They Don’t Understand Your Healthy, High-Fat Diet

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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. Fat gain requires a caloric excess, and it’s difficult to achieve one going 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. Caloric excess determines fat accumulation, and eating a high-fat, low-carb diet is the easiest way to inadvertently reduce calories 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.”

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