Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat

Eating Fat Does Not Make You Fat

Contrary to popular opinion, eating a diet rich in dietary fats does not make you fat. The prejudice against saturated dietary fat, as found in meat, diary, and some plant sources such as coconut, is based on extrapolations and incorrect conclusions.

It’s Not About Calories

One reason the “fat makes you fat” mantra has been repeated so often is that of the three macro-nutrients, fat contains the most calories per gram. Fat contains 9 calories per gram, while the other two, carbohydrates and protein, each contain about 4 calories per gram. Therefore, eat more grams of protein and carbs, and less of fat, and you reduce your caloric intake, and will lose weight.

Real life interferes with this fantasy. People don’t eat grams, they eat food. Arguments about whether a “calorie is a calorie” no matter its source don’t hold up to common sense. Instinctively we know that eating 125 teaspoons of table sugar is not as healthy as eating the 2500 calories in a well designed diet plan. And its more than just the nutritional value of foods; even if Big Food decides to infuse table sugar with vitamins, we know eating nothing but sugar isn’t good for us.

One of the “criticisms” of a low carb diet is that people spontaneously reduce the amount of calories they consume when they replace carbohydrates with fat and protein. This is seen as somehow cheating. Think about it, on every other diet the studies have to closely monitor the caloric intake of foods. But those same studies don’t put any calorie restrictions on the low carb diet group. They count only carbs. The low carb diet group in study after study loses more weight, faster, than any other diet group. The low fat advocates protest that the low carb diet group spontaneously eats less calories, and have therefore cheated.

Presumably, they want you to feel hunger, and be tempted to cheat on your diet, so that they can continue feeling superior to the weak willed fat people who simply can’t “move more and eat less.” What kind of diet is easier to adopt? One in which you are hungry, or one where you spontaneously reduce food intake?

There are numerous internet debates on whether a low carb diet has some magic “metabolic advantage”, or if the low carb diet is simply more satisfying, so people naturally eat less. A new study suggests that a high fat diet may actually cause the body to burn fat faster, as explained below.

Fat is Energy Dense

At 9 calories per gram, fat has more than twice the energy density of protein or carbohydrate. Rather than being a reason to reduce fat in the diet, this fact may be a clue to what studies have shown: a higher fat diet satisfies hunger faster than a high carbohydrate diet.

In the wild, given plenty of their natural food, all mammals assume a strikingly familiar profile. All well nourished wild cats appear about the same to other cats in their age group. Coyotes, feasting on rodents and other small animals, all look about the same. They don’t suffer from the obesity of their domestic canine cousins, who are fed unnatural diets by humans, or their brothers and sisters held in captivity. They have adapted to their natural diet, and even if they overeat on occasion, such as after a big kill, they don’t seem to gain weight.

Fat’s energy density may be the reason it is more satisfying, curbing hunger sooner than other foods. Mankind’s long evolutionary history of eating fat-rich food may have adapted us to be satisfied with a smaller amount of fat-rich food.

But hold on … science may have given us an answer as to why low carb diets are often said to have a “metabolic advantage”.

The Most Recent Study

The most recent study I have found is one in which six men, between the ages of 18 and 40, were tested to see how a low fat and a high fat diet affected lipolysis of their abdominal fat tissue. Lipolysis is the breakdown and use of fat as energy by the body. For overweight people, getting the body to “burn fat” is the usual goal.

There’s a reason studies like this one segment the subjects so specifically. Men with still-high levels of testosterone like this group may react differently than men over 50, who may have lower levels. Testosterone aids in lipolysis, which is one reason all those young guys at the gym seem to have such rapid progress. And its one reason that women in general and men over 50 have a harder time losing weight.

Only Six Particpants?

At first glance, having only six participants in a study may make it seem insignificant. But this study is different from the cohort studies that track a large population over a period of time and draw correlations from the data. Many of the dietary studies we see are prospective or cohort studies, or even meta-analysis of multiple cohort studies. The purpose of a cohort study is to identify trends, and develop a hypothesis that can be tested in a specific study like this one. So, in this case, having six participants in a direct study is actually more indicative of what really happens to individuals than a cohort study with hundreds or thousands of participants. In this type of study, unlike in the cohort study, specific measurements are taken at specific times of known people.

What Was Measured?

The study, Increased adipose tissue lipolysis after a 2-week high-fat diet in sedentary overweight/obese men, set out to determine if a high-fat diet affected the rate of “fat burning” in the six men. How do you measure the amount of body fat that has been burned? The most accurate way is to measure one of the by-products of lipolysis, glycerol, in the small amount of fluid that surrounds each cell (called the “interstitial fluid”). The more glycerol present, the more fat tissue has been broken down and used by the body as fuel.

