I thought Fat Was Bad For You?

Being surrounded by more people than normal my current diet has spurred some scoffing and shaky opinions. My diet consists of carbohydrates coming only from fruit, vegetables, and a few potatoes. In total my carbohydrates are still under the 200 grams mark, maybe even under 150 on a light day. To make up for this low carb diet i compensate with fats and proteins. The ratio of calories is roughly 45% fat, 35% protein, 20% carbs. This changes based on resources but fat still comes in at top.

We should first talk about how expensive certain nutrients are to digest. According to a study protein costs roughly 30% of it's overall value to digest, while fat costs roughly 2%, this is called the thermic effect. Fat is roughly 9 calories per gram while protein is roughly 2 per gram. Carbohydrates are in the middle with between 3-5 gr per serving and roughly 15% burnt during the thermic effect. [1] However, and that's a big however, carbohydrates are in most cases the most insulin response impacting.

What is Insulin? Click HERE for a link to another insulin related article. In short, insulin is a storage hormone, if we are post workout and anabolic the muscles will receive the nutrients, if we have not exercised we will store the nutrients as fat if the response is great enough. The more carbs you consume in high volume the more insulin you will release, the more insulin you release the more insulin resistant you become and eventually you are at risk for diabetes or heart stressors.[2] By being insulin resistant your pancreas has to produce more insulin and is stressed greater. This can be viewed as the bodies defense mechanism for too many "harmful" nutrients. By reducing carbs we are more insulin SENSITIVE and therefore have a less stressed body.

Most of our knowledge/hate on saturated fat's comes from studies produced in which mice were given a lard, fructose, and casein protein blend and their HDL-cholesterol and Triacylglycerol levels were examined. HDL-cholesterol and Triacylglycerol are the greatest testable indicators for heart risks. With the mice HDL-Cholesterol levels were shown to increase.[3] However the mice were consuming diets high in carbohydrates, fructose being a high on the high glycemic  index and therefore very insulin impacting, and therefore suffered the currently known obesity risks from that.

A study conducted saw that when men consumed more than 40% of calories from fat and less than 40% of calories from carbohydrates their HDL-cholesterol levels and Triacylglycerol levels actually decreased.This particular study was conducted over 2 years showing us that this is not a short term thing [4]

Milk fats contain two unusualy fatty acids. Most fatty acids have an even number of carbon atoms, but milk fats have two saturated fatty acids with an odd number of carbons: pentadecanoic acid with 15 (15:0) and and heptadecanoic acid with 17 carbons (17:0). To assess the participants' intakes of milk fats, they measured levels of these two fatty acids. There was a reduction in heart attack risk in both men and women, as intakes of milk fats increased.[5] However, the reduction in risk only reached statistical significance in women. Because of this research the evidence that we should be consuming high fat raw milk is important and healthy for us. The processing that milk goes through strips milk of it's natural fat's, enzymes, degrades protein, and allow's most of the calories to come from sugar; milk has roughly 12 grams of sugar per serving. This study adds weight to other recent reviews which have shown that the idea that saturated fats are harmful is seriously flawed.
The reason we're told not to consume saturated fat's is because old law states it will clog your heart. Based on what we've just talked about saturated fat's actually help reduce risks with your heart. The paradox is where the majority of your calories come from. When you have a diet high in insulin impacting foods and then you consume odd number chains of fat you become a fat depositing machine. If you reduce the insulin impacting foods and increase the amount of fat's consumed all heart risks are reduced as well as body composition is improved. This doesn't mean you need to eliminate all carbohydrates, at least not for a long period of time, but choose low glycemic carbs.
A final note is that when we consider diets we need to remember how our ancestors would have eaten, such as in the Genesis era. If you can pull it from a tree or ground and eat it then that fits the diet. With hunting our ancestors didn't kill the animal and then strip it of fat's but rather ate and processed the entire thing. We were designed to eat fresh veggies and fruits and make up for the lack of calories with fats.

  1. B.  W.  McBride and  J.  M.  Kelly (1990) ENERGY COST  OF  ABSORPTION  AND  METABOLISM IN  THE RUMINANT GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT AND  LIVER:  A  REVIEW. Retrieved (Anim.  Sci. 68:2997-3010)  http://jas.fass.org/content/68/9/2997.full.pdf
  2. Abel EDO'Shea KMRamasamy R. (2012 sep) Insulin resistance: metabolic mechanisms and consequences in the heart. Retrieved (
  3. Miettinen M, Turpeinen O, Karvonen MJ, Elosuo R, Paavilainen E. Effect of cholesterol-lowering diet on mortality from coronary heart-disease and other causes. A twelve-year clinical trial in men and women. Lancet1972;2:835-8.
  4. Retzlaff BM, Walden CE, Dowdy AA, McCann BS, Anderson KV, Knopp RH. Changes in plasma triacylglycerol concentrations among free-living hyperlipidemic men adopting different carbohydrate intakes over 2 y: the Dietary Alternatives Study. Am J Clin Nutr 1995;62:988-95.
  5. Warensjö E, Jansson J-H, Cederholm T, et al. Biomarkers of milk fat and the risk of myocardial infarction in men and women: a prospective, matched case-control study. 19 May 2010 [epub ahead of print publication as Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10. 3945/ajcn.2009.29054]

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BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

The Effects of Glucose Supplementation on Barbell Velocity and Fatiguability in Weightlifting - A pilot study"

The Accute Effects Of Different Squat Intensities on Vertical Jump Performances
The Accute Effects of Different Squat Intensities On Jump Performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.