Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
24 Aug

Does a High-Fat Diet Cause Type 2 Diabetes?

This is a special guest post from Denise Minger (thank you, Denise!). When fear-inducing news headlines hit the papers (and airwaves and iPads…) –  High-Fat Diet Linked to Breast Cancer, Eating Whole Grains Will Help You Live Longer, Fish Oil Linked to Prostate Cancer – she’s the person to go to for an honest and entertaining critique of the research. In the last week I’ve received an untold number of emails from inquiring Mark’s Daily Apple readers about this latest health news “bombshell”. So, naturally, Denise…

It’s that time again. Your inbox is filling up with emails from your low-fat friends. Your mom left four voicemails ordering you to throw away your bacon now (and clean your room while you’re at it). Your diet-savvy coworker left a Yahoo! News article on your desk, weighted in place with a muffin. This just in: High-fat diets cause diabetes—and researchers have proof, doggonit!

At least, that’s what you’d assume from reading headlines like “How Fatty Food Triggers Diabetes” and “Study Reveals How High-Fat Diet Causes Type-2 Diabetes.” It might come as a surprise, then, that this study isn’t really about food at all – it’s about the effect of obesity on gene expression. In mice, no less. This is a classic example of the media spinning an article to help it grab attention, because most people wouldn’t give a flying Fudgsicle if they knew what it was really about.

If you haven’t browsed it already, you can check out the study’s abstract here, officially titled “Pathway to diabetes through attenuation of pancreatic beta cell glycosylation and glucose transport.” (The full text is securely tucked behind a $32 pay-wall.) Between the jargony bits and focus on mice, it might be tempting to slide this study into the Slush Pile of Unworthiness – but it’s actually pretty interesting. Here’s the lowdown.

The Gist

Basically, the researchers fed a bunch of mice a high-fat diet designed to make them obese, which consequently raised the levels of free fatty acids (FFAs) in their blood. Although we’ve known for a while that FFAs interfere with glucose metabolism, this study uncovered a new piece of the obesity-diabetes puzzle.

In order to gauge your blood sugar and decide how much insulin to secrete, the beta cells in your pancreas have little glucose-sensors hanging out on their surface. Those sensors are maintained by an enzyme called GnT-4a glycosyltransferase (can we call it George for short?). As this study discovered, high levels of FFAs interfere with two of the proteins necessary for producing GnT-4a (er, George), leaving beta cells unable to figure out how much glucose is in your blood. When that happens, those cells can’t release the right amount of insulin to keep your blood sugar in check. Wham, bam, diabetes.

That’s how it works in mice, at least. To clarify the pathway in non-mice, the researchers grabbed some cell samples from humans and cultured them with palmitic acid, a fat sometimes used to simulate the effect of free fatty acids. Lo and behold, the fat interfered with the same two proteins that got goofed up in obese, FFA-ridden mice.

So what does this mean for you and me? Are high-fat diets going to make us obese, fill our blood with free fatty acids, and push us to the brink of diabetes? Should you listen to your mother and feed the bacon to the trashcan?

Mouse Tales

Before we talk diet, let’s talk rodents. In this study, researchers used a popular, inbred mouse strain affectionately referred to as C57BL/6J. Despite their cuteness, the only one who can get away with that kind of name is R2-D2, so let’s use some lab slang and call these mice “black sixes.”

Black-six mice are beloved among researchers, and for good reason. Along with being easy to breed, they’re uber-susceptible to obesity, high blood sugar, insulin resistance, leptin resistance, and all that other fun stuff plaguing modern humans. They’re also genetically predisposed to getting type 2 diabetes, making them particularly useful for the study at hand. And perhaps most importantly, all it takes to send them into a downward spiral of disease is some extra dietary fat. It’s like their kryptonite. Which brings us to…

The Diet of Doom

Although this paper doesn’t give us a detailed description of what the mice were eating, it does reference the product numbers for their formula diets – so we can sleuth out the scoop straight from the manufacturer. Here’s a PDF of what the high-fat diet contained.

Ouch! Where to start?

It’s hard to say which part of this diet sucks the most. The 175 grams of pure sugar? The splash of high omega-6 soybean oil? The suspiciously disease-promoting casein? The main calorie source as hydrogenated coconut oil? The fact that a quarter of the “high fat” diet consists of refined carbohydrates? The complete absence of anything resembling food?

