#125 | Make Your Kidneys Last a Lifetime | Dr Rick Johnson

Fullscript for WiseAthletes

I haven’t given my kidneys a second thought until now. It’s easy to take care of your kidneys as long as you start early enough.

Today on episode 125, Glen and I are speaking with the amazing Rick Johnson MD about all things kidney and more. This is Dr Johnson’s third time on the show…this time to drill down into how to keep our kidneys healthy (and a little bit about avoid Alzheimers). Declining kidney function is a normal feature of aging…perhaps it is a driver of agings. I am trying to age as slowly as possible, which means I must keep my kidneys healthy. Are you taking care of your kidneys? Do you even know how to take care of your kidneys? Do your blood tests show a dropping eGFR year after year? Is your blood pressure going up as you get older? Do you ever get dehydrated? Do you ever take ibuprofen? This episode is for you

Take care of your kidneys so they can take care of you!

Dr. Richard Johnson is a practicing physician and clinical scientist and a world expert on sugar, and especially fructose, and its role in health. His research has been largely supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He is one of the most cited scientists in his field and has published more than 750 papers and lectured in over 45 countries.

He has authored three books on sugar and its health effects–The Sugar Fix with Timothy Gower in 2008; The Fat Switch in 2012, and Nature Wants Us to Be Fat (2022) in which Dr Johnson details his group’s discovery of a switch that controls obesity and how it can be turned on and off.

He is currently Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver. He lives in Aurora, Colorado with his wife, Olga, children, Tracy and Ricky, and two goldendoodles, Charlie Brown and Apollo 11.

For more information, visit

Bullet points

  • What causes kidney disease?
    • High sugar diets / Metabolic syndrome / Diabetes (cut back on sugar in food)
    • Gout / High Uric acid: stay hydrated, avoid fructose (sugar is ½ fructose), minimize the purines (beer, shellfish, sardines, processed meats, gravy, bacon), take vit C (500 mg / day), quercetin, certain diuretics, SGLT2 inhibitors lower uric acid
    • “Aging” (may be related to high sugar or high carbohydrate diets)
    • High blood pressure
    • NSAIDs (ibuprofen is bad for kidneys; aspirin and Tylenol are okay)
    • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI)
    • Dehydration (drink 8-10 glasses of water every day, and drink before consuming salty foods). Don’t drink too much too fast, especially after getting behind (being dehydrated).
    • Spikes in blood sodium leads to temporary increases in BP which can progressively develop damage in the kidneys.
  • Fat is a storage of calories and a source of water (metabolic water)
  • Mild dehydration (can be from eating salty food) causes the body to want to accumulate fat (makes you hungry); but drinking water eliminates this effect. Drink 8-10 glasses of water per day.
  • Dehydration Test: (1) urine color in the bowl mixed with the toilet water should be clear or just slightly yellow, (2) low specific gravity of urine (<1010…your doctor can order), (3) high “normal” (138-141 is good; 142 or higher is not good) serum sodium in blood test indicates dehydration and indicates increased risk for kidney disease, heart disease, dementia, diabetes, and more.
  • A sign of kidney disease is have to pee more often but not as much volume…having to get up more often to pee at night. It then progresses to feeling weak, low energy. Then itchy, chest pain, confusion. 
  • Early kidney disease is common in people with metabolic syndrome and with gout.  As we get older, kidney function declines. But aging-related declines can be stopped by eliminating sugar (in tests of animals)
  • Alzheimer’s: (1) brain mitochondria lose the ability to make energy efficiently, (2) the brain becomes insulin resistant and cannot take up glucose for fuel, (3) inflammation in the brain reduces blood flow and oxygen delivery in the brain
    • High sugar / high glycemic carb diets increase risk of alzheimer’s
    • Rats fed a high sugar diet have lower cognitive ability (and you find the same 3 problems in Alzheimer’s brains). And it’s the fructose in the sugar that is the problem.
    • Cut back on sugary drinks and the big 5 carbs: bread, rice, cereals, potatoes. Adding salt makes the problem worse.

Related info and episodes:

More Rick Johnson MD info:

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The ever curious athlete who demands answers.
About the Author
Curious athlete who demands answers. Husband to Susan ( Father of 3 daughters. Athletic pursuits over time, in reverse order: cycling, skiing, mountaineering, rock climbing, triathlon, golf, tennis, football.

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