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!

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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. Maybe not the right place to ask, but I’m curious and Google isn’t helping.

    I’m currently on a diet of necessity (ie few dollars/week for food). I’ve been doing two servings steel-cut oats, tbsp butter, 2 tbsp oo/canola/soya oil blend, 2-4 oz real cocanut milk, 1 cup milk. Gets me through most of the day.

    What am I doing to my body? Specifically please, or point me in the right direction.

    Thanks in advance :)

    Elijah Beale wrote on August 20th, 2012
  2. I was wondering what category you would put quinoa in? From what I’m given to understand quinoa is not a grain but a vegetable loaded with nutrition. The same for Amaranth.

    Michelle Illiatovitch wrote on August 29th, 2012
  3. Ok, my roomate says you can’t drink alcohol on an Atkins-type diet, BECAUSE the high fat content of that diet is bad for your liver. And carbs, in contrast, are good for your liver because they help it to repair itself.

    WTF?!! So, I would really like to clarify this.

    Can anybody tell me, is a high-fat diet “bad” for your liver? And, are the so-called “good” carbs–sour fruits and lemons were her examples–good for the liver because they help it to repair itself?

    Baby C wrote on September 23rd, 2012
    • I can’t find any studies indicating/proving that fat damages liver. Nor any studies that they don’t.

      In order for our body to repair effectively we need protein, (amino-acids for cell production) a variety of vitamins and minerals and water.

      If you REALLY want your answer, you need to find out what fats/protein you’re eating. Then you need to identify what acids, amino-acids and other bits-and-bobs it breaks down into. Unfortunately, there’s not much about it on the internet. Here’s a good place to start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatty_acid

      James Webb wrote on June 3rd, 2013
  4. Hi,
    Intrigued by this article, really well written.
    I am currently on day two of my restricted carb diet, which means for fat and protein to make up the remainder of my daily caloric intake. I have ulcerative colitis, a bowel disease and for the past 8 months been bodybuilding and running.
    I have been following the low FODMAP diet for 2/3 years but after a recent flare up I had to re-assess my diet as it seemed like the carbs was preventing me from getting better.
    I am on day two of my new diet, which is a hybrid of the SCD and low FODMAP diet. All restrictions from both diet are in place,so I will have to go through elimination process.

    Anyhow, back to the point. 41% of my calories come from fat, 41% from protein and 18% from carbs (99grams). My symptoms have improved in two days and I do feel more energetic, I also improved my lifting at the gym as I managed to dead lift 140kg for 4 reps when normally 2 reps was my limit (I weight 59kg).

    Looking forward to reading more of your articles.

    Spike Rahman wrote on October 16th, 2012
  5. Have been doing paleo/primal now for about six weeks. The hardest thing for me is incorporating more animal fat into my diet, since – like many others – I was brainwashed with the ‘fat is bad’ notion. The idea of eating the fat on my steak or chops, chicken/ turkey skin makes me feel sick. How to get around this so that I can benefit fully from paleo/primal eating?

    heidifromoz wrote on October 20th, 2012
  6. Dear Mark, have you ever thought about eating fat alone. For example, sometimes when i am outside home, instead of eating for lunch the common, i go to the groceries and buy 100g of butter. What are your thoughts?

    Omar wrote on November 5th, 2012
  7. I am starting out on a LCHF diet but am getting confused with health risks after reading this blog post and comments I think ok I will keep going, but then I see this http://lifebyevian.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/why-im-now-against-lchf-read-this.html can anyone who is better versed and read in regard to the diet and studies undertaken tell me thoughts on this article as its getting confusing :(

    Stuart wrote on December 8th, 2012
    • Hey Stuart, it is very confusing because there are genetics and so many other variables. There is no one size fits all diet as these guys would like you to believe. Some people do better low fat, some low carb and some need a combo. The website trackyourplaque has info on these variables. You need to find out what works for you personally. Check your cholesterol to see how these diets affect you.

      SteveK wrote on December 10th, 2012
  8. IDK about this “diet”. what I do know is since being on it for over a year, my daughter has developed cancer and heart disease and now will need a pacemaker for the rest of her life! She’s not even 21 yet! What expertise do you really have?! none I suspect!

