier to link it to to, to, to potential causes. Cuz when it's, it's so common that it, you know. Every, you know, obesity is so common, it's hard to, to pinpoint what's the driver. So it's really nice to go back. That's so smart. 1890 when there's only one, you know, three and a hundred people have, have
JJ Virgin: obesity.
So like, it just wasn't a thing. I mean, even, even 1950s, like even, Yes. Even when I was in. Elementary school, there was like one chubby girl, like, you know, or one, you know, exactly what was it called? Hefty or what? [00:07:00] Or the h huffy or whatever they did for the boys. They had the Husky Huskies
Dr. Richard Johnson: and chubby. Yeah.
Anyway, Husky kid.
JJ Virgin: So, so the, the teens having hypertension, which obviously shouldn't be happening. What was the driver for the uric acid?
Dr. Richard Johnson: Yeah, so that was exactly where I went next. So once we began to realize that uric acid. Was, was playing a role then it was like going, you know, what was driving the uric acid up.
And it turns out that everyone was focused on things called purines, which are these substances like that, that are often present in things like organs, organ meats, like liver, shellfish and things like that. But there's another major driver. Of uric acid, and that is sugar table sugar. And it's be and table sugar is actually two sugars.
Table sugar is called sucrose, but it's the disaccharide, which means that it's actually two sugars bound together and one is glucose, which is the main sugar in our blood. [00:08:00] And the other one's called fructose, and that's the sugar that's in fruit. And it turned out that fructose specifically raises uric.
And so so I, I started looking at, you know, the, you know, I started going back in time and I, I, we actually drew these curves going all the way back to 1900, 1800, 1700, and you know, the rise of sugar intake. And then a high fructose corn syrup is another sugar that has a added sugar that consists of glucose and fructose mixed together, and so that's another source of fructose.
These are the two major sources of fructose in our diet. Table sugar and high fructose corn syrup and, and we're eating huge amounts of this
JJ Virgin: stuff. Well and turns Here's I it, Go ahead. Turns out. Yeah. And, and
Dr. Richard Johnson: that, and these sugars raise uric acid. And these kids that are developing obesity, they have high uric acid.
And they have high blood pressure, and we had found that when we raised uric [00:09:00] acid in animals, that their blood pressure went up. So Dan Fig was a young pediatric nephrologist down at Baylor. And we, we worked together. I was the chief at the time of the adult kidney service and he did the study where he linked uric acid with blood pressure and 90% of children.
With you know what we call primary hypertension or high blood pressure, where we, you know, it's like the classic high blood pressure. 90% of them had a high uric acid. And so then we went, got a grant from the National Institute of Health, and we did this crossover, placebo controlled study, very double blind.
And these kids had never received any medicine in their life. They had, hadn't even had you know, a high blood pressure. But when we lowered the uric acid, if we actually lowered it to under five point to a, to a normal level, 90% of them normalized their blood pressure. And did
JJ Virgin: you lower it by getting the fructose out?
How did you lower it?
Dr. Richard Johnson: [00:10:00] Well, that time we used a drug you know, so the, you know, the easiest way to lower the uric acid was to, to give a drug called allopurinol. And, and we did it, it lowered the uric acid and their blood pressure. Came down to normal and we did another study and we found that we could block weight gain significantly in these, these kids compared to if they got the placebo, they would, they, they gained weight significantly cuz they're like, they're 15 years old and they're eating a lot of sugar and.
And then subsequently, you know, we realized it was the sugar that was really driving a lot of it. And so we even did the study where we gave group dose to people. It was, it was before I realized how bad it could be. Yeah.
JJ Virgin: I was like, oh my gosh. You gave people Yeah. Yeah. I've heard that it can induce hypertension and lab rats, but I didn't know they actually did that to people.
Well, you
Dr. Richard Johnson: know, so we, what we did is we gave a large amount of fructose to, to people. In, in a clinical trial with or without a uric acid lowering drug. And when [00:11:00] they took the fructose, their blood pressure went up. And when we gave it with allopurinol, we could block it. But scarily, about 25% of them in just two weeks, started developing Metabolic syndrome and Wow.
And so at that point we said, Oh gosh, oops, stop all this.
JJ Virgin: Sorry,
Dr. Richard Johnson: we can't do this
JJ Virgin: anymore. You said something crazy though, and I'm just wondering, like, I don't, I actually don't want this to be
Dr. Richard Johnson: Well, I want you to, I want you to know that when we stopped the fructose, you reversed, their blood pressure came back down to normal.
And they resolved. So, you know, but I was, Okay. Good. You're forgiven. You're forgiven. Yes. And as I. Told people, I said, This is a study that no one can ever repeat. You know, cuz you know, at the time we didn't know how, how dangerous it would
JJ Virgin: in two weeks. It's just like when they did the Splenda and changed the gut microbiome in a week.
It's like, okay, stop. I went, Who volunteers for these things? So you said you gave the kids [00:12:00] allopurinol and when you gave them the allopurinol that it. Blocked, lowered the uric acid and blocked weight gain.
Dr. Richard Johnson: Yeah. Well, the second study that Dan did, so we didn't actually look at weight gain in the first study, but in the second study that he did, he, he gave a, I think it was for four weeks.
And, and again, these adolescents are actively gaining weight, you know, so that, I think the, the control group gained like three pounds or four pounds in that month, and it was mainly fat. And the, the, the Allopurinal group lost in a month. That is frightening. In a month. Yeah. It. . I think it, I I, I, it's in my book.
I actually put the numbers, but it, it, it is, it is frightening actually. Yeah, JJ it
JJ Virgin: really is frightening how Well, and I mean obviously we don't want them taking a drug to do that when they can just simply stop the problem. Exactly.
Dr. Richard Johnson: And so there have been studies now that have shown that if you reduce sugar, you can lower blood pressure.
And [00:13:00] there's also studies showing, especially sugary beverages, we. Did another study where we just gave a single sugary beverage to people and we get, we compared you know, a soft drink that had sugar or sucrose to a soft drink that had a high fructose corn syrup. And the high fructose corn syrup has a little bit more fructose in it than the sucrose one.
So this, we call it the Dr. Pepper study. And because Dr. Pepper in this country, there's still some places where they make it with sucrose instead of. With or
JJ Virgin: table sugars with like Coca-Cola and Mexico that they make it with sucrose. That's right.
Dr. Richard Johnson: Yes, exactly. It's the same thing. But in the US there was, you know, this was also occurring and when we compared the two, we found that high fructose corn syrup did raise blood pressure a little bit more acutely in people.
And raised the uric acid more because it had little more fructose.
JJ Virgin: So what happens with all these people who are going to the health food store. I won't name names of the stores. [00:14:00] And they're going in there and they're buying agave or things sweetened with agave because it says low on the glycemic index.
Dr. Richard Johnson: Oh, that's, that's scary. .
JJ Virgin: Or apple juice concentrate and they can, cuz they can literally put on the label, no sugar at it.
Dr. Richard Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. No. Apple juice is almost like a soft drink when it comes to the amount of Well it is like a soft drink. It is a soft drink.
JJ Virgin: I did a, I did a video with, Yeah, I did a video with Mind Valley and they posted it and boy did people get angry cuz I said apple juice is, is the same as a Coke.
In fact, it's worse. Yeah. And you wanna get diabetes and it was like this whole thing. And boy, people I like, it was like I was, you know, , I'm sure
Dr. Richard Johnson: you were attacked. Well, we did do an apple juice study. I, I I don't know if you remember that I don't remember this. I'd love to hear it. I have a, a good friend who's a scientist who's in Istanbul, and, and he's done a number of very innovative studies.
And one of the [00:15:00] interesting things about fructose is that the way it works is that it drops the energy in the cell, but it, it's really based upon how much fructose the, the, the liver Sees. And so like when you drink a soft drink or apple juice, you're drink, you're getting this huge amount of fructose, right?
And so that's why a soft drink is so bad because you drink it and we tend to drink soft drinks quickly. A lot of people guzzle the drinks. You know, I used to big gulps. Big gulps, and so, you know, so you flood the liver. And that's, you know, but it makes a difference. Like if you're. Taking it in the middle of a meal where you've got a lot of food in the stomach and, and the small bowel that will slow the absorption.
And, and so you know, we had done this review and we had published that you know, the study show that if you liquid sugar is much more dangerous than solid sugar. And the reason is, is because the li we thought we [00:16:00] said was because we believe the liquid sugar is being absorbed faster so that the fructose concentration is higher.
It's like a wave and then that triggers this biologic switch that makes you wanna. Put on fat and so forth. And so and, and the data in the literature was very consistent with that. But what Mayma decided to do was to say, Okay, here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna give a, you know I think it was 20 ounces of apple juice.
It was a lot large amount. And he says, I'm gonna give it quickly to volunteers, or I'm gonna give it over an hour. You know, over a longer time and we're gonna see if we can find, you know, there are these markers of the switch that you can measure in the blood, and I'm gonna look for that. And, and so he, when he did that, he found that the giving the, the apple juice quickly.
Activated the switch a lot more than if you gave it slow. So the bottom line, JJ, is if [00:17:00] someone really wants to drink Apple, just tell them to sip it over a long time and it will be a calorie. Or
JJ Virgin: maybe better yet, just have an apple and some water.
Dr. Richard Johnson: That is much better. Way
JJ Virgin: better. Way better. You know, it's like, do that.
I was so upset when I saw that, like in the WIC program, you, they were giving like part of the funding was giving the little kids apple juice. I'm like, that likes, Yeah. That's terrible. Stop it. All right. Well you mentioned the switch. Let's dig into the biological switch and talk about that. Yes.
Dr. Richard Johnson: So, so the, the whole thing, you know, just kind of evolved, you know, so in the very beginning we're looking at uric acid seems to be driving blood pressure, sugar, and particularly fructose seems to be driving uric acid.
So I started doing experiments in animals, lab animals where we were originally, we were raising uric. And then we just [00:18:00] started giving fructose. And we found that when we gave fructose that they, they didn't just in get higher blood pressure, they, their triglycerides or their fat's went up in their blood.
The fat went up in their liver, they became insulin resistant. You know, they had all these features that we recognized was the Metabolic syndrome. And this was like in the early. I know it's like obvious to everyone now, but this was like 2000,
JJ Virgin: It was back when it was Syndrome X.
Dr. Richard Johnson: Right, Exactly. Well back when they thought that there, you know, there were people writing that Metabolic syndrome really isn't anything.
It's, you should just look at triglycerides and there it's not a collection of symptoms. You, you know you know, honestly even some of the people who originally pushed the idea of Metabolic syndrome where were writing that they didn't think it was clinically important. And Wow. What I saw was, yeah, Jerry Rees you know, and what I saw was that all these animals were developing a [00:19:00] syndrome that really was a fact.
Storage syndrome. They were storing fat in their blood. In their liver, in their adipose tissue or their fat tissues, there were insulin resistance that their blood pressure was going up. This was all part of one syndrome, and it was being induced by fructose, and it was associated with a high uric acid.
And so we did this study that was done by Taka, Naka, Gowa, French, I mean the Japanese scientist who was working with me and Taka lowered uric acid with this aalopurinol. And he found that he could improve all the peaks of the metabolicsyndrome, not just the hypertension, but there was less fat in the liver.
There was less fat in the blood. You know, the whole thing there was less insulin resistant. And so there was like this, you know, light bulb that went off. The uric acid pathway is not an a caloric pathway. So the way you know when you eat fructose mm-hmm. , it's like broken down and generates atp, but uric acid is like [00:20:00] generated in a kind of a off, It's an offshoot.
It's like a side reaction. And why would blocking a side reaction. Side chain reaction be working here. Everyone was saying it's calories. It's calories. But I knew it's not, Your body's not exactly. It's becoming very obvious. It
JJ Virgin: was. Do you know what? Do you know what Rick? Early on, like when I was just a personal trainer going through grad school and, and, and I was taught that you had to create a 500 calorie defecit a day to create a one pound weight loss in at 1000.
And so I was di I'm a mathematician. I was doing it with people and it wasn't working, so I thought, you are cheating. Why are you paying me all this money and cheating? And then I took a group away for a week and I went, Wow, they can't cheat. I'm like policing everything. Some people lost weight, some people gained weight, some people stayed the same.
And that's when I went, Our body is not a bank. Exactly not look at this, you know, there's a big difference between calories and stress and also, But it, But I, it was like saying the earth [00:21:00] is flat. You're all wrong. Exactly.
Dr. Richard Johnson: Exactly. And you know, I wrote a paper on fructose where I challenged the idea that it wasn't Calories back in 2007.
It was really a challenging Oh, did you get attacked? Yeah, I did. But the papers now Good for you. Now you're a genius. 500 times , but but anyway, getting, yeah, getting, now we've kind of evolved, so we know that you know, energy balance is still very important and I'm happy to talk about energy balance, but, but it's, as you say, it's just one part of the equation.
What's actually more Important is the types of food we eat. Mm-hmm. . And so,
JJ Virgin: and then we, the calorie calories count, but where they come from counts more. Right. You cannot just because it's not shout down on healthy food and think you're gonna be okay. You have to. Exactly.
Dr. Richard Johnson: So, I mean, if you're on a low carb diet and you're eating a high fat diet because you're on a low carb diet you're not gonna get fat on the high fat diet if you're on a low carb diet.
If anything, a low carb diet will [00:22:00] cause weight loss, as we know. And so, and the reason it isn't because fat. Is good necessarily, or fat is doesn't make people fat. But it won't in a low carb diet. And the reason is because when you're on a low carb diet, you're not making much fructose because, or eating fructose.
So low carb diet, fructose is a carb, so you're not eating it. But we can also make fructose in our body from carbs. So if you're on a low carb diet, you can't make much fructose. And fructose is what makes you turns on this switch to make you hungry. And so if you're on a low carb diet, you'll tend not to be that hungry.
And so you won't be eating huge amounts of food and you won't be, and, and the high fat diet you, you're just gonna maintain your. Because if you eat more, you'll just more one day you'll eat less than next. And so low carb diet is a great way to help control that appetite because if [00:23:00] you're on a high carb diet, what happens is we tend to become to lose our ability to control our appetite.
And so and that's because of the fructose. So what one of, what we started realizing is that this fructose, it activated this, this switch that made animals eat more and they started foraging for food. They developed the Metabolic syndrome. And actually there were, there was a variety of things that we discovered.
And others too. It's not just me, just me, but, but our lab and others and other labs started realizing that fructose actually orchestrates a, a survival response. And it's this massive re thing that is to help the animals survive. Periods when there's no food around. So it really prepares them for a time, for, for winter.
And the hibernating bear and, you know, and all these animals, I think probably use this fructose pathway is their main way to help store fat and so forth [00:24:00] for when they're gonna hibernate.
JJ Virgin: So is this the thing then? It's summer. The days are longer, the days are longer. We have less sleep. We have less sleep. We'd be more slightly insulin resistant. There's a lot of fruit around. So we're gonna be able to eat more fruit. Now I'm talking, this is 5,000 years ago. We can eat more fruit, which is gonna help us store more fat so that in the winter when the days are shorter, we're sleeping more, we're more insulin sensitive, we can access that store fat for fuel.
Is that a crazy idea
Dr. Richard Johnson: or is that No, that's a great idea. I think you're totally right. I think you're totally right and I hadn't really thought about the the sleep part, but that's you know, it's really important to have good sleep to, to help maintain your metabolic health. As I'm sure you've written, I'm
JJ Virgin: a big person on sleep, but, but it throws out the, the fruit question [00:25:00] because, you know, it's like, then you get with people that are like, I shouldn't eat fruit.
I go, No, no one's saying you shouldn't eat fruit. They're saying you shouldn't drink it. You shouldn't turn it into a soda and drink it. Yeah. Or dry it and turn it into candy. Yes. Or turn it into a syrup. You know? So talk about the difference between. Where they're getting fructose now. Cause we were eating fruit, you know, a hundred years ago and we weren't obese,
Dr. Richard Johnson: so.
Absolutely. So, so so fruit, Okay. It has as its main nutrient fructose. So when an animal eats fruit, the main food they're getting is fructose. They're getting some glucose. But, so when we talk about fruit, When I talk about fructose being bad, everyone goes, Oh geez, how can it be Because fruit is healthy.
And if you look, studies show that people who eat more fruit are healthier than those who are eating like lots of sugar.
JJ Virgin: Yeah. But are the people eating more fruit also eating more vegetables and more like, is it, you know Right. They're probably not eating Pop Tarts.
Dr. Richard Johnson: [00:26:00] Absolutely. Absolutely. So that's been one complicating feature for sure.
But there, so, so then the question is, well, what is it about, you know, what is the story with fruits? And and it turns out that each fruit has, you know, between two and, you know, 10 grams, maybe two and eight grams of fructose. So the, some of the richest fruits like apples and pears. I mean that have the most fructose you know, are in the range of like eight grams per fruit.
Big exception of figs. They, they have huge amounts of fructose. So don't eat fig newton's. Yeah, Fig Newton's. Figs. . And that's, that's all, that's all fructose. Agave's got a lot of fructose. Yeah. And so, So when it comes to fruit, most fruits have like three to six grams of fructose, which is significant, but not really significant.
Cuz when you have a soft drink, you know, you can have 20, 30 grams of fructose. So there's a big difference [00:27:00] between four grams.
JJ Virgin: Right. You know, But you could get it in a glass of apple
Dr. Richard Johnson: juice. Yeah. Well in an apple juice, you know, you'll take multiple apples. And then you make this juice. And, and then of course you know, juice has, or app fruit has a lot of fiber and the fiber's gonna slow the absorption of the fructose, right?
Because we just we're talking about the speed of absorption. And when you make a juice, you often lose some of the pulp and fiber. And then natural fruits also have vitamin C. A lot of vitamin C and vitamin C turns out to actually neutralize some of the effects of fructose. It really is very real.
We've done it in animals and there's even clinical studies that suggest it. So vitamin C actually blocks some of the fructose effects and some fruits like Kiwi have lots of vitamin C. Oranges have lots of vitamin C and so they can, you know so that that [00:28:00] can also help counter. Then fruits also have stuff like Flavanols, and these are plant products.
One of them is called epicatechin, and, and that one seems to really also battle or fight the fructose effects. So the fruit is a mixture. It's not just sugar. It's got all these things that are actually good for our bodies.
JJ Virgin: And most people aren't gonna eat four apples. Exactly. Right. So, you know, it takes time.
They've got fiber, they're gonna get gastric distension. So they have a reasonable amount. Yeah. Not a crazy
Dr. Richard Johnson: amount. And I, I have a colleague at Princeton Josh Rabinowitz, who did this beautiful study, published it in Metabolism, I believe one of these top journals where he shows that the intestines also can kind of, inactivate
very small amounts of fructose, like two, the five grams. So like if you eat a fruit, your intestine will actually inactivate it before it gets to the liver. And it's really the liver and the brain. That's the big problem. So, Well, as
JJ Virgin: long as [00:29:00] you don't overload the liver with like, Yeah. Right. Yeah. A pound of cherries probably.
Dr. Richard Johnson: If you eat a pound of cherries or you know these, yeah, you can definitely overdo it. And but juice is is particularly a problem. I, I, I'll tell you a story. That'll really be graphic about juices. So so I, I, I, I did some studies where we gave fructose to animals and we could show that when we gave fructose, That the intestinal lining became leaky The inner gut.
Yeah. Became leaky we call it leaky gut syndrome. That's what I
JJ Virgin: wrote the virgin diet about. Yes.
Dr. Richard Johnson: Okay. Mm-hmm. . So the, and the leaky,
JJ Virgin: And they said it wasn't a
Dr. Richard Johnson: thing. Yeah. Right. Well, it's really known to be a thing and it's, it's linked with diseases like Crohn's Disease and even type one diabetes. And, you know, it's a, it's considered a big.
Because normally the intestines really wants to absorb the nutrients but not the toxins. And, and if the gut's leaky, you can you can get [00:30:00] other things get absorbed. So I was you know at a meeting where Steve Dreskin, who's a wonderful scientist who studies. Allergies, food allergies, and he was talking about the meteoric rise in food allergies that's been seen over the last several decades and how so many children are developing peanut allergies and also other food allergies and.
And he had created an animal model in which he took a mouse that was susceptible to anaphylactic shock from, from foods, for example, and he could feed it. Peanuts and it would become allergic to peanuts. But in order to do that, he had to make a leaky gut cuz if he just gave the peanuts to the, to the mouse, nothing happened.
So he had to make the gut leaky. So when in his presentation he was giving cholera, Toxin and cholera toxin is famous for making leaky gut, [00:31:00] and I talked to myself, Hmm, I know how to make a leaky gut. , just give him fructose. So after the, his lecture, I went up and we, we collaborated and we gave fructose to animals and we could really reduce the need.
To give cholora toxin in order to cause anaphylaxis. So all had to
JJ Virgin: do is problem is to get someone toxic, is to feed them like, and then you look and go, Okay, let's just give him some like Captain Crunch. Yeah. But I think it some gluten glyphosates and fructose all in a cocktail. I think
Dr. Richard Johnson: all those were doing.
But I think the big culprit is probably these fruit juices that mothers think are healthy. I. The sad part and, and, and they giving their fruit juice to the little kid, to the little babies and the infants and the toddlers. And what's happening is they're getting leaky gut early on so that when they get exposed to peanuts or shrimp or things like that, that with the leaky gut, some of these proteins get through.
And then if they have the genetic susceptibility, they probably have to have a [00:32:00] susceptibility, then they can become allergic and develop these food allergies. And I, I, I realized that this was probably you know, what's driving this epidemic of food
JJ Virgin: allergies that is just, and, and like the little, the little fruit rollups, the fruit being the gummies, the, like, it just, it just goes on and on and on.
Now I have to
Dr. Richard Johnson: ask you, jj, when you, when you were really young, did and, and we didn't know any, Did, did you love sugar? Like, I mean, like I did, but
JJ Virgin: did you? Okay, so here's what's funny. I'm an adopted kid. My adopted mom is a total sugar pusher, so she doesn't listen to the podcast so I can b bust her . And I was raised, my nickname growing up was Poppy because I ate.
Pop Tarts for breakfast every day. If I didn't have pop, oh, that's the Pop Tarts. I had Captain Crunch or you know, Sven hards cinnamon rolls. And so I lived on this stuff. We had, we had dessert every night after dinner. And then at the age of 12, [00:33:00] I wanted to be a theater actress. I actually went to UCLA on a theater scholarship and and then I fell in love with , you know, nutrition and exercise science.
And did that instead. But I was so obsessed with the dancing and like my, you know, my body as a, as an instrument that at age 12 I started going to the library. I got, I got nutrition books. I started studying everything I could, and I quit. Eating. Like I quit all of that. So Wonderful. And I drove my mother crazy, my mom who was from the Midwest and literally made those like tuna fish casserols with the potato chips on top.
Like she was like, I stopped, I refused to eat white bread. I've like all of that. Oh, good for you. And so like since the age of 12, I've been very, and I was. Always super athletic. And you know, here's the thing, when you're very athletic, and I would work out with the football team on weights and things like this, like before people would ever go into a weight room, and being athletic and having more muscle mass gives you a higher margin for error.
Oh, [00:34:00] absolutely. To be honest, right? No, no. It's. It's probably how I got away with a lot of that stuff cuz I was literally a dancer from like early age, like from when I can remember and doing gymnastics and acrobatics, which didn't work well as I grew up cuz I'm six feet tall, so point ballerina gymnastics at six feet doesn't work.
But, so that's how I got away with it. But I stopped it all at age 12 and, but here's the thing. I was trying so hard learning all this stuff. I stopped eating chocolate. I started eating carob. I stopped eating ice cream. I started having frozen yogurt thinking that I was doing better. It and you know, not I, I'll have honey not sugar, I'll have agave or maple syrup like you think you're doing
Dr. Richard Johnson: better?
Yeah. Cause it makes sense to, unless you study it, I'll have sugar in the raw, you know? Yeah. Natural things that are naturals. Seemed healthy.
JJ Virgin: It's great, right? And, and you know, all sugar's natural, unless it's artificial, right? So it's all, you know. And so it, when I wrote this sh the Virgin Diet, [00:35:00] one of the seven foods I had to pull out, at first when I wrote it, it was pulling out gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, peanuts, the things I saw people reacting to because they had a leaky gut.
But then I went, Oh my gosh, I pulled those out and they didn't take sugar out. And I go, But fructose is causing the problem. So then I wrote the Sugar impact Diet to do that. And cuz I realized people, but they're like, Oh, but it's just honey. , it's from bees, you know? And I was like, No, no, no. You know, they were so confused by it.
And then, and then you have, you know, the confusion compounded by the food industry that is lying on all these labels that I just look at and I go, Gosh, these moms trying to pick out the best things for their kids and these labels. It just makes me insane. ,
Dr. Richard Johnson: you're Absolutely, Yeah. That's my rant one of, and one of the things.