The men adopted a high fat diet for two weeks, and had the interstitial glycerol measured. Then they ate their normal diets for 10 days. After this “washout period”, they ate a “well-balanced” diet with the same number of calories. A “well balanced diet” is usually code for a diet such as the USDA recommends, with high carbohydrate levels. After two weeks, the interstitial glycerol was measured.

Note that this method corrects for differences in calorie intake. Both diets were composed of the same number of calories, or were “isocaloric” in dietary study parlance.

Average interstitial glycerol concentrations (index of lipolysis) as determined using microdialysis were higher after the high-fat diet (210.8 ± 27.9 μmol/L) than after a well-balanced diet (175.6 ± 23.3 μmol/L; P = .026).

Not only did eating fat NOT make the men fatter, it actually increased the rate of fat burning by 20%.

Is This The Answer?

Hold on, grasshopper. This study does show that the fat cells release more fat on a “high fat” (and therefore lower carbohydrate) diet. But that’s all it measured. Is it possible that a high fat diet could lead to more storage of fat elsewhere? They don’t know:

These results demonstrate that healthy nonlean men who diet on the high-fat plan have a higher lipolytic rate in subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue than when they diet on a well-balanced diet plan. This higher rate of lipolysis may result in a higher rate of fat mass loss on the high-fat diet; however, it remains to be determined if this higher lipolytic rate in men on the high-fat diet results in a more rapid net loss of triglyceride from the abdominal adipose depots, or if the higher lipolytic rate is counteracted by an increased rate of lipid storage.

I suspect that last sentence is being used to request more funds for another study!

Salt is the New Scapegoat

Will Salt Kill You?

The newest dire warnings about a common food … table salt … are growing, and about to result in legislation. Busy bodies everywhere are clucking that “something has to be done!”

Scapegoats

Adopting a villain is reassuring, as it absolves us of personal responsibility. It explains away some inconvenient facts that might not fit in with our preconceptions. In the seminal story that gave us the term “scapegoat”, the accumulated sins of the people are transferred to the goat, and the goat is sent to the wilderness, presumably to die for the community’s sins. This solves a big problem; the tabernacle that holds the sins transferred by weekly sacrifices is only so big. So you have to get them out of there somehow. It works great, unless you’re the goat. Vaya con Dios, goat.

What is Salt’s Role as a Scapegoat?

The list of errors in public health policy is long and dominated by scapegoats. Dietary cholesterol has no bearing on serum cholesterol levels, despite the scapegoating of eggs. Fat in the diet does not lead to extra fat in the body, yet the scapegoating of red meat and other dietary fat continues. Salt has joined the list because what we are doing isn’t solving our problems. Load up that scapegoat with heart disease, hypertension, and premature death and send it into the wilderness!

Why is Milk White When Cows Eat Green Grass?

Sometimes a childish question is too easily dismissed. Of course everyone knows that eating something green doesn’t make milk, urine or feces green. We know this because the body breaks down the food, and digests it, and we console ourselves that this process is too complex to explain to our children. The truth is, few of us really understand it, and we know that eating green grass does not lead to green milk because … milk is always white.

But often the science, as reported in the media, is something akin to the conclusion a child would come to without noticing that the milk is white. The cow eats green grass. What color is the milk? It must be green. Grass and milk have a close correlation … in one end, out the other. Without grass, there is no milk.

Salt is often associated with hypertension, and hypertension with heart disease and kidney failure. Ergo, salt causes heart disease and kidney failure, leading to early death. The milk is green.

Does Salt Consumption Lead to Early Death?

A meta-analysis of studies on salt consumption and hypertension, covering 6,489 participants with both high and normal blood pressure, with and without heart disease showed no benefit from salt reduction. None.

Despite collating more event data than previous systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials (665 deaths in some 6,250 participants), there is still insufficient power to exclude clinically important effects of reduced dietary salt on mortality or cardiovascular morbidity in normotensive or hypertensive populations.

Are They Trying to Kill Us?

The problem with scapegoats is that they take our attention away from the real problem. And sometimes, the goat is dangerous. The study found that there was a slight, and probably statistically insignificant increase in deaths when salt was reduced in patients with heart failure. Get that? Not only did reducing salt intake NOT increase the life of those with heart failure, but it increased it slightly. In the study’s words:

Further RCT evidence is needed to confirm whether restriction of sodium is harmful for people with heart failure.

Reducing salt can lower blood pressure a bit. That is because salt helps retain water, and the excess water in the bloodstream increases blood pressure. Reducing salt can decrease blood pressure a bit, but usually doctors prescribe a diuretic like hydrochlorothiazide (HCZT) as a first step in blood pressure management. It really reduces the excess water in your bloodstream, as long as you take the drug.

