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How Nature Compels Us to Overeat

Cold months drive animals to gain weight, but how does that impact humans? Is it out of our control? 

minute read

What You Need To Know

Richard Johnson, MD, professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, digs into the mechanics of how we gain weight. In discussing biology versus behavior, the process may be more out of our control than we think. 

For more than 20 years, Richard Johnson, MD, has investigated the impact of sugar, especially fructose, on the human body and how we process it. He’s found that evolution has programmed us to overeat on the promise that we will lose weight during lean times. However, it’s no longer feast or famine – it’s just feast. 

All humans have a "survival switch" that protects against starvation, but it’s now stuck in the "on" position. Which means that weight gain isn’t always a choice – it’s biological.

Does Nature Want Us to be Fat? 


Richard Johnson, MD, discusses how we evolved to overeat and what we can do about it. Read the Q&A here. 

In this episode of CU Anschutz 360, Johnson expounds on why humans tend to overeat and gain weight, and why it’s rooted in nature. What do we have in common with hibernating bears, sperm whales and emperor penguins? What triggers fat storage for animals, and how can we learn from them to understand the human metabolic condition?

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Richard Johnson, MD