Indeed, even if you believe high-fat diets can be healthy, it’s hard to find any redeeming qualities in this one. For starters, the primary fat is a hydrogenated oil, which doesn’t belong in the body of any living organism, whether two-legged or four. As far as obesity goes, rodents have dramatically different responses to the types of fat they eat—with rats, for instance, getting tubby from lard but slimming down with marine oils. And hydrogenation aside, some mice strains gain different amounts of weight when their high-fat diet consists of unsaturated fats rather than saturated fat. So can we extrapolate the effects of this diet to high-fat diets in general? No way. Not for mice, and certainly not for humans.

And let’s remember that we’re dealing with a particularly fat-sensitive creature here. Although most mice turn into metabolically deranged messes when they eat too much fat (which makes sense, considering their natural diet is mostly grains), not all of them succumb to the same fate. Black sixes are one of the unlucky types that get rapidly obese on high-fat diets, but some other strains remain lean on the same cuisine and are far more resistant to diabetes.

When “High Fat” Isn’t High Fat

This brings us to a major problem with rodent studies in general. As this paper explains, there’s literally no standard for what “high fat” means, and rodent researchers have thrown everything from 20%-fat diets to 60%-fat diets under the same “high fat” umbrella. Usually those diets contain a hefty portion of sugar, too. Not only does this make the rodent literature hard to navigate, but it also gives an incomplete picture of the effect of diet on obesity – because something special happens when mice get a truly high-fat menu.

Case in point: this study on ketogenic diets in rodents. As we might expect, researchers found that mice eating a moderately high-fat diet became obese, leptin resistant, and insulin resistant – but when they dropped the sugar and increased fat to around 78% of calories, the mice “lost all excess body weight, improved glucose tolerance, and increased energy expenditure” without even reducing calorie intake. In other words, a high-fat diet undid the damage of a moderately high-fat diet.

Lessons For Non-Rodents

So what can we learn from all this? Does this study – or rodent research in general – have much relevance for those of us who lack tails, fuzzy ears, and adorable pink noses?

The answer is an equivocal “yes and no.” One reason mice are a favored lab animal is that they share so many genes with humans – 15,187 of them, to be exact. Heck, it was only 90 million years ago that we split from a common ancestor. I’ve met Okinawans older than that!

But that doesn’t mean gene expression always works the same, or that the causes and progression of disease are identical across species. Even when high-fat diets catapult mice towards diabetes, for instance, their markers for disease don’t always resemble ours. Unlike metabolically damaged humans, who tend to have rock-bottom HDL cholesterol and rising triglycerides, some mice experience higher HDL and unchanged (or reduced!) triglycerides when eating the diets that make them diseased (PDF). This points to some clear differences between how humans and mice experience diet-induced metabolic problems.

And that includes the diabetes pathway in this study. We have enough high-fat, low-carb research at this point to know that such a diet won’t cause an unstoppable snowball towards obesity in humans like it does in some mice. If anything, its impact on diabetes is beneficial. So even if weight gain (and the associated increase in free fatty acids) sets us down Diabetes Avenue, a high-fat diet isn’t necessarily the instigator in humans. Especially not a high-fat diet that’s based on real food instead of hydrogenated coconut oil.

Bottom line: Mice are actually useful little suckers when it comes to studying genes and biochemical processes – but only when we clearly understand the limitations. Disney-themed costume parties aside, you are not, and never will be, a mouse. Nor will a mouse ever be you. So when it comes to studies like this one, white out the headline, read with an open but critical mind, and then invite Mother Dearest over for a bacon brunch.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I always take it with a grain of salt when the press demonizes high fat and high protein diets. High is a relative term and most times is taken out of context of a horrible diet of processed crap and frankenfoods. Yes a high fat diet of junk coupled with crappy carbs like sugar and grains is going to cause problems for any creature.

    Chris Tamme wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • I highly agreed with you…even our own pets will suffer from bad diets consisting of processed junk

      Kevin Lin wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • So true, Kevin. Our Westie suffered horribly from colitis until a friend suggested a raw tripe diet. For five years he’s thrived on raw tripe, raw lamb mince, carrots, apples, a lil’ bit of cheese and occasional “treats” of toast. Breath’s much sweeter too!

        Corinne Spiers wrote on August 26th, 2011
        • Yes, notice all the pet food commercials that are now advertising gluten free?

          Paula wrote on August 19th, 2012
  2. Denise – you are a HUGE, MASSIVE part of the primal, paleo, ancestral, wapf, real food movement. HUGE. Did I say GINORMOUS?!

