How eating the right fat can make you slimmer
Low-fat diets have encouraged people to consume processed, high-carbohydrate diets that play havoc on the body’s blood sugar system and may lead to obesity and diabetes.
Low-fat diet = high-starch diet = sugar
Not only is there a misguided belief that fat is unhealthy because it contains too many calories resulting in weight gain, but also that saturated fat is bad for you because it causes heart attacks and disease. This has led many people to eat low-fat diets.
To replace fat, people began eating more starch. Often this starch wasn’t healthy whole grains or complex carbohydrates like root vegetables, but rather processed flours and grains like white bread and rice, which our bodies react to as though they were eating straight sugar. In addition, manufacturers began adding actual sugar to food to compensate for the absence of taste due to the absence of fat.
Blood sugar swings
The problem with eating more carbohydrates is that it raises your blood sugar to abnormally high levels before swinging the other way and dropping to abnormally low levels. When you have insufficient levels of glucose in your blood it’s called low blood sugar or hypoglycaemia.
In order to get quick energy to help you through this crisis, you crave more carbohydrates and sugar. Apart from living this constant blood sugar seesaw, carbohydrates fail to satiate in the way good fats do. This in part because fat is a digestive hormonal trigger and switches off your body's hunger switch called leptin.
Without balanced meals and snacks that are low in complex carbohydrates and include good fat along with protein, your body will encourage you to eat more in search of satiation. This can lead to rapid weight gain.
Balance complex carbs, fats and proteins
You are an individual, but basically your body is designed to use a balance of unrefined carbohydrates mixed with good fats and proteins with carbohydrates acting like kindling, fats like long burning logs and proteins being used as needed. Human bodies were never designed to run mostly on carbohydrates, meaning your body doesn’t have the mechanisms to deal with a constant influx on a regular basis. Genetically, your ancestors never had an emergency need to lower their blood sugar levels. It’s always been the opposite way—historically we’ve needed to increase our blood sugar.
Keeping your blood sugar at normal levels, or in homeostasis, is a balancing act. To do this your pancreas releases insulin, a kind of hormone or signalling mechanism. Insulin increases the uptake of glucose resulting from broken down carbohydrates during the process of digestion. The glucose your body doesn’t need immediately is stored as glycogen in your muscle and liver cells through a process called glycogenesis. If the liver and muscle fibre stores become full, the liver converts the remaining glucose into triglycerides and cholesterol for storage, much of it in unhealthy adipose tissue. Importantly, insulin also reduces the breakdown and mobilisation of fat from your fat tissue, so eating too many carbohydrates hinders this process.
The adrenal glands play a key role in regulating your blood sugar too. When we need quick energy they release the emergency hormones cortisol and epinephrine, or possibly even adrenaline, which tell your body to break down muscles and fat as well as release fat and protein into the bloodstream. This process is known as gluconeogenesis. The hormone epinephrine also stimulates the liver to convert glycogen back into glucose (glycogenolysis) for release into the bloodstream.
When you eat a lot of carbohydrates, your body has to constantly work at levelling out blood sugar levels to stop them from swinging from high to low and back again. Over time, the pancreas wears out producing insufficient quantities or quality of insulin, the adrenals go into a state of exhaustion dropping cortisol output, and the liver has difficulty converting glycogen, proteins and fats back into glucose.
Ironically, the body’s demand for glucose way well go unsatisfied too, which is why people who eat plenty of starchy food may resort to stimulants or crave additional carbohydrates for quick energy. In short, these people will need to eat more calories to get the energy they need to function than if they ate healthy fats as part of a balanced diet.
If you’re suffering from this, unless you make dietary and lifestyle changes to transition from a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet to a more balanced one that includes exercise, insulin resistance may be the next step in the process of dysglycemia or blood sugar abnormalities. Insulin resistance occurs when the cells’ receptors become unresponsive and won’t bind with insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels. This first happens in the liver, which is now unable to store the glucose as glycogen. The muscles can’t use this sugar either meaning that glycogenesis (the storage of glucose for later use) has completely failed.
At the same time, the conversion of fats into glucose consumes too much energy when the body is already depleted. Insulin resistance thus begins to hinder the breakdown of fats into energy. In addition, the glucose in the body has to go somewhere so it is stored as fat. Once again, the irony is that people with insulin resistance have low energy because, despite an excess of glucose in the body, their cells can’t create energy or ATP. Sadly, this can result in the vicious cycle of hunger causing people to reach for yet another quick fix of starch.
Glycation and AGEs
An excess of glucose also causes glycation. Glycation is where glucose sticks to proteins in the blood, meaning they can’t be used by the cells for structure or communication either within the cell or among other cells. As a result, the insulin-resistant body once again can’t access stored fat and gluconeogenesis fails. People with insulin resistance therefore not only put on weight but can’t lose it.
Alarmingly, advanced glycation resulting in the cross-linking of sugars with proteins produces Advanced Glycation End products or AGEs. AGEs causes the tissue of the organs, joints, and cell membranes to become hardened with disastrous consequences.
The next step in sugar dysregulation is Type 2 Diabetes where the pancreas eventually loses its ability to produce sufficient amounts of insulin, meaning injections might be given. Type 2 insulin-dependent Diabetes can eventually become hyperglycemia, also called metabolic syndrome, where blood sugar becomes very high, causing a collection of risk factors including heart disease and stroke. Essentially, diabetes is a function of insulin resistance and not a blood sugar problem, with insulin injections typically stimulating even more storage of sugar as body fat.
Ultimately, weight gain is the price you will pay for your body trying to stave off diabetes. Low-fat diets encourage higher carbohydrate consumption, which your body is not designed to cope with. Ultimately, such diets lead to blood sugar dysfunction beginning with hypoglycaemia, insulin resistance, diabetes and then metabolic syndrome. These are often accompanied by obesity because key organs fail and glucose is turned into fat that can’t be lost without making dietary and lifestyle changes.