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The LLVLC Show (Episode 630): Dr. Richard Johnson Shifts Obesity Culprit Position From Fructose To All Carbohydrates

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In Episode 630 of “The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show with Jimmy Moore,” we welcome back a former guest who is a professor of medicine and fructose obesity researcher named Dr. Richard Johnson. When Dr. Johnson from the University of Colorado Denver first appeared in Episode 223 of “The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show” podcast in January 2009 discussing his book The Sugar Fix where he hypothesized that fructose alone was the root cause behind obesity and chronic disease, I openly challenged him about his theory during that interview encouraging him to examine the role of ALL carbohydrates on metabolic health. And so he did.

Now Dr. Johnson is back again to discuss his newfound support for low-carb nutrition in his brand new 2012 book entitled The Fat Switch published by the great online health advocate Dr. Joseph Mercola. Listen in as Dr. Johnson and I discuss what he found when he started researching how carbohydrates respond in the body, what led him to shift his views on the cause of obesity from fructose to all carbohydrates, and what it takes to turn on and off the “fat switch.” This is a fantastic conversation you’ll enjoy from one of the world’s top obesity researchers.

Listen to Dr. Richard Johnson explain his shift from fructose to carbs:

  • Dr. Johnson credits me for getting him to think about this
  • Fructose still plays “a central role,” but carbs are a big issue too
  • Major sources of sugar in the diet are table sugar and HFCS
  • The most common source of fructose in our diet is in sugary soda
  • His research has shown that fructose is “more than a calorie”
  • Animals fed fructose develop pre-diabetes even on isocaloric diet
  • You can lose your ability to control your appetite on fructose
  • It’s the inability to control leptin that makes this happen
  • Decreased physical activity also occurs when eating fructose
  • It’s not about bigger portions and Internet/TV/video games…
  • You’re leptin resistant that leads to greater consumption
  • These things “compound” one another to make things worth
  • Reducing TV watching time did not increase physical activity
  • His first book that focused entirely on fructose
  • Why I didn’t think weight loss required cutting sugar, but all carbs
  • His argument was that only fructose-fed animals get metabolic syndrome
  • But now he’s identified how fructose is working
  • His “exciting observation” that he saw in lab mice studying this
  • Animals that can’t metabolize fructose given glucose (starch)…
  • They started to get fat even consuming starchy water
  • Glucose in normal animals got fat and insulin resistant
  • What’s going on? Glucose converted to fructose in their liver
  • The mechanism by which carbs cause fatty liver/insulin resistance…
  • Is that glucose is being turned into fructose in the liver
  • The enzyme that makes this conversion happen in people
  • They are currently researching this theory further
  • Chronic sugar intake looks like it up-regulates this pathway
  • When you get a soft drink, you get both fructose and glucose
  • Over time, you turn on the enzymes in the liver that converts carbs
  • As this is developed, you become particularly carbohydrate-sensitive
  • Fructose works in part by generating excessive uric acid
  • His October 2012 paper in Journal of Biological Chemistry
  • It shows the way fructose drives fat in the liver with uric acid
  • Drinking beer will give you a “beer belly” from higher uric acid
  • Certain foods besides fructose can open same pathway as fructose
  • Caviar, shrimp and lobster can also “do it a little bit too”
  • Sugar and carbohydrates in general become problematic with this
  • Whether this same mechanism would happen by eating too much protein
  • Not all proteins are the same and high purines raise uric acid more
  • Most fish are great with omega-3 fats, but certain ones aren’t so good
  • The ones that are “very high in purines” and are being studied
  • They think the purine content of protein are problematic (low-fat too)
  • The “savory receptor” (umami) foods are linked to diabetes, obesity
  • The culprit is primarily sugar, carbs and high-purine proteins
  • It’s time to give up the “beer-battered shrimp”
  • The diet that “works really well” that’s “pretty effortless”
  • When an animal fasts, it will burn carb stores first before fat
  • Fuel is stored as starch (glycogen) and fats
  • If you are always replenishing glycogen, you’ll never burn any fat
  • If you exercise at the end of the day, you burn glycogen mostly
  • If you exercise in AM, you’ll burn through glycogen and burn fat
  • Skip breakfast after sleeping all night, you’ll burn fat in morning
  • Sip on coffee or tea to hold off eating for a few hours…
  • At noon, eat a zero-carb lunch so you can “continue to burn fat”
  • Burning fat for 8-9 hours a day and then eat a light carb supper
  • Dramatic effects will happen with or without exercise
  • The problem with a low-carb diet is maintaining it over the long-term
  • My nutritional ketosis n=1 diet experiment in 2012
  • If you can cut out the carbs, you’ll lose weight even faster
  • The good thing about his plan is you can still eat some carbs
  • The carbs are in “just one meal a day” to prevent craving carbs
  • Calories are naturally regulated when you are eating this way
  • Carbs most certainly have an effect above and beyond their calories
  • His concern about the relative amounts of fat and impact on cholesterol
  • He is no fan of a diet that’s higher than 50% fat in it
  • The legacy of Vilhjalmur Stefansson (high-fat diet eater)
  • If fat is only 50%, how do you eat the rest of your macronutrients?
  • His concern that it’s not smart to have high cholesterol over long term
  • The danger of high-protein on kidneys is with pre-existing disease
  • High-protein diets improve satiety, but we don’t know why
  • A lot of protein is naturally wrapped up in healthy fats
  • There are so many different kinds of fats out there
  • Studies of saturated fat is linked to a lot of medical issues…
  • But most of them tend to also be high in carbs
  • His high-butter diet with or without sugar study…
  • He found it’s not the fat but the sugar that gives “whopping effect”
  • If you eat a lot of sugar, a high-fat diet is “more of a problem”