    I would hope that after anyone in the world looks at what the mice were fed, they would dismiss the study. Either the authors of those 2 articles, that have vegans throwing parties, did not read what the mice ate or they dismissed it completely because they are vegans themselves.

    It sucks ass but, again, Denise… I can not wait till your book comes out. Its going to be huge. No, HUGE!

    Studies to me are almost completely worthless. MOST that make the mainstream are a bunch of bull s#!%. Come talk to me when a study is done with 100% real, whole, paleo approved food vs a standard american diet that fulfills the dietary government guidelines.

    I would LOVE for that study to be done. Anyone want to start?

    Primal Toad wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • I would love to see a weight loss study done with humans, say, 100 overweight adults. Have 50 of them go Primal, the other 50 do something conventional like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, with all doing whatever exercise they want, and see what happens. Of course have labs done before and after to compare. Maybe even throw in a emotional/psych type of evaluation as well to measure depression, brain function, and satisfaction with life levels too.

      I would put my money on the Primal “diet” for superior results in all areas any day. I tried Weight Watchers several times; not only was it the biggest drag, but my fat barely budged, whereas when I did Atkins I had rapid results that endured. And my cholesterol and triglyceride levels dropped. And my abdominal pains went away for the first time in years…but don’t get me started.

      Vanessa wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • well, as one of those termed “obese” via the fundamentally flawed BMI charts (that’s another debunking, naturally), after a particularly traumatic and early passing of a parent at the hands of Type II diabetes and the classic complications of a non-compliant…i “got religion” and knew i had to change something and FAST.

        so, i did. i radically changed my diet, went Paleo, and started running my butt off (literally).

        fast forward 3 months, and my physician called me with blood test results with a smile in his voice. i had reduced all my bad numbers and increased my good ones, and my blood pressure rocked. no medical intervention, and a complete turnaround in my health, my endurance, mental acuity and maybe even reclaimed a few years of my life.

        fast forward 8 months, i fall off the Paleo wagon, eat carbs for a month and for some odd reason, stopped running. guess who felt like utter crapola?

        YMMV, but that’s good enough evidence for me. as for the study in the article: fatally flawed, and i mean that literally.

        db wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • Sounds like a study that maybe Mark would get into and conduct himself??? 😀

        Amanda wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • You might get a single-person study pretty soon. I’ve been on weight watchers a few times, and have successfully lost weight each time.

        But now I’m over 40, and it’s coming off sooo slowly. I think I’m going to give it 2 months, then switch to paleo.

        I am a regular blood donor, so I know that my BP and cholesterol are already really low.

        Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple wrote on August 24th, 2011
        • Low cholesterol isn’t necessarily a good thing. I’ve heard it said that one of the reasons cholesterol does that on a low-fat, high-PUFA diet (for instance) is that the PUFA makes your cell membranes all borked up and your body drains the cholesterol out of your bloodstream to shore them up. Cheery thought. Cholesterol and saturated fat are both major components of cell membranes. These are the things *holding us together.*

          Dana wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • I did the experiment on myself… after many failed diet plans, I joined a local Crossfit, went Paleo and the rest is history… fit/healthy/in-shape for last 2 years and loving it… people can do all the studies and experiments they want… I found my solution!

        Craig Adams wrote on August 25th, 2011
        • Good on you Dana, al the best for a healthy future.

          Roy Walker wrote on February 26th, 2015
  3. Denise has outdone herself on this one! After the book comes out, she needs a regular TV spot.

    Mark,thanks for having her write this for MDA. By the way, Denise’s dad has just lost 10 lbs in one week following the Primal Blueprint!

    Denise’s mom

    Sue Minger wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • It’s so wonderful that Denise has the active support of her family! 😀

      gilliebean wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • Hey, wow, Denise’s mum! Awesome.

      Jos wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • I second that call for a spot on TV! I don’t watch any, but I would start if stuff like this was out there. Time to take down Dr. Oz.

      Kate wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • Denise is much better-looking than Dr. Oz too. So I would much rather listen to her talk. Can’t help it, it’s built-in. 😀

        Uncephalized wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • “Time to take down Dr. Oz”


        Turbo Kelly wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • Dr. Oz will probably take himself down with that ridiculous 3-ring circus that he calls a TV show to “educate” us. We started watching it and then quickly decided that there was way too much contradiction and mis-information. He’s actually contradicted himself in different segments on the same show. You can sure tell where the producers are coming from–

        PrimalGrandma wrote on August 24th, 2011
        • This is part of why I threw out my TV–now these idiots can no longer infest my livingroom and my time.

