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

Top 7 Most Common Reactions to Your High-Fat Diet (and How to Respond)

A couple weeks back, I wrote about the top 8 most common reactions you get when people hear you don’t eat grains, and I offered up some concise responses to those reactions. It was well received, so I thought I’d do the same thing for “your high-fat diet.” If you thought having to explain your grain-free diet was tough, explaining a high-fat diet – in particular, a high-animal fat diet – may seem even harder. At least with a grain-free diet, you’re merely removing something that many hold near and dear to their hearts. It’s “healthy” and “delicious,” sure, but at least you’re not adding something that will actively kill you. Fat is that deadly thing, for many people. It’s “fat,” for crying out loud. It’s bad for you, practically a poison. Everyone knows it. I mean, have you seen what fat down the kitchen drain does to your plumbing?

Actually, like the grain-free diet, explaining the high-fat diet is not that hard. I’ll even promise you that there are ways to do it, explanations and answers that don’t make you seem like a crazy person who hates his heart (I make no such promises for those of you with a stick of butter with bite marks and a tub of coconut oil with a greasy spoon beside it on your office desk, however). Now let’s get right to their questions and responses you can use:

“Isn’t all that fat gonna glom onto your arteries?”

That isn’t how it works. Atherosclerosis is caused by oxidized LDL particles penetrating the arterial wall, inciting inflammation, and damaging the arterial tissue. It is not caused by fat mechanistically attaching itself to the surface of the arteries like fat in a kitchen pipe. Also, it’s not like you eat some butter and that butter gets directed straight into your bloodstream. Your blood doesn’t have oil slicks running through it, or congealed droplets of grease gumming up the passageways. You are the product of millions upon millions of years of evolution, and I think our bodies can do better than trying to ape modern plumbing.

Response: “My arteries are not pipes. Fat is not solidifying in my blood like it can in the plumbing. Atherosclerosis is a complex process with dozens of factors beyond what’s in your diet, let alone the fat content.”

“Isn’t all that cholesterol gonna raise your cholesterol?”

If I were a rabbit, sure. When you feed cholesterol to an herbivorous animal, like a rabbit, whose only encounters with dietary cholesterol occur in a lab setting, their blood lipids will increase and they will usually develop atherosclerosis. For many years, the “cholesterol-fed rabbit” was a popular model for studying heart disease and gave rise to the now-popular idea that dietary cholesterol also elevates blood lipids in humans (thus immediately condemning them to a heart attack, naturally). Except it isn’t the case. Save for a select few who are “hyper-responders,” the vast majority of people can eat cholesterol without it affecting their cholesterol levels. And even when dietary cholesterol affects blood lipids, it’s usually an improvement, increasing HDL and the HDL:TC ratio while leaving LDL mostly unchanged. As for where all that blood cholesterol comes from, we make pretty much all the cholesterol in our blood in-house, and dietary cholesterol tends to suppress endogenous cholesterol synthesis. Boy, between “staying local” and “only making as much as we need,” our livers are downright green. I bet our HDL is GMO-free and organic to boot (not so sure about those sneaky LDL particles, though).

Response: “Dietary cholesterol does not affect total blood cholesterol. In fact, when we do eat cholesterol, our bodies make less of it to keep our blood levels in balance.”

“Isn’t all that fat gonna make you fat?”

Fat doesn’t make you fat. While you can technically overeat enough fat calories to accumulate adipose tissue, thus getting fat, this is a difficult feat, for two primary reasons:

Fat is very satiating, especially when paired with low-carb eating. Grass-fed pot roast, ribbed with yellow fat, connective tissue, and ample protein is far more filling than some crusty bread spread with butter. You’ll eat a decent slice of the former and be done, but you could easily polish off half a loaf of the latter with half a stick of butter and still be hungry. It’s difficult to overeat on a high-fat, low-carb diet.

Dietary fat in the presence of large amounts of dietary carbohydrates can make it difficult to access fat for energy, while dietary fat in the presence of low levels of dietary carbohydrates makes it easier to access fat for energy. Couple that with the fact that fat and carbs are easier to overeat together, and you have your explanation. In fact, studies have shown that low-carb, high-fat diets not only reduce weight, they also retain or even increase lean mass. That means it’s fat that’s being lost (rather than the nebulous “weight”), which is what we’re ultimately after.