    Andy wrote on January 26th, 2013
    • Come on, man. Are you going to ignore all the heart disease associated with modern diets and ignore all the evidence presented? Ignore all the testimonies of people that have eliminated cardiovascular problems after making the switch to this natural diet?

      And you can’t associate cancer with the diet. Carcinogens in food are produced during cooking. Your daughter should have been eating high quality wild meat, uncooked. If that’s not feasible, if it’s not feasible to eat a natural diet, then society has failed you, and everyone else.

      Plus you don’t know how strictly your daughter followed this. She could have had no self control and binged every other day for all you know.

      Humans reached their evolutionary peak before society and agriculture. We are becoming an increasingly stupid animal, focusing on equality for everyone instead of letting the strong and smart excel. It’s not inhumane, it’s nature.

      Stop researching and turning everything into a science people. If eating required scientific research and structure, no animal would be healthy. Eat a natural diet when your hungry.

      Lance wrote on January 26th, 2013
    • What studies do you have to back up the claim that this diet induces cancer? I would be interested to read about it/them.

      James Webb wrote on June 3rd, 2013
  9. I was reading the following at web md “Low-carb diets can cause the body to go into a dangerous metabolic state called ketosis since your body burns fat instead of glucose for energy. During ketosis, the body forms substances known as ketones, which can cause organs to fail and result in gout, kidney stones, or kidney failure. Ketones can also dull a person’s appetite, cause nausea and bad breath. Ketosis can be prevented by eating at least 100 grams of carbohydrates a day.” I just started eating a primal based diet this week and want to make sure I am not harming my body. I am also reading your book 21 day total body transformation. I am 47, play ice hockey 3 times a week and am in relatively good shape. I think I should have more energy overall though. That’s why I am trying your plan. Just want to get some feedback.

    Thanks,
    Brett

    Brett wrote on February 6th, 2013
  10. Hi Brett,

    You will be fine, this is not only safe, but extremely healthy and effective. People get comfused about a problem type one diabetics get called keto acidosis. That is a medical problem. Going into ketosis is normal and completely different. Just take it easy for a few days as sometimes adjusting to your new fuel source can make you feel tired. Maybe search this site for “low carb flu” for some pointers and reassurance. Welcome!

    Cavecanem wrote on February 6th, 2013
  11. All you fat white chicks needs to stop eatin them oreos and get a “f”ing treadmile. no one asked you to be 400 Lbs. i mean come on, benn and jerry arent actulluy your friend

    Rucka Rucka Ali wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  12. You are so cool!!!!!!!!

    Hannah wrote on February 23rd, 2013
  13. Thank you for this article! I always battle with myself and my friends when I decide to drop carbs for 2 weeks and stick to protein and high fats. I always loose fat, and feel great but was worried that I was harming my body. I’m glad to know that fat/protein focused diet is not bad and actually extremely beneficial in loosing fat and not just weight.

    Tekoa wrote on March 26th, 2013
  14. I’m trying to find tips on how to raise the level of responses without any help blog site, precisely how would you flourish in achieving this?

    learn how to cope with cancer wrote on April 9th, 2013
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  16. I’m 50 & I went from 208 Lbs to 179 in 6 months on primal.
    This is the easiest “diet” that I could imagine.
    I eat like a king, feel totally satisfied & look much better as well.
    Anyone who tries the “low fat” nonsense & thinks they can maintain it is crazy.
    I shall never go back to what I ate.

    Dave wrote on May 13th, 2013
  17. I’ve been on the 4 Hour Body slow-carb diet for a total of 4 weeks. It’s the same as Low-carb dets with high protein and fat, but you have a cheat day to spike metabolic rate. (I find it unnecessary)

    After my week of illness (rare for me) I felt fine. This week I’ve been feeling as energetic as ever. I can easily do an hour of push ups, pull ups and squats, and I am seeing great improvements in speed and endurance training.

    Also, just more evidence: http://www.colinmcnulty.com/blog/2011/11/22/a-calorie-is-not-a-calorie-is-not-a-calorie/

    50 years ago. We’ve known this for 50 years.

    James Webb wrote on May 28th, 2013
  18. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it only the English language that uses the same word “dietary fat” as referring to someone who is overweight. Other languages have different words for dietary fat and someone who is fat.

    Erin wrote on June 4th, 2013

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