Top Ten Diet Fallacies:

Fat Makes You Fat

By Ori Hofmekler
Author of The Warrior Diet

The claim "Fat is a fat is a fat … and therefore makes you fat", isn't theoretically untrue, but nevertheless, in real life it is wrong and literally misleading.

Fat isn't a fat isn't a fat, and can't be regarded as such. Dietary fat consists of a huge variety of fat molecules divided into groups and subgroups; each plays a different role in the body.

Numerous studies demonstrated the critical functions of essential fatty acids (EFAs), phospholipids and cholesterol compounds, in regulating blood pressure, inflammation, lipid metabolism, stress reaction, build up of cell membranes, nerves functions, immune actions and steroid hormone production, respectively.

It's evidently clear that the role of dietary fat goes far beyond just being a fuel for energy or storage. The real question is does dietary fat convert efficiently into energy? And for that matter, is the human body primarily well adapted to utilize fat as an immediate fuel for energy?

As you're about to read, the answer isn't simple, but even so, it is yes and yes. Studies at the department of clinical biochemistry and medicine, Addenbrooke's hospital, Cambridge, UK, revealed that different people respond differently to high fat intake. An excess fat calorie was predominately stored in some individuals and in contrast, it increased total energy expenditure and fat oxidation with no fat gain, in others.

The question remains: why some individuals are more prone to gain fat from fat calories than others? There is a substantial amount of evidence that certain variables profoundly affect the capacity to utilize fat fuel. These variables include gender, exercise intensity, source of dietary fat and diet composition. Recent studies at the University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark, discovered that women have higher levels of lipid binding proteins, with a higher capacity to utilize fat fuel in the muscle tissue, than men.

Interestingly, the same studies found that men's capacity to utilize fat in the muscles significantly increases with application of intense exercise. The effect of exercise intensity on fat burning was farther investigated at the University of Maastricht, the Netherlands. Studies revealed that fat serves as a most efficient fuel in the form of intramuscular fat (IMT). IMT stores function as an important and most effective substrate source of energy, in particular during intense prolonged exercise.

As noted, it has been suggested that fat mobilization and utilization seems to be also determined by other variables such as diet composition (ratio of fat/carbs), glycemic index, source of dietary fat as well as the frequency and intensity of exercise.

According to the thrifty genes theory (Journal of Applied Physiology 96:3-10, 2004) humans have primarily adapted to better survive when following cycles of famine and feast (undereating and overeating); exercise and rest. It has also been suggested that we humans have adapted better to primal foods on the bottom of the food chain evolution (late Paleolithic period).

It has been suggested that following a lifestyle that mimics primal feeding cycles and physical activity, would most likely trigger genes (thrifty genes) that help us better survive; making us more efficient in utilizing fat and carb fuel with an increased resistance to fatigue, stress and disease.

From that aspect, we humans generally do better on primal fat rich foods (bottom of the food chain), such as nuts, seeds and fertile eggs than later fatty foods (top of the food chain), derived from farm animals or processing, i.e. lard, butter or margarine, respectively.

Primal fat foods such as nuts and seeds are also good sources of amino acids and fat-soluble vitamins. In their raw state, they contain phytosterols (cholesterol- like plant compounds), which predominately support the production of sex steroid hormones.   To take advantage of nuts and seeds, eat them alone or with veggies and protein.

Do not combine these fat foods with sugar or grains. Nuts and seeds are naturally low glycemic. Generally our body is better adapted to food with a low glycemic index (slow releasing nutrients).

In summary, fat is primarily a superior fuel. Muscle is the largest fat utilizing organ. Exercise intensity positively affects the body's capacity to utilize fat for energy. We humans have adapted to better survive on primal high fat foods that belong to the bottom of the food chain, such as nuts and seeds or fertile eggs.

These primal high fat foods should maintain their natural low glycemic character and therefore should not be combined with later high glycemic foods such as grains or sugar. Evidently, the same fat foods that may cause fat gain could instead convert to energy and promote fat burning if combined properly.

In conclusion, "fat makes you fat" is a fallacy that completely disregards the complexity and critical functions of dietary fat.

If taken seriously, this fallacy often causes fat phobias, typically leading to extreme low fat diets, with severe consequences including malnutrition, chronic fatigue, eating disorders, impotency, compromised immunity and fat gain.

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