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    There are four ways you can listen to Episode 630:

    1. Listen at the iTunes page for the podcast:

    2. Listen and comment about the show at the official web site for the podcast:

    3. Download the MP3 file of Episode 630 [39:20m]:

    4. Listen on the Stitcher app–NO DOWNLOADING!

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR FINANCIALLY SUPPORTING THIS PODCAST! Brand new interview expert guests are being lined up for your listening enjoyment and I can’t wait for you to hear them share about what a healthy lifestyle change looks like! Your continued financial support and faithfulness to listening is essential to keeping this podcast alive and well and we THANK YOU so very much for your support! If these podcast interviews on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from the most provocative and thought-provoking diet, fitness, and health experts have helped you in any way, then won’t you consider helping us out by clicking on the DONATE button below:

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    What did you think about Dr. Richard Johnson’s shift from fructose-only to all carbohydrates as the primary culprit in obesity? Give us your impressions about it in the show notes section of Episode 630. Pick up your own copy of Dr. Johnson’s The Fat Switch (coming soon to the Kindle) and stay on top of everything he is doing at his web site FructoseDoctor.com. Next week will be my final week of podcasts for 2012, so I’ve got some great surprises in store for you. I will tell you this: Tim Ferriss from “The Four-Hour Workweek” blog will be back on the show again (listen to my first podcast interview with him in Episode 468) to talk about his brand new book releasing on November 20, 2012 entitled The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life. I can assure you this will be a week of podcasting you won’t soon forget! SEE YA THEN! In the meantime, don’t forget to nominate your top five podcast interview guests of 2012 to appear during “Encore Week” 2013 at the beginning of January. Deadline for entries is December 7, 2012.

    JOIN US ON THE “ASK THE LOW-CARB EXPERTS” PODCAST THIS WEEK: Coming up in Episode 32 of “Ask The Low-Carb Experts” on Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 7PM ET we’ll be pleased to welcome a heart surgeon named Dr. Steven Gundry to take on an interesting topic for those of us who are livin’ la vida low-carb–”High-Fat Diets: Good vs. Bad.” I had Dr. Gundry on “The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show” in Episode 179 and 180 back in 2008 (definitely one of my favorite interviews from the early days) discussing his book Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution. He knows just a thing or two about healthy fats and how they respond inside your body as well as the ones that are not-so-healthy. Start getting me your questions NOW regarding good fats vs. bad fats for me to ask Dr. Steven Gundry by e-mailing them to AskTheLowCarbExperts@gmail.com no later than 3PM ET on the date the podcast airs. You can also ask your question LIVE on my show by calling (712) 432-0900 or Skype the show for FREE by calling the username freeconferencing.7124320900. Whether you call or Skype, be sure to use the access code 848908. Listen LIVE and leave us a review at iTunes if you like what you hear. This is your chance to interact with the best nutritional health experts in the world, so don’t be bashful.

    If you have something to share about what you heard on “The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show,” then drop us an e-mail at our dedicated podcast e-mail address–LLVLCShow@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you about what you think about the show, interview guest suggestions, show topics, and anything else you want to share! I LOVE hearing from my listeners, so share what’s on your mind. And we’d love it if you left us a review for the podcast on iTunes–just CLICK HERE and leave us a few sentences about what impact the podcast has made on your life.

    • Jeff Consiglio

      Wow! I am shocked/pleasantly surprised to see Dr. Johnson coming to the point of view that, while fructose may be the most toxic of the carbs, carbs in general can also be very problematic for many. I really, really wanted him and Lustig to be right about fructose being the real issue, and starches being ok, but for me it just wasn’t so. A high carb/low-fructose diet was a hypoglyecmic disaster for me. Now if we can just get Dr. Lustig on board with LC, as opposed to mere fructose restriction…

    • Tim

      It is quite stunning that that glucose is being converted into fructose in the liver. It sounds like the upregulation of this enzyme is an epigenetic effect. He didn’t mention how much conversion occurred, but I am presuming the resulting amounts of fructose must be enough to be plausibly causal for fructose-driven lipogenesis.

    • Sabu2012

      Great show! For folks with that fructose issue: Goodbye, 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up, 4-hr body people and Mr. Protein. And goodbye Biggest Loser (US) people “gotta have carbs for workout energy” and The Biggest loser Aussie “controlled carbs are ok but not after noon”. Hello and welcome back, FAST5!