Obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation.
Obesity arises because ‘calories in’ is greater than ‘calories out’.
Which one of the above statements is true?
Are they both true?
Do fat people just eat too damn much or do they just store fat easier than everyone else?
What if you couldn’t get fat on a high-fat/low-carb diet?
Here I’ll attempt to lay out the case that the above statement is absolutely true. Eat fat (and lots of it if you like) with low carbs and you won’t gain any fat. If this is your first exposure to this idea, keep an open mind – it’s good news!
I’ll lay this out step by step. It’s a little technical but hopefully I describe it in such a way the makes logical sense.
The Case For A High-Fat Diet
Calories In / Calories Out are NOT Independent Variables – We need to stop thinking about them as if they are. When you eat less your metabolism slows to compensate for this. That’s why Low Calorie (semi-starvation) diets are not a permanent solution for weight loss. So ‘Calories In/Calories Out’ affect each other.
Obesity is a Disorder of Excess Fat Accumulation – Obese people are physiologically different in that they store fat much more easily than others. Saying that fat people are fat because they eat more calories than they expend is akin to saying alcoholics are alcoholic because they drink too much! We need to understand the cause of excess fat accumulation.
What Then Regulates the Fat Tissue? If understanding what causes the body to want to store excess fat holds the key, what regulates this process? The answer is that the main regulator is Insulin. As insulin in the body increases, lipolysis (burning fat for fuel) decreases. Why? First a few technical notes:
* There are 2 forms of fat; fatty acids and triglycerides
* Fat is stored in the cells as triglyceride which is 3 fatty acids bound together by a glycerol molecule
* Fat is burned for fuel as fatty acids. Fat also enters and exits the cells as fatty acids.
* Fat in the fat cells is in a constant state of flux (cycling) i.e. fat goes into and out of the cells continuously. This is called the triglyceride/fatty acid cycle.
* If more triglyceride is falling apart into fatty acid, you’re losing fat. If more fatty acids are binding together to triglyceride, you’re gaining fat.
With me so far? Ok, the pivotal role is played by a molecule called alpha-glycerol phosphate. Without this there is no glycerol to bind fatty acids to triglyceride i.e. fat cannot be stored in the fat cells. The more of it you have, the more fatty acids can be stored as triglyceride in the fat cells. So, where does alpha-glycerol phosphate come from?
Alpha-glycerol phosphate comes from burning blood sugar (glucose). The more blood sugar is driven into fat cells and burned for fuel, the more alpha-glycerol phosphate will be available. The more Alpha-glycerol phosphate available, the more fat can be deposited.
Bear with me, we’re nearly there 😉 . Therefore, whatever works to transport glucose into fat cells, works to deposit fat and keep it there! This is exactly what insulin does i.e. it transports glucose into fat cells. High insulin levels are therefore not what we want when our goal is to lose fat.
It is therefore true that insulin regulates fat metabolism and that carbohydrates drive insulin secretion. It is then also fair to say that carbohydrates drive obesity.
“But a low-carb diet is by definition high in fat, so can’t I get fat even without the carbs?”
As alluded to earlier, without alpha-glycerol phosphate present, fatty acids cannot be bound into triglyceride (which is stored body fat). Therefore: (and this wraps it up)
You cannot gain fat on a high fat/low carb diet.
Enjoy the following video. It’s from Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories. He does an excellent job of putting this case forward. Watch from around the 45 minute mark to get straight into the meat (pun definitely intended) of the lecture.
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