Response: “No. Eating a high-fat, low-carb diet is the easiest way to inadvertently eat less without sacrificing satiation or satisfaction. It also improves your ability to access stored body fat rather than lean mass, which is helpful for fat loss.”

“But Dean Ornish/my mom/Walter Willet/the AHA/my doctor said saturated fat will give you heart attacks.”

They all may say that, and sound pretty convincing as they say it, but the science says differently. I tend to listen to the science, rather than what I think the science is saying:

  • A 2011 study found that “reducing the intake of CHO with high glycaemic index is more effective in the prevention of CVD than reducing SAFA intake per se.”
  • From a 2010 study out of Japan, saturated fat intake “was inversely associated with mortality from total stroke.”
  • A 2010 meta-analysis found “that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.”

That looks pretty clear cut to me.

Response: “The most recent studies have concluded that saturated fat intake likely has no relation to heart disease, contrary to popular opinion.”

“Where do you get your energy?”

I get my energy from fat, both dietary and stored body fat. At 9 calories per gram, fat is the densest source of energy. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but humans tend to store it on their bodies. That’s not just for show, you know. We actually store it in our bodies as energy for later, for leaner times, for when food isn’t available. Fat is the ideal energy source for life’s daily activities; walking, working, even going for a hike or a light jog all access the oxidative, or fat-based energy pathway. Carbs only really come into play when you’re doing repeated bouts of intense exercise, like sprint intervals or high-intensity endurance training. But for just about everything else? Fat is king.

Response: “Fat is the body’s preferred and most reliable form of energy, which is why we store excess energy as fat on our bodies. Unless you think we accumulate body fat just to make pants fit tighter.”

“But isn’t fat totally free of nutrients? How do you get your vitamins if you’re eating all that fat?”

The richest source of natural tocotrienols (vitamin E), potent antioxidants, is red palm oil – a fat.

One of the richest sources of choline, a vital micronutrient for liver function, is egg yolk – a fat.

One of the better sources of vitamin K2, an oft-ignored nutrient involved in cancer prevention, arterial health, and bone metabolism, is grass-fed butter – a fat.

The best dietary source of vitamin D, a nutrient most people are deficient in, is cod liver oil – a fat.

See what I mean? Also, even when you’re cooking with a fat that doesn’t contain many vitamins, that fat is still going to improve the bioavailability of the fat-soluble vitamins (like A, D, E, K, K2) in the food you’re cooking.

Response: “Certain fats, like egg yolks, palm oil, extra virgin olive oil, cod liver oil, and grass-fed butter, are some of the most nutritious foods in existence. And without fat in your meals, you often won’t absorb all the nutrients that are present in other foods like leafy greens, since many of them require fat for full absorption.”

“Doesn’t the brain run on carbs, not fat?”

Yes, the brain requires glucose. That is true. However, the brain is more of a gas/diesel hybrid. It can run on both fat and glucose. Ketones, derived from fatty acids, can satisfy the majority of the brain’s energy needs, sparing the need for so much glucose. You’ll still need some glucose, as the brain can’t run purely on ketone bodies, but you won’t need nearly as much. And, best of all, your brain will run more efficiently on a combination of ketones and glucose than on glucose alone.

That improved efficiency means you can actually function without food. Since you have ample brain energy stores on your body (even the lean among us have enough body fat to last for weeks), and a high-fat diet allows you to access that body fat for brain energy, you’ll no longer suffer brain fog just because your afternoon meeting went a little long and you missed lunch. Instead, you’ll enjoy steadier, more even energy in mind and body.

Additionally, your body, through a process know as gluconeogenesis, can make up to 150 grams of glucose a day – more than the brain even needs (roughly 120 grams/day).

Response: “While it’s true that the brain requires some glucose for energy, using fat-derived ketones as well can make the brain run more efficiently and reduce its glucose requirements. On top of that, your body can probably create more glucose than your brain even requires.”