          Wenchypoo wrote on August 19th, 2012
    • As a fiction writer what impresses me the most is the entertaining way Denise moves us through this dense scientific information. Lots of smart people can cogitate, articulate, and regurgitate complex ideas. So, so few can make learning and understanding those ideas fun for other people. That is a true gift and the ancestral health movement is lucky to have someone like Denise.

      Tim wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • +1

        Annette wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • So true. Instead of carefully reading everything twice, if not more, I breeze through her articles with ease and usually complete comprehension the first time through. Great post.

        Todd wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • AMEN from another writer. Well said, er, written!

        elise a. miller wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • Agreed. I can’t slog through much of the important material out there, it’s great how Denise can distill the information and make it entertaining to boot- she’s a genius!

        spincycle wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • It almost seems unfair that Denise can be so intelligent, funny, and a natural beauty.

      Baron of Bacon wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • Now I have to go google her image to see what all the fuss is about.

        spincycle wrote on August 24th, 2011
  4. okay, that was awesome! thanks, denise. feed mice crap diets that would make a human sick, and marvel that they… get sick. thanks, science.

    jakey wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • Say, rather: “feed **genetically defective** mice crap diets…”

      Fred wrote on August 19th, 2012
  5. Don’t you just love how the media will throw up a head line in the news that makes these ridiculous claims and than you have people come to and and say “did you hear about this?” My response to that is did you even read the article or did the title just give you all the information you needed?

    I also love (for those who do read the articles) how twisted the truth is when you compare the data in the research to the authors own interpretation. I have been primal for almost 5 months now, the truth is not in these research articles that are just out there to have “shock value”, the truth is in how I feel, how I look and how much energy I have.

    Going primal best decision of my life!!

    Mike wrote on August 24th, 2011
  6. This just makes me want to cry. My father is on dialysis and getting sicker every day. My older brother was diagnosed last year. My journey to health led me to MDA and it was the best thing I have ever done for my health, mind and body. I know I will never have diabetes. And it just sickens me that this twisted information manages to make headlines in the way that it does.

    Heather wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • Yes. Love your comment. My dad died due to prostate cancer and also developed type II diabetes. I want to get off that train and take control of my health. So far so good! Vegetarian for almost 20 years, but recently did a 180. I only wish I had done it earlier. I’m back to my college weight. Lean and mean!

      Patrick wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • My dad’s type 2. The crazy part is, he hates most vegetables. But he loves meat. It drives me up a wall that if I were given the chance, I could construct a dietary regime for him that he could actually live with, and he wouldn’t have to feel like he was suffering for his health. And he could get off the Nexium, and the statin, and whatever the heck else he’s on, and quit having those weird anemia episodes that have put him in the hospital twice now.

      Dana wrote on August 24th, 2011
  7. Love it! Well done.

    mark wrote on August 24th, 2011
  8. There are way more bad research studies out there then are good, with horribly flawed methods. With your breakdown of the diet (LOVE your table graphic!) it is easy to see how the test results are valid – but the test was flawed.

    The better conclusion would be: a diet high in sugar, casein, and Omega 6 can cause Type 2 diabetes.

    Primal Recipe wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • …in genetically susceptible mice.

      Eda wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • The sugar and the omega 6 cause damage in people, too, whether or not that damage is in the form of diabetes. Casein, well, that’s a bit more iffy. Depends on individual situations.

        Dana wrote on August 24th, 2011
  9. Outstanding as usual, Ms. Minger.

    Finnegans Wake wrote on August 24th, 2011
  10. Good post. So many research studies have a way of putting a spin on things. Take Ancel Keys. Whatever diet you follow, make it real food. Of course, the long living Okinawans mentioned eat a low fat, vegetable based real food diet with grain.

    Phil wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • No. No, it’s not low-fat. Okinawans, like “Mediterranean people” (WTF does that mean? Italians? Greeks?), enjoy meat and animal fat as well. In Okinawa and Italy it’s mainly pork and lard. In other areas it’s beef and mutton and lamb.

      Dana wrote on August 24th, 2011
  11. Speechless… Great article!

    Dennis wrote on August 24th, 2011
  12. Actually, I found this study to be very important.

    As a result, I will no longer be feeding my mice any hydrogenated coconut oil with their refined carbohydrates – I just couldn’t face having to inject their little paws with tiny insulin-filled syringes.

    However, it wont be affecting my bacon consumption.

    Stevemidd wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • +1

      Fritzy wrote on August 25th, 2011
  13. I think people have been conditioned to assume that a “high-fat diet” can’t mean anything other than deep-fried oreos and the like. Thanks for directing the conversation back to the QUALITY of the fats.

    Congrats to Denise’s dad–and to Denise’s mum for chiming in and supporting them both!

    Anne wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • Fatastic!

      really, honestly, I’ve not done ANYTHING besides remove carbs to the best of my abilities <20g, and upped sat fats only, to as much as I can stand 255, I’m seldom hungry, and as I understand, protein can be an obstacle too, as it’s requirement can be met in most instances, yes by glycation, and muscle will result if asked. NO exercise, AT ALL, other than active from a new, natural energy, and not excessive in any way. I’m 54 female, 4yrs into the big M, and I have such clarity, that I can now say and do things in good faith, and not take no for an answer anymore, insead of being a doormat for others ‘ideas,’ try it.. You’ll certainly change for the better. I began just 7mos. ago, and have dismissed to date forty, no, forty five pounds, at 212.2. Nothing changed but replacing carbs with fat, protien levels may have dropped, due to lack of cravings, and I no longer have ANY excessive appetite, and I can now HAVE REAL ice cream, with LOW carbs, because I can make it myself. and now I treat myself with respect, and not gorging from the improper ‘diet’ tortures, fed to us, irony I cannot begin to believe.
      I was vegan, macrobiotic, and I was also on the Medi-Fast liquid diet, which was thankfully ‘Dr. supervised,’ so he could sign the ‘certificate’ of death I quess. However I was in my mid-twenties, and I ‘survived’ to diet another day. So then, I ate NO SOLID FOODS for over Three MONTHS, and my cholestrol went from 300 to 302!!! NO FOOD !?! Mostly Egg Whites! It’ a wonder all right. Don’t get me started on ‘eggwhites,’ thanks to Hyperlipid for some EYE OPENING facts from his group of Drs. and other Professionals in this emerging world of TRUE health. Thank GOD for you all, sincerely, you ARE saving lives, and the Minds that SHOULD go with them.
      Many Blessings, going to look up this lady. I haven’t needed any guidance, however, if I can find something to help others ‘understand,’ I can save lives too! Just telling people is like telling the pond frog about the Ocean . . don’t try it without compassion and reason, you’ll need it.
      sry so long, it’s just that I have no one to mention it too, cause when I’ve tried, of course nobody believes me.

      Please Believe. It’s F A C T.

      You must eat to live, and that’s living, IF done correctly.

      Peace IN!

      Lucy wrote on August 24th, 2011
  14. This article ruined my IF !!
    Now I’m salivating for a fatty steak…

    Arty wrote on August 24th, 2011
  15. It is always important to keep the good fats. Remember the “low fat” craze of a few years back, that ended up getting people heavier !!

    William wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • I “low-fatted” my way from just slightly overweight, to obese during the late 90s, early 2000s.

      Turbo Kelly wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • This comment made me laugh :) I’m hoping, sincerely, that you’ve since “high-fatted” your way back down the weight slope.

        silverbenz wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • My story also!

        Joann wrote on January 18th, 2012
  16. Wow, that Diet of Doom list says it all. Did Monsanto fund this study?

    Amy wrote on August 24th, 2011
  17. There seems to be a fairly common trend among ‘pulp science’ – especially surrounding diet, but also in other pseudo-scientific explanations of physical phenomenon – to take highly complex and thorough studies, glean a few lines from them that either sound good, make a good headline, or support a long standing CW belief or position held by the editors and leave you with something that in reality does not truly represent what was actually studied, or sometimes cherry picks pieces of information out of the study to support their own claims while ignoring the conclusions of the study itself.

    There is a peer review process involved in publishing studies (I won’t get into how those may or may not be a good or at least accurate thing) but it seems that there is a decided lack of journalistic integrity surrounding scientific studies in particular. It may not be sinister (in that it is not for a specific purpose, or to support a specific cause), and in fact it concerns me that it is in fact a symptom of a larger educational issue.

    Journalists: Can we agree that if you don’t know anything about the topic, you will not try to digest a study for mass public consumption? I’m getting tired of hearing about ‘god particles’ and flip flopping on diet and health practices.

