Brian Johnson, a muscular and frequently shirtless TikTok celebrity who calls himself the “Liver King,” gained millions of followers by advocating an “ancestral” diet that included raw beef brains, bull testicles and animal livers.
Johnson, though, just shared an apologetic video, a different type of popular video. Johnson acknowledged using anabolic steroids after previously denying it time and time again. More than 2.6 million people have watched the candid video on YouTube.
Johnson, who has strong abs, biceps, and a beard, has become one of the most famous figures on social media in recent months. He quickly grew his fan base by asserting that an organ meat-focused diet is one of the secrets to strength, happiness, and good health.
Johnson admitted to lying and deceiving many people in front of the camera. “Yes, I have used steroids and am currently using them.” After a different fitness influencer published a YouTube video disclosing what he claimed were private emails in which Johnson outlined his steroid routine, Johnson admitted to using steroids.
It featured a long list of medications and hormones, such as Omnitrope, a type of human growth hormone and regular injections of potent anabolic steroids including Winstrol, Deca-Durabolin and testosterone cypionate. When asked for an interview, Johnson declined.
However, his admission of using steroids did not surprise some of his detractors. Robert Griffin III, an ESPN commentator and former NFL quarterback, commented on Twitter, “NO WAY you looked at the Liver King and thought he was all natural.”
According to voter registration data, ancestral Supplements, which sells concentrated cattle liver, organs, bone, and other dietary supplements in capsule form, is owned by Johnson, 44. In an interview with GQ this year, he stated that his business operations generated more than US$100 million annually.
August 2021 saw Johnson’s first time posting as the Liver King on Instagram and TikTok and since then, he has amassed more than 1.7 million and 3.6 million followers, respectively.
He frequently appeared as a guest on well-known podcasts hosted by internet stars like Logan Paul, where he vehemently refuted claims that he used anabolic steroids.
He urged his followers to live a way of life allegedly inspired by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. He supported a controversial diet high in organ and muscle meats, “organic pastured egg yolks,” bone broth, raw full-fat milk and cheese, fermented vegetables, and “wild-caught fish eggs,” as well as regular exercise, exposure to the sun and cold, adequate sleep, and social connection. He claimed on his website that “Ancient Primals evolved consuming the full animal, snout to tail, horns to hooves.”
The Real Eating Habits of Early Humans
Johnson and several other fitness influencers have contributed to the popularity of meat-heavy diets in recent years. However, scientists argue that it is erroneous and misleading to describe an “ancestral” diet as one that consists primarily or exclusively of meat.
Humans have evolved to eat a wide array of foods, including various high-carbohydrate meals, including fruits, vegetables, starchy plants and honey, according to archeological findings. With a few rare exceptions, contemporary hunter-gatherer communities also frequently ingest a lot of fiber and carbohydrates, according to Herman Pontzer, a professor of evolutionary anthropology and global health at Duke University.
The Hadza, a society in northern Tanzania that has engaged in hunting and gathering for tens of thousands of years is one such group that Pontzer and other anthropologists have examined in great detail.
Heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and other chronic ailments are not common among the Hadza. The majority of their food, which some experts refer to as the world’s oldest cuisine, consists of small animals, fibrous plants like tubers and berries and copious amounts of honey that is gathered from nearby beehives.
The Tsimane is a community of farmers, hunters, and gatherers that live in Bolivia. They are another tribe that anthropologists have examined in great detail. The Tsimane are renowned for having exceptional cardiovascular health, among other things. They consume a diet high in carbs and fiber, including corn, rice, cassava, bananas, fish and wild animals.
Pontzer, who has lived with the Hadza and published studies examining hunter-gatherer diets, said there is a lot of cherry-picking of the available evidence to suggest that all hunter-gatherer diets or previous ancestral diets were carnivore-like, with a lot of meat and hardly any fruits and vegetables. According to reality, people have and still have a wide array of diets.
Pontzer highlighted that some civilizations, such as the Inuit, who reside in northern Canada, Greenland, and Alaska, where it is too cold for many vegetables to grow, have historically consumed a diet high in meat.
Another group is notorious for eating a lot of hearts and drinking the blood of the animals they slaughter, the Masaai, a pastoralist people in Kenya and Tanzania. However, Pontzer noted that compared to rearing cattle, humans have been farming for much longer.
He says pastoralism is less than 10,000 years old, while farming is between 10,000 and 12,000 years old. “Farming plants was practiced long before farming animals,” Pontzer criticized Johnson’s inaccurate portrayal of ancient diets and claimed he was unsurprised by his admission of using anabolic steroids, partly because of Johnson’s exceptional bodybuilding physique, which is “not something you ever see when you work with hunter-gatherers or farming communities.”
The man is being exposed as a fraud, which, in his words, is “a feel-good story if I’ve ever heard one.” It’s simple to draw comparisons between his dishonest behavior and the dishonest promotion of traditional diets.
All-Meat Diets Can Cause Digestive Tract Issues
For years, fitness influencers and online celebrities have promoted meat “carnivore” diets primarily on TikTok and other platforms. However, there is “virtually no published data,” according to Nancy Oliveira, manager of Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s nutrition and wellness division, in favor of a carnivorous diet.
According to Oliveira, a carnivorous diet excludes all fiber sources, which can cause constipation and harm a person’s gut microbiota, the communities of trillions of microorganisms that inhabit our digestive systems and affect our health.
Studies have shown that eliminating processed foods from your diet can improve your health, which is why many people are doing it. Like animal organs, red meats are an excellent source of iron and can be highly nourishing.
However, according to Oliveira, the body gains advantages from various fruits, vegetables, and fibers. She claimed that if someone approached her and stated a desire to consume only meat, she would advise them to try the Paleo diet, which permits the consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and other plant-based foods in addition to fish, eggs and meat.
Oliveria asserted, “I believe Paleo is considerably healthier.” “I don’t see why our nation is so strict, requiring that people accomplish everything or nothing,”
The Risks of Steroid Use
In his private communications, Johnson stated that he formerly spent at least USD 11,000 each month on Omnitrope vials of the human growth hormone. Johnson apologized and admitted to continuing to use steroids.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prolonged steroid usage can result in an enlarged heart, kidney failure, liver damage, an elevated risk of stroke or heart attack, severe mood swings, irritability and poor judgment. Johnson further said that Liver King was a public figure created “as an experiment” to go viral to preach his philosophy of “ancestral life.”
According to Jonathan Jarry, a science communicator at McGill University’s Office for Science and Society who frequently researches health information online, even if the Liver King loses his impact, another influencer will take his place. He is one of several influencers aiming to market the key to weight loss and diets.
Jarry predicted that social media sites like Instagram, TikTok and others would continue producing wellness influencers. “They’re peddling easy fixes for difficult issues.”
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