One of the criticisms of low carb diets is that much of the initial weight loss is water, and thought to be temporary. Dieters starting out on a low carb diet are warned about this effect:

If you are currently under a doctor’s care for these disorders or taking medications to control them – especially if you are a diabetic on insulin or oral medications to control blood sugar or on diuretics to control blood pressure – you must consult with your physician before beginning this plan! This nutritional strategy is potent and will rapidly cause changes in blood pressure and blood sugar that will make your current doses of medication far too high.
– Drs. Mary Dan and Michael Eades in Protein Power Lifeplan

The criticism that water loss is temporary isn’t valid; a low carb diet is not a temporary diet to lose weight, but a new way of eating that resolves many health issues. As long as you don’t overdose on carbs, you don’t retain the water, and your HCZT stays in the bottle.

Expect to Hear More

Judging from past media scapegoats, expect the drumbeat of uninformed, erroneous news stories to continue scapegoating salt. As we don’t know the effects of a society-wide reduction in salt consumption as proposed by New York City, it will be decades before a rise in deaths attributable to lower salt consumption. Just remember that cows eat green grass, yet their milk is white. Correlation is not cause, and more study should be done before legislation bans salt shakers from our tables.

Low Carb and Paleo Links Page Added

Low Carb and Paleo Links

I added a page of my favorite low carb and paleo links. These sites are also included in my MegaSearch low carb and paleo website search engine.

I Have Rules

For low carb and paleo links to be included on my personal list, they must be active sites (with posts in at least the last six months) and NOT anonymous. There are some prominent sites that, for one reason or another, do not list their author’s name and background. Perhaps they are afraid of recriminations from the low fat advocates, or they are prison inmates compiling a list of meat eaters to victimize when they get out. We simply don’t know, and so I don’t include them.

Categories

Low carb and paleo links are separated into six different categories:

  • Medical Sites
  • Researchers
  • Researchers – Other Fields
  • Advocates
  • Personal Sites
  • Recipe Sites

Medical sites on the low carb and paleo links list are those sites with contributions from medical doctors. These authors have actual patient – centered experience in a clinical setting. In other words, if they haven’t said “turn your head and cough” in a professional setting, they aren’t included (what someone does for fun in the privacy of their own home does not matter in this case).

Researchers on the low carb and paleo links list are those sites that generally provide scientific information about the low carb and paleo way of eating, and are authored by people with a degree in a human health related field (physiology, biology, nutrition, etc.)

Researchers from Other Fields sites on the low carb and paleo links list are sites providing scientific information, and are authored by people with degrees not related to human health.

Advocates on the low carb and paleo links list are those sites run by enthusiasts who have contributed through the years to the understanding of issues surrounding human nutrition. This category includes the more commercialized personal sites that have large readership.

Personal Sites appearing on the low carb and paleo links list are often the most enjoyable. These sites are from a wide variety of contributors, some with advanced degrees, giving their personal story, recipes and advice. Others are the inspiring stories of personal triumph.

Recipe Sites … a low carb and paleo links list would not be complete without a section devoted to the low carb or paleo recipe. These sites are primarily about recipes, although many of them also have the personal touch of a personal site.

These categories are not really listed in order of importance. They are categorized to separate out the wheat from the chaff. Taking medical advice from someone who has never said “turn your head and cough” is probably not wise. And I wouldn’t necessarily trust my doctor for a great recipe (although Dr. Mary Dan Eades would definitely be an exception!) There is some cross over and duplication.

Hey, I’m in the Wrong Category!

Let me know if your site is listed in the low carb and paleo links list, and you think you are in the wrong category.

I Want to be Included!

I welcome additions to the low carb and paleo sites list. There is no requirement to include a link back to my site, although I would apprecaite it. To be included, your site has to be primarily about low carb or paleo, and be active; I intend prune links that are not active every few months, unless they have a lot of important content on the site already. Just let me know in the comments, or by email, and I’ll consider you for inclusion.

Low Carb Daily to Close

Low Carb Daily, my daily low carb news aggregator, has suffered from an import script that is not well supported by the author. To be fair, he produced a great import program, and distributed it free of charge. But for the last three months, I have been unable to either edit or add new feeds due to a frustrating display problem in the admin panel.

I had established a “Single Site VPS” using a “Site Virtual Server” for Low Carb Daily, and it worked very well. It was fast, well behaved and stable. Its a great option for a busy site that you want to run on its own virtual server.

But the combination of admin panel problems and my current unemployment status argue against continuing Low Carb Daily past the domain name renewal in early August. Any low carb advocate who would like the domain name please email me.

The site has been moved back to my shared server, and all the prior posts removed. It will continue to populate the current subscribed feeds until I close it down. Closing will be no later than July 21, 2011, and probably before then as I make room on my server for more customer sites (I don’t oversell the space).