Is important to know about fructoses. It, it triggers the switch, but you know, if you just ate a huge amount of fruit that you were triggering the switch, but you weren't eating any fat or other foods you would, you would [00:36:00] be activating the metabolicsyndrome and you become insulin resistant, but you might not gain as much weight until you add the fat in.
So the, the, it's not the high fat people get confused by this. The fat is sort of like the firewood, and the fructose is the fire. If you have fructose and then you, you have high fatty foods around, then you're gonna gain weight because the fructose gets rid of how you regulate weight. You know, you know, it, it disrupts our weight regulation so that when you get a high fatty foods, you'll, you'll gain weight.
But if you don't have fructose and you don't have that dysregulation, Then you can eat the fat. And so it's really, the sugar is active at actively triggering what makes us develop this metabolicsyndrome. And even if. Don't eat any fat at all and you eat fructose, you may not gain as much weight, but you're still gonna get fatty liver and insulin resistance and things like that.
JJ Virgin: And what do you think for fruit servings per day [00:37:00] for and, and this could be, and I, I now, you know, I heard the latest stats that 5% of the US population's metabolically healthy, so I guess, you know, 5%. Yeah. So assuming that. You, you know, if, if it's 95% or not metabolically healthy, I'm gonna assume that we have a metabolically unhealthy person here, probably.
Well what would your recommendations be?
Dr. Richard Johnson: Yeah, so the first thing is I would I, I think that if you eat individual fruit, like at a meal that's great. So if, if you wanted to have one fruit or possibly two, but maybe one, one fruit at each meal, that would be fantastic. Or like, if you're if you're intermittently fasting and so forth and, and you get really hungry and you need something, a.
Can help quell this, your satiety a bit. Do you have your
JJ Virgin: favorite fruits?
Dr. Richard Johnson: Yeah, I do. I particularly like kiwi. I like strawberries berries in general. Blueberries,
JJ Virgin: Yes, I'm a I'm, I'm currently going through a blueberry thing, but I, yeah, my thing is [00:38:00] like two, two fruits a day. I will tell you a little story I was using, I think.
Dr. Richard Johnson: It's good choice. Two fruits a day. You know a lot of people say you should eat like four or five fruits. I, I haven't totally studied that, but what you don't wanna do is eat four or five fruits at once because then they're
JJ Virgin: adding up. Well, I did that. I was in, I got invited to speak in the Maldives, so I said, Yes, Yes.
And, and while I was there, I was wearing I was testing, I've been testing different continuous glucose monitors and apps. So I was wearing one and they had this beautiful buffet. And on the beautiful buffet they had kiwi. And you know, kiwi at home is a pain. Like it's a pain. You have to work for it, which is really good on this buffet.
You did not, It was all unpeeled and perfect and I was like, Ooh, honing pigeon. I went in for the kiwi, right? Like I get this huge bowl of kiwi . Yeah, it probably my Blood sugar monitors, like
Dr. Richard Johnson: Exactly. Yeah. Bananas. It's really. You know, I, I had a CGM monitor too. I think they're [00:39:00] wonderful. And I found that I was very sensitive to bananas and I, you know, I, Well, what a
JJ Virgin: greener one or more ripe one.
Like could you do a greener
Dr. Richard Johnson: one? Well, of course the more ripe, the sweeter and the more fructose and glucose, but yeah, but I found that, you know, I had to eat, like I, I tend to try to eat them when they're not that ripe.
JJ Virgin: Me too. I freeze 'em that way to put 'em in my, put it. Oh, good idea. Yeah. So I do that.
Put a little bit in my smoothie cause I just like the texture of it. Yeah. Yeah. And I want that resistance starch. So that's what I do. I just, I we get 'em and just as they're starting to like you can actually unpeel 'em. Yeah. Cuz if they're, then I do it.
Dr. Richard Johnson: There's a little Hack you, you, there's a thing you said that made me think about.
This is you, you were talking about how when you were a kid up to about age 12 or so, that you were eating Captain Crunch and all these things and you know, and some kids when they're eating a lot of sugar will get fat even in childhood of course, and others. Seemed to be immune and just wanted to talk about that a little bit and cuz you, you[00:40:00] talked about how when you're exercising a lot and when you're, you're fairly athletic, that you're, you become relatively immune to sugar and it's really true.
