Are we fat because of a ‘Fat Switch’?

When things go wrong, it’s always nice to be able to blame someone else. Thanks to Richard Johnson, MD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, we can blame our extra pounds on a 20-pound primate that lived about 15 million years ago.

Richard Johnson, MD, and his new book.

And, of course, fructokinase, triggered, of course, by fructose, in which we’re drenched. Plus other factors, Johnson explains, in a very, very interesting new book called “The Fat Switch.” The bottom line: our predilection for porkiness is not simply a matter of calories in versus calories out. No, back in the feast-or-famine Miocene epoch, a primate that could store fat faster had a better shot at surviving the hungriest of times. We all descended from one such primate, Johnson’s research team has established.

Similar processes happen today with hibernating animals. ln essence, at a cellular level, the Fat Switch tells us to burn less energy and put on the pounds, pronto.

I wrote a story about “The Fat Switch” in the most recent edition of UCH Insider, and then, when called upon to come up with a column idea on short notice, wrote another story about it.

The hypothesis is that uric acid wreaks havoc on our system, and that uric acid’s production is triggered by fructose, which sparks a flurry of fructokinase (an enzyme) activity in our cells, which has, potentially, other harmful effects as well. Johnson’s research team has done molecular-scale work to tease out some of these hypothesis. Some of the research —  four papers worth, he said — remains in review, so the general-interest book is coming out before the research is actually published.



  • Pam Lockhart Posted December 1, 2012 9:33 am

    Stumbled upon your review of The Fat Switch, after reading an email of Dr. Mercola’s. Will you review the hypothesis again after Dr. Johnson’s papers come out of ‘review’. I love facts, and it’s hard to have confidence, for instance being encouraged to buy a book, when there is the ‘profit factor’ attached.

    Your blogs are so balanced and fact based, thanks!

  • toddneff Posted December 11, 2012 8:14 pm

    I totally agree re. the peer review. My sense was that, given Dr. Johnson’s track record and prior work in the field (his lab’s been working on this stuff for years), it wasn’t too much of a leap to talk about the results as being solid. But you never do know. The book was more a labor of love for him, I think, than a vehicle to riches. As most of us who write books know, it takes a lightning strike to become wealthy via words. Thanks for the note.

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