Does Eating Fat Make You Fat?

It has been a long held belief that eating fat is what makes you fat. For decades, dietitians and health experts have been telling us to cut out the fat in our diets to loose weight. However, new research shows that it is not the fat that is responsible for weight gain.

Decreasing the fat content in your diet may result in some weight loss and even lower cholesterol, but the actual culprit of weight gain is now believed to be carbohydrates. In fact, some oils and fats in your diet are essential and can help you maintain a healthy diet and weight.

Carbohydrates are present in so many of the foods that we eat that it would be just about impossible to cut them out completely. Even extreme low carb diets like Atkins or South Beach have some carbs present and this is because the body needs carbohydrates to function. They are the energy source of the body.

Without this energy source, the body will begin consuming fatty deposits to help fuel all activity. However, starving your body of carbohydrates for too long a period of time will mean that it will start consuming muscle tissue as well.

This process of fatty acids being consumed by the body is referred to as ketosis and has many side effects that range from negligible to severe. This process starts to happen after being on a low carb diet after a few days when glycogen stores in the liver cells are depleted and no new carbohydrates are being absorbed to replenish the stores.

The chemical process is rather complex. Basically, fat is split into three fatty acid chains as well as one glycerol molecule. This process is referred to lypolysis and allows the body to use the fatty acids as an alternative source of energy. This results in weight loss.

During this process a person will experience many of the same symptoms as a person going through a detoxification process. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Bad Breath combined with a sweet or mettalic taste in the mouth
  • Constant thirst
  • Discolored or smelly urine
  • Insomnia

However, it is important not to confuse the two. Detoxing can be very good for the body while ketosis can have some very real long term disadvantages including permanent liver or kidney damage.

There is much controversy surrounding these low carb diets and Atkins is not the only ketosis diet that has come under scrutiny. Many dietitians believe that, apart from all the negative side effects listed above, a balanced diet is far superior for weight loss than any other type of fad diet out there.

Because of the large amounts of carbohydrates that are consumed by individuals today, a balanced diet may be enough to restrict carbohydrate intake enough for weight loss to occur. A balanced diet also takes into consideration other factors that may be contributing to weight gain such as a high intake of fats or calories.

It is also a good idea to consider the types of carbohydrates that are being consumed. Some carbohydrates are much more difficult for the body to break down into usable fuel while other carbs can be used easily.

These refer to simple and complex carbohydrates or sugars. Simple sugars occur in fruit, cane sugar and other sweet naturally occurring foods such as honey. These sugars are easier for the body to break down and are often used as they are consumed. Although this is a healthy carbohydrate option, over consumption of simple sugars will lead to weight gain and even diabetes.

Complex sugars are contained in your starchy foods like potatoes, grain and wheat products, rice, etc. These sugars are more difficult for the body to break down and provide a longer lasting source of energy for the body.

The problem with both these sugars is when they become refined, where over consumption occurs, forcing the body to store the sugars as fat. So before cutting out all the carbs in a diet, first eliminating the refined sugars will have a beneficial effect on weight loss.

At the end of the day, whether the dietary health community like it or not, low carb diets work and are here to stay. That is until something better comes along.