Compared to last week’s grains post, there were fewer entries today, the simple reason being that while grains are hyped beyond belief, people have but a few scant – albeit robustly defended – justifications for fearing dietary fat. The backlash almost always revolves around the visceral fear of “fat.” It’s a scary word, after all, but it shouldn’t be. No one should fear something so vital to life, so crucial for nutrient absorption and hormonal function, and so delicious with roasted vegetables.

Hopefully, these responses will help curb some of that fear.

So, what’d I miss? What else have you heard, and how did you respond? Let me and everyone know in the comments!

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

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. What about the no fat, no salt, low protein healing protocols of Gerson? it’s a complete antithesis of what we are doing here.. Can you compare the science of those two with regards to high nutrient high detox for those who are not well? isn’t that most people? fat and starving or undernourished? Thx for any feedback.

    Trish wrote on December 6th, 2013
    • The Gerson therapy is a bunch of crap. There is no science behind it.

      Dylan wrote on December 14th, 2013
  2. Hello all, Help please, i have only been on my new eating plan for five days and trying to find food to eat, as i have eliminated sugar all grains and starchy vegetables.

    I am aiming for Low Carbs, Low protein, and Zero grains.

    I have been eating roast goat with the jelly and fat from the cooking, macadamia and a few Brazil nuts, a little Papaya and a handful of cherries before my main meals ie the goat or nuts, with 2 cups coffee per day with one teaspoon honey each time, Can i eat eggs, why are people discarding the white part ?
    I am also going to have to be on the hunt for grain fed produce.

    I have in the past few years taken 40 days just on consuming herbal teas with honey, ok thanks and cheers terry . . . . TAB . . . .

    Terry0400-40 wrote on December 9th, 2013
  3. I don’t let people question my diet by not talking about it. I was a closet vegan and now I’m a closet Atkins/Paleo. Arguing with people is futile, I’ve never seen anyone change their mind. Everyone thinks their way is the only way. Speaking of which, I’m thinking of trying a high fat/high carb plan for a while. Remember when Prozac came out? There was an article titled “Potatoes not Prozac” that I remember. Apparently the key is to eat low-protein, and then your brain just automagically makes more serotonin. I’m just into eating freedom personally. Obviously what you eat has a huge impact on how you feel and what your body does. I was able to come up with an eating plan on HCHF that was only around 1300 Cal/day, and that was on the first try. Maybe there’s something to this. It had around 30g of protein before any modifications. Anyway, you can see why I wouldn’t talk much about how I eat to people. You guys will probably jump all over me now for eating carbs. But here’s the science.

    Harold wrote on December 13th, 2013
  4. Hello, Help please, i am new and struggling a little, been on just fruit and lamb and lamb fat for around 12 days now and my digestion is far better now that i have eliminated grains, however no number two’s well just a couple of very tiny motions over two weeks, also 2 cups coffee per day with 3 teas full cream powdered milk and a teas honey, also a generous hand full of cherries and another of dates per day, perhaps i am consuming too much fructose ?
    I am 62 yo man and i weigh in at 131 lb and 5 ‘ 6″ tall, i decided on a low carb routine because i had endured some painful stomach blockages because of bad food combinations and high grain diet, i am trying to eliminate sinus mucus from my system, i think my sugar tooth is causing me to nibble on dates and cherries to excess, i could do well with a few suggestions on what i may consume on this low carb no grain routine so i may obtain some balance and also get some number two’s action going, cheers if i can get some ideas i really need some good advice thanks all

    Terry0400-40 wrote on December 14th, 2013
    • Try taking a high count capsule probiotic just before bed, for a month. I was severely constipated, literally all my life (63 yrs), and since I did this, no problems at all. No pain, going 2/3 times a day. If it doesn’t work for you, then no damage done – at least you will have tried. Don’t use the yoghurts – the bacteria won’t make it past your stomach acid, plus they have a lot of added sugar/sweetner.

      Jac wrote on January 4th, 2015
  5. Has anyone seen the movie Cereal Killers? It’s about a lean, fit, healthy guy who went on a quest to live a high fat, low carb diet for a month. He did so with the support of doctors and had a variety of tests to prove that high fat does not affect your cholesterol etc. Very interesting viewing. Watch it here:

    Dee wrote on December 30th, 2013
  6. Does this kind of diet have any relation with diseases/conditions like Diabetes? Are there any risks involved at all? Does it require exercise, or is it just as safe without exercise as a standard diet?