And the, the reason we believe, the reason is that the way, the way fructose works is primarily to work on your energy factories, which are, we call mitochondria. And and that basically fructose suppresses the mitochondria by causing what we call oxidative stress to these little energy factors. So when you create oxidative stress to these energy factories, they produce less ATP and that sort of, or energy, and that sort of triggers this metabolic switch, which makes you hungry and all these things.
And, but when you're really athletic, your mitochondria become kind of like super mitochondria. and when we're young, our mitochondria tend to be quite healthy. And so like if you're working for the sugar industry, for example, and you would [00:41:00] like to do a study to show that sugar doesn't really do too much to a person, you know, you should pick a 20 year old who's super athletic.
Good looking, running on the beach. , give them, give them sugar and you, you probably won't be able to show any problem you know, at least short term. And then, And so, and, and people who are very, very athletic, you know, many of them can, can eat fair amounts of sugar and, and seem immune. But what happens is that over time those mitochondria slowly get damaged.
And initially it's kind of reversible and you're kind of turning on and off the switch. And, but after a number of years this recurrent oxidative stress causes the mitochondria to decrease in number and to decrease in function. And, and this is sort of a turning point where it starts really getting hard to, to lose weight and keep it off.
So in the very beginning when the mitochondria still have this ability [00:42:00] to go up and down it's. It's easier to, to lose weight and to keep it off. But once the mitochondria become really knocked down we, we think that that's the turning point where it becomes very hard to to, to to lose weight and keep the weight off.
It's never hard to lose weight. The problem is, yeah,
JJ Virgin: keeping it. Yeah. And that's where I think you know, you hear that like diet's the thing that helps you lose weight, but exercise is what keeps it off. And that, what I'd hear when I hear that I think well exercise and specifically exercise that's gonna help you increase your mitochondria is going to be that the, like, it could be both muscle mass and the thermic effect of that on your metabolism.
But you know, then the mitochondria. You know, that what you just said says that's maybe one of the mechanisms. Yeah.
Dr. Richard Johnson: Right? Yeah. So, so, so and even in the book, I sort of emphasize exercise as a way to, to rejuvenate the mitochondria and to stimulate what [00:43:00] we, it's called biogenesis, where the mitochondria actually like increase in number.
You, you can bring back mitochondria and one of the great ways is by exercise, but it is also true. We did a study in people where we put them on a low. Low fructose diet and putting people on a low fructose or a low carb diet really can also improve your mitochondria and intermittent fasting increases the mitochondria.
And and we even did a, a study showing that low salt. Diets are also beneficial, and especially low fructose and low salt, you know, you can improve mitochondria. So you know, it's true that exercise is one of the best ways to stimulate mitochondria, but getting rid of the bad foods does help too.
JJ Virgin: Well, you got, and, and it's, it's not a one plus one equals two, right? It's an exponential effect. So, That's right. And likely if you're eating better, you'll exercise. If you exercise more, you'll eat better. Like so they all work together. So yeah, it all works together. [00:44:00] It's so good. Okay. I would call this the tip of the iceberg.
I have so much more that I wanna talk to you about. Can I beg, please flatter you. Whatever. Send you presents. Will you come back? I
Dr. Richard Johnson: would love to come back. I would
JJ Virgin: absolutely love. Thank you. Thank you.
Alright, so mind blown, right? Like so much great information again. You can get more of of Rick at Book Nature wants you to be fat, and I think what you've really learned here is all of that information about fructose. And so couple key takeaways. One of the things I have in the Sugar Impact Diet is how to take you completely off of fructose and reset.
Over the course of a matter of weeks, so that will be helpful for you. Definitely want that book. Nature wants you to be fat and then really becoming aware of where this, of where fructose hides in labels. Look for fructose, look for apple juice concentrate. Look for agave. Those are how they're [00:45:00] hiding it, right.
And also really realizing the role of exercise here and how that can turn it around. I didn't know that part about mitochondria and fructose and that's like another big wow. So love to hear your comments on this one. We will get, we will get Dr. Richard Johnson back and if you are not yet subscribed to the show, hello.
You do not wanna miss episodes like this. So go to See you next.


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