    Hal wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • Please be careful directing ire towards journalists. That profession has been and is experiencing what can only be described as a complete collapse. People are trying to survive. They’ll write what they’re told to write but more importantly they’ll write what they know their bosses will like because there are a hundred other out of work copy jockeys waiting in the wings. Not only isn’t there much time for in depth thoughtful investigative journalism any more but that isn’t what our consolidated corp media is buying. Which is why you only see it on blogs.

      Tim wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • While I see your point, I also consider the editorial process part of journalism. Editorial staff should be the gatekeeper, ensuring the quality bar is not lowered to the point of near banality, nor that the article will be harmful to the readership.

        I understand the desire to keep your job, make no doubt about that. But perhaps the short-sightedness of the industry as a whole, of owners, editors, and even writers, has absolutely contributed to the collapse. People used to go to the media to get information, and once the goal of the journalists to produce accurate information evaporated and they turned instead to a goal of entertainment, people stopped watching or reading, or anything else. Information is everywhere now, but there is still a need for a good company to come in and, with as small a bias as possible, take all that information, consolidate it in a thoughtful and accurate way, and then to present it to their audience in either one or many formats.

        Hal wrote on August 24th, 2011
  18. Seems that researchers have the same blind-spot that is endemic in our modern society. They seem to think that processed food is irrelevant to the health of mice and men. That’s a huge confounding variable that is completely ignored in research. What would be really interesting would be for some researchers attempt to duplicate known results on mice, using whole foods. I.e. Real coconut fat, real unprocessed protein, real unprocessed carbs. Would the same results be achieved ? Maybe. But it would be interesting to find out, and would at least remove one confounding variable. If they don’t do this, it could invalidate a huge amount of research.

    Angelyne wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • This was what I was thinking while reading this article. In my before-children life I was a Biochemist. The people designing these studies are trained in gene-regulation, in biochemical pathways, in protein expression, in all things sub-cellular.

      They are NOT trained in nutrition. They either rely on the information they are given by the manufacturers of the food, or they follow protocols worked out by other people ahead of them.

      And in their defense, the researchers were *not* testing the effect of a high-fat diet. They were trying to see how the ‘George’ proteins reacted to high levels of FFAs. And in this mouse-model, you induce high levels of FFAs by feeding them this diet. They will have chosen this mouse and this diet because they knew that they would get lots of FFAs.

      The egregious error was made by whoever picked the study up and turned it into something that Yahoo!News would be interested in.

      homehandymum wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • Drs. are NOT trained in Nutrition EITHER!

        Do they TELL YOU that while your sittin’ there in Good Faith?

        well you’ll know the answer to that question, eh?

        I hear the tides are turning, tho I haven’t met one of them yet. I wonder why Doctors ARE so hard to come by?

        The Internets ? ; )

        Lucy wrote on August 24th, 2011
        • My doctor is awesome. One nutritionist gently told my dad that “doctors mean well” after he was given conflicting information about his diabetes.

          What she didn’t know was that my doctor had given him some sound advice. What he told *me* once when I asked about gaining weight healthily (stick skinny kid here), was to not be afraid of fat, eat bacon, and watch the carbs.


          Lisa wrote on August 29th, 2011
  19. Thanks so much for touching on this! My mom is THAT mom. Sadly, she is easily brainwashed by the masses. Fortunately, I don’t buy into it, but it’s nice to have some kind of ammunition when she gets after me about my “high fat” diet. Thanks!

    Stephanie wrote on August 24th, 2011
  20. Yep! Been living low-carb/semi-primal for the last year and a half. Started moving toward more primal lifestyle about a month ago. Had bloodwork done right before I started low-carb and again last week. Results:

    11 point drop in serum cholesterol!
    54 point drop in triglycerides!
    11 point increase in HDL (good cholesterol)!
    Normalized A1C levels!

    Proof is in the numbers!

    Lulu wrote on August 24th, 2011
  21. Thank you Denise for a great article! Because of all the misinformation out there in the general media, I quit getting my health info from them years ago. Thanks Mark for posting this study. Appreciate it!

    Susan wrote on August 24th, 2011
  22. Great article, now lets let the rest of the world see it and figure it out.

    Mary Hone wrote on August 24th, 2011
  23. This comic feels especially relevant in this case…

    Amanda wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • LOVE phd comics! After reading the journal article, this comic couldn’t be truer.

      Erin wrote on August 24th, 2011
  24. I love the fact that this article was linked on one of the mentioned “High fat=diabetes oh noooooz!” ones in this post.

    Catbreu wrote on August 24th, 2011
  25. Fantastic analysis and explanation! Thanks.

    This article (or a similar one) was claiming it is the particle size of the saturated fats that “gum up” capillaries. Do you have any information regarding that “fact”?

    deb b wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • I know there is some good info about this on the PaNu site. While this is a complicated process, one of the mechanisms is the shape of the fat molecule. Saturated fat is a straight chain, while hydrogenated fats tend to form crooked chains. This shape is one of the things that leads to that particular kind of fat “gumming up” capillaries and arteries.

      Fritzy wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • Those saturated fats form the cell membranes of the cells that make up those capillaries. We need ’em.

      Dana wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • Thanks for clarifying that, Dana–I only mentioned trans fats there and missed the boat on addressing Deb’s original question. The straight chain formed by short, medium and long chain saturated fatty acids do not have a tendency, in and of themselves to “gum-up” arteries. However, the crooked shape of transfats/hydrogenated oils do lend themselves to arteriosclerosis.

        Fritzy wrote on August 25th, 2011
    • That would be carbs, in ANY size.

      If you replaced ‘fat’ with ‘carb’ in the literature, you’re MORE onto the ‘truth’ of things, than not. srsly.

      Sat fats only, NO seed oils. Industrial. Grains, industrial, ‘Mills.’ And such like the above ‘refineries’ of “foodstuffs.” eYeah, not hardly, better to eat the packaging, at least it’s consistant.

      sry to be SO blunt, however for some people, PANIC may in deed, be the appropriate response, no?

      Lucy wrote on August 24th, 2011
  26. Thanks for explaining the actual research into something I can understand. Clearly, the study is flawed. It does not make sense why they would use hydrogenated fat for the test when everyone knows hydrogenated fat raises inflammation in the body. It would be much more meaningful if the researchers used natural unprocessed fat.

    Satish wrote on August 24th, 2011
  27. Thanks Denise, for doing the dirty work. I don’t think we could ever over-estimate the importance of the work you are doing.

    Of course, the real take-home message should be that manufactured garbage is bad for animals (including humans) and it is becoming increasingly evident that this is the case regardless of macronutrient ratios. This would make it a great study if that’s the conclusion everyone could lean towards.

    Unfortunately, too often, researchers draw conclusions from well structured studies that don’t really match the results and leave the critical reader scratching their head wondering where the scientist came up with this “out of left-field” idea.

    And I’ve given up on the idea of the mass media producing any headline resembling accuracy. Journalists are under pressure to quickly churn out stories on subjects they know little about and have no time to really investigate. Editors are more interested in selling copy–and shock sells, not accuracy.

    and we all suffer as a result.

    Fritzy wrote on August 24th, 2011
  28. I’ve been eating Primal since November 2009, and since ditching my glycogen-inhibiting meds in May 2010, I have enjoyed the full benefits, including for my blood sugar. Earlier this summer, a cousin measured my postprandial blood glucose (including, I must admit several glasses of red wine): 5.2 mmol/L or 93.6 mg/dL. My fasting glucose is 4.8 (86), lower than when I was 19 (the only way I could raise it to 6.1 (110) was to run sprints the next morning in a fasted state (my glycogen/glucose system has since been repaired).

    My version of Primal does not skimp on animal fats or vegetable fats that can be extracted mechanically. Why am I not diabetic?

    Norman Robert Spencer wrote on August 24th, 2011
  29. …and even if excess FFAs in the blood of humans _did_ block the glucose sensors, if the person isn’t also eating a lot of simple carbs, they should be OK. What this study implicates is diets with moderate levels of poor quality fats in combination with simple carbs…something like what a lot of Americans eat, unfortunately.

    Susan wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • I was thinking that too. Does it really matter whether your beta cells can sense glucose when you’re not stuffing yourself full of it to begin with?

      Dana wrote on August 24th, 2011
  30. Thank you for blogging on this. I saw the headlines recently, and looked through an article (with very little data in it). I thought “they don’t specify what kind of oil.” I wouldn’t have guessed they were feeding the mice 54% trans fat. The results make more sense now:)
    Thank you for the information!!

    Patty wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • I can tell you following a low fat diet, with whole grains has not helped me one bit. I onlg got elevated labs, no success losing weight and developed metabolic syndrome. I had the first good to excellent lab results when I eliminated whole grains, sugar and starches from my diet and added by healthy fats, lean protiens and nuts.

