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THE FAT DEBATE: PART 1

THE FAT DEBATE: PART 1

Can you eat fat, build muscles and yet still lose weight without feeling hungry?

Virtually all weight watchers and guiders rest on the notion that ‘a calorie is a calorie’ – a strategy with an appealing simplicity. “Eat less and move on”, they say. “Consume fewer calories than you burn and you will lose weight.” One small problem guys, this advice doesn’t work long term.

If all calories were the same, then there would be no ‘bad foods’!

It seems to make sense: if you don’t want fat on your body, don’t put fat into your body. Fat has 9 calories per gram compared to just 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates or protein. So, in 1970s, prominent nutrition experts began recommending that everyone follow a low-fat diet, with the belief that eating less fat will prevent obesity. Unfortunately, this experiment didn’t turn out well. In 1960s, Americans ate more than 40% of calories as fat. Today, fat intake approaches less than 30%, but rates of obesity have hit the roof. This probably isn’t coincidental, don’t you think?

Cutting calories reverses the weight gain temporarily, but inevitably increases hunger and slows metabolism even more. This is also called the starvation response.

Just as food is much more than just calories and nutrients necessary to thrive, so are the fat cells much more than some storage dumps for excess calories. Fat cells take in or release calories only when instructed to by external signals (insulin). Technically, too much insulin causes weight gain; and too little makes you, Skinny Pete.

One of the many substances produced in the body or contained in our diet that directly affect fat cell behavior, is Insulin. Insulin, made in the pancreas, in known to lower bloody sugar. But insulin’s actions extend well beyond blood sugar control, to how all the calories flow in our body.

Soon after the start of a meal, insulin levels rise, directing incoming calories- glucose from carbohydrate, amino acids from protein and free fatty acids from the fat in our diet- into body tissues for utilization or storage.

So let me bluntly throw this out there, ‘Overeating doesn’t make us fat. The process of becoming fat makes us overeat. How? I’m glad you asked!

The fact is that insulin is a one-way escort. Insulin ushers calories into fat cells, but restricts their passage out. Consequently, the body starts to run out of accessible fuel (in some people faster than others). When this happens, the brain registers a code-red. This ‘Code-Red’ is read as rising hunger. Here, processed carbs act the fastest. The brain exploits this fact, making us crave for starchy & sugary foods more than anything else.

What would you rather engulf when your blood sugar is dropping: a bowl of fruit, a tall glass of milk, a large chicken breast or a warm cinnabon? (Each with the same number of calories).

Yes, I chose it too.

So, if too much insulin stimulates fat cells to increase in size and numbers, what stimulates the pancreas to produce too much insulin? Carbohydrates, specifically sugar and the highly processed starches that quickly digest to sugars. Basically, any packaged ‘low fat’ foods – made from refined grains, potato products or concentrated sugar that has conveniently snuck into our diet as we focