Does fat make you fat? The truth about eating fat.

By Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN
Professor, Super Nutrition Academy
Does eating healthy fat make you fat, even if you're a vegan or vegetarian?
This is one of the most pervasive nutrition myths of our time.
Since the 1980s, when the whole “low-fat” and “diet” craze began, we’ve seen our population get fatter and sicker. What gives?
If eating healthy fat is supposed to make us fat, then eating less of it should be a good thing – at least for our waistlines – right?
Sounds okay in theory but the problem is that this entire “low-fat” movement hit the ground running based on one suspicious study back in the 1970s.
The truth of the matter is that eating healthy fats isn’t the problem, as is shown by the following graph…
The real reason our waistlines have continued expanding is the alarming increase in consumption of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and refined carbohydrates over the last fifty years.
The following graph shows this quite clearly.
But why are sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and refined carbs making us fatter than dietary fat itself?
There are a few reasons, but the one I’ll discuss right now is the fact that fat does not stimulate the release of insulin.
In fact, a rise in blood sugar (from sugar and carbohydrates ingestion) is what causes insulin to be released.
Your pancreas produces and secretes the hormone insulin. The role of insulin is to “escort” excess sugar (glucose) out of the blood and into your muscle, liver, and fat cells for storage. This happens when the level of sugar in your blood rises.
Otherwise, too much sugar in the blood would cause severe damage to your arteries and capillaries, leading to conditions like retinopathy, neuropathy, and heightened free radical damage.
As blood sugar rises, so do your insulin levels. Over time, your body’s cells can become desensitized to too much insulin, leading to a condition you may have heard of called Type 2 Diabetes (insulin resistance). As a result, they have dangerously elevated levels of blood sugar.
But before that dreaded day, something more immediate happens that absolutely shatters your energy levels.
Since insulin removes excess sugar from your blood, high blood sugar levels lead to high levels of removal (via insulin), leading to low blood sugar (or hypoglycemia).
When your blood sugar crashes, all “normal” decision-making is thrown out the window; All you can think about is “I need sugar. I need sugar.” This is when you start feeling jittery, anxious, and desperate for a quick sugar or caffeine fix.
Whether you want high energy levels or are seeking a healthy slim body, chronically elevated levels of insulin will get in your way.
Look at it like this…
The only way insulin levels rise is when there is an increase in sugar/carbohydrate intake. Too much sugar intake leads to hypoglycemia and insulin resistance. This means that you'll start experiencing strong cravings for more and more sugar, perpetuating the cause of the problem.
Once you cross the boundary into eating too much sugar the vicious cycle begins. From there, the more sugar you eat, the more fat your body will end up storing.
How much sugar is too much?
It depends somewhat on your activity level.
First, sugar is used as glucose for energy. The amount of glucose your body requires is proportional to how active you are.
Next, glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles of the body. It doesn't take much sugar to meet our full need for glucose and glycogen, unless you're into marathon running.
The rest is broken down and reconstructed as fatty acids. The fatty acids form a larger molecule called triglycerides, and these are stored as fat.
Obviously, there are better carbohydrates just as there are healthier fats. The key is to understand which carbohydrates are good for you, while minimizing (or entirely avoiding) the rest.
To help you out, here’s a brief list of carbohydrates you definitely want to avoid:
  • Baked goods/pastries/candy
  • White bread
  • Bagels
  • Soda pop
  • Table sugar
But let’s not forget that “good” carbohydrates are essential for life-long health. It has actually been shown that the countries that consume the most healthy carbohydrates (up to 80% of their diet) such as Japan, have the longest life span with the least disease.
So what are these “good, healthy” carbohydrates?
Well, it’s not rocket science. Here’s a brief list:
  • Root vegetables (ie. Sweet potatoes, beets, turnips, etc…)
  • All other vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Legumes
  • Non-glutenous grains (ie. Quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat)
If you'd like to learn more nutrition truths and develop a solid understanding of how food and your body interact to create great health and prevent disease, then…
– Yuri Elkaim
 
Learn more about fat:

3 Comment(s)

  1. The first graph shows the the percentage of fats in the diet which is not relevant.  What are the total calories consumed, total calories from fat and animal protein.  The percentage of fats can decrease and the actual amount of fats can still increase.
    In Australia, the sugar consumption has actually decreased from a high in the 1960s but we still have had an increase in obesity.
    ( Sugar Consumption in Australia – A statistical update 4 October 2012 Green Pool Commodity Specialists, Brisbane, Australia)
     
     
     

    Richard Harding | Reply

  2. So what macronutrient ratios do u think are optimal? 

    Ee | Reply

  3. Because our bodies can turn fat into carbohydrate and carbohydrate into fat, it is hard to say what is "optimal." One important thing to note is that we need omega fatty acids for the health of our cells, requiring that we do consume a minimum amount of fat. Likewise, there is a minimum requirement for protein.

    There isn't a minimum requirement for carbohydrate, but because the two most vital food groups (fruits and vegetables) are primarily carbohydrate, and because the most healthy and long-lived cultures in the world (who live in the "blue zones") consume high-carbohydrate diets, it's pretty clear that natural complex carbs are supposed to make up a large percent of our caloric consumption.

    Refined carbs, or "garbage carbs" from processed foods aren't really in the picture at all when we're talking about healthy or ideal ratios. So when I say that carbs play a big role in what we should consume, I don't mean to imply that a bagel or a slice of white bread appears anywhere in an optimal diet.

    Depending on the individual, where the individual lives, what their lifestyle is like, and so on, the optimal ratios will vary. But here are some ranges that can serve as guidelines for minimum and maximum:

    Fats: 10% to 40% of caloric intake

    Carbs: 50% to 80% of caloric intake

    Protein: 10% to 20% of caloric intake

    Raederle Phoenix | Reply

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