    Also, to add on to the idea of eating more fat… I noticed that even though Okinawa claims some of the highest life spans, their modern diet also has quite a lot of fat compared to other regions of Japan. My mother’s family is Okinawan, and they always make food with pork belly, which has a ton of gristle/fat. Moreover, it’s not generally something they avoid cutting off of the meat, they eat it as it is with all of the fat on it. Some of the other meats I have seen in their soup has a really skin-like or fat-like texture too(probably intestines or something?). So that has always had me wondering if fat is not as bad as people say it is…

    Kouki wrote on March 7th, 2014
  7. PS: I also noticed that in Okinawa, they rarely have any form of bread for meals, except maybe a slice of toast bread for some mornings.
    Then again, I am not sure if noodles would be considered grains, I am not too sure what the standard soba is made with, though there’s buckwheat versions as well. Well, noodles aren’t eaten everyday, anyway. Mostly meat/fish, rice, vegetables, soup.

    Kouki wrote on March 7th, 2014
  8. the people you refer to as ‘conventional doctors’ are the ones who will save you when you and your loved ones are dying, so please trust them when you are healthy too. it is a terrible world that we live in that we only trust people when we need them most, and that is when their lives are on the line. if you trust them then, you should trust them now.

    m wrote on March 25th, 2014
  9. I believe that avoiding processed foods could be the first step to lose weight. They could taste great, but packaged foods contain very little vitamins and minerals, making you take more only to have enough energy to get with the day. If you’re constantly feeding on these foods, transitioning to whole grain products and other complex carbohydrates will help you have more strength while taking in less. Thanks alot : ) for your blog post.

    Youlanda wrote on November 7th, 2014
  10. What is the appropriate portion of fats in the diet on a daily basis
    Give an example of a day of eating

    Sandi wrote on December 24th, 2014
    • This is a good enquiry^^^ Also, how does the high fat diet affect the gall bladder? Beyond this, I have attempted this now for nearly a year and I have had chronic digestive issues. When I back off, my digestion is cool. Not much weight gain- I’m of thin constitution- weight gain only comes through intense exercise. Much of the theories presented don’t address peoples constitutions- I see a large amount of people into paleo/gym memberships of similar consitution Ayurveda calls it Pitta. So, clearly there is no defined answer for each individual, we must be conscious of ourselves. In my functioning a meal with grains here and there seems to be helpful. So, is there something I am missing with this fat thing? To be specific, I associate low stomach acid levels with this- acid reflux. My comment is complex, but so is the matter at hand- for all people. Any direction for clarity?

      Joshua wrote on August 17th, 2015
  11. Thank you for this post!!., and you covered the frequently asked questions and I for one have been criticized numerous times about my high-fat diet and it really makes me sad but I never considered dropping the diet even if it was the case., I am just happy that I will be able to answer them better and a bonus would be this:they’ll be eating their own words., haha., :) thank you Mark!!., 😀

    Shaira Hernandez wrote on January 11th, 2015
  12. Great blog!

    My body seems to function better on a high fat/low carb diet, and throughout the day I feel more balanced and relaxed.

    Love to cook delicious ground beef in full fat grass fed butter, onions, mushrooms and then drizzle the butter that over some asparagus, broccoli and green beans..full of satiety. Yum!

    Colin Booth wrote on July 29th, 2015
  13. My sister is a Cancer patient and someone referred to her eating a high fat low carb, low protein diet but if this makes her lose weight and still have any sugars I’m concerned, I’ve been told she’s not suppose to have any sugars and also read so many opinions, some saying everything we eat turns into a sugar. Don’t understand that. She’s very Thin and I don’t want her to lose any weight. Thankyou so much Any suggestions for a Cancer diet?

    Brenda Fenn wrote on November 22nd, 2015
  14. ^Loser^

    Eric wrote on June 18th, 2012
  15. ^Another victim of public schools^

    Eric wrote on June 18th, 2012

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2015 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!