      Priscilla wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • If anyone gets ‘sleepy’ after they eat, no matter the time of day . ..

        THIS is the energy you’re supposed to be GETTING from the food you ingest.

        If you’re diet ‘is too much for you,’ you’ll get sleepy/sicky?

        I don’t EVAR get tired anymore, I actually find myself eating, as I’m going, not prepared to fall asleep with a dish sliding off onto the floor .. yeesh. I’ve survived to ‘be’ another day. Thank you everyone!

        Wheee! I feel like a kid again, with hopes and wishes to fulfill, and dreams mean something now. They are really attainable at this point, really are.

        Lucy wrote on August 24th, 2011
      • Never again would I go low fat. I’m not sure if it’s hyperbole to say it almost killed me, but it felt like it. I’m normally high energy and within a few months I was sapped and my already low blood pressure dropped even more.

        Lisa wrote on August 26th, 2011
  31. MDA is on a roll this week, Robb Wolf yesterday and the amazing Denise Minger today? Keep pumping out the awesome info!

    Nutritionator wrote on August 24th, 2011
  32. Denise, what a great job explaining a rather complicated subject! I think it’s difficult to communicate the complexities of the human endocrine system–much less that of a mouse. Now, if only we could get the popular press to follow suit and seek out experts like yourself to provide such eloquent explanations.

    Rachel Fischer, MD wrote on August 24th, 2011
  33. Excellent post, thanks for sharing! For some reason even as a child I stayed away from anything labeled hydrogenated. I remember in my teens if I ate peanut butter that had been hydrogenated I would break out all over my face and body… that’s probably the reason I didn’t eat it come to think of it lol. 😀

    Matt wrote on August 24th, 2011
  34. why didn’t they feed the mice grass-fed tenderloin? or I don’t know grains and seeds naturally higher in fat? hemp, sunflower, macadamias,peanuts ,I know they love cherry pits.

    alex wrote on August 24th, 2011
  35. Hi Denise. It’s wonderful that you’re so great at debunking the papers that must be written by meat hating souls, mostly vegans but also vegetarians and those terrified of red meat and fat for whom we’re the new breed of terrorists.

    I’d just like to ask why you omitted a red arrow for the Maltodextrin. It’s just as bad as the sucrose or could I say worse because people ignore it. Easily digested and all of it as glucose. This polysaccaride is in so many supposedly carbohydrate reduced/sugar-free products. And I think the manufacturers get away with it because people just don’t know about maltodextrin.

    Eat unprocessed foods and avoid all added sugars of any kind ie, dextrin, maltodextrin, etc etc.

    mcoz-09 wrote on August 24th, 2011
  36. Did anyone notice the red food dye listed as one of the ingredients in the mouse-chow?

    It’s so unfortunate, because NO ONE eats a diet like this, no even my coworker with Type2 diabetes, kidney failure and congestive heart failure (no kidding!). The study would be a lot more valid if the mice were fed a diet appropriate for them and THEN they add a normal high fat like butter.

    This is exactly the approach they took to prove artificial sweeteners cause cancer. They fed the mice a diet of 60% sweet-n-low. While artificial sweeteners are indisputably toxic, NO ONE eats a diet of 60% of it.

    Caitlyn wrote on August 24th, 2011
  37. I realize that studies have to be funded and thats why see so many of these crap studies but why can’t we (the paleo / low carb crowd) use something like Kickstarter to open source fund a proper study of all the things of interest to us? Surely there are some proper scientists somewhere willing to take the money to do a proper job of it.

    Johnc wrote on August 24th, 2011
    • We are all our own test bunny.

      The success stories are the test results :-)

      Arty wrote on August 24th, 2011
  38. I am continually impressed with the ease at which, those in the ancestral health movement explain things. Denise Minger, Emily Deans, and many others write in ways that make learning very enjoyable (why can’t they be my professors?????:-() Great article as always.

    Caleb wrote on August 24th, 2011
  39. Hydrogenating coconut oil is a crime against nature.

    Even apart from the ludicrous diet fed to the rats, I always wonder at studies that draw dietary inferences from rats and apply them to humans. Rodents are granivores and scavengers; when they prey at all, it is exclusively on invertebrates. Humans, on the other hand, are omnivorous apex predators. Somewhere around 60-90 million years of divergent evolution separate the orders Primates and Rodentia. Why would we expect their nutritional adaptations to be similar enough to provide a useful comparison?

    Timothy wrote on August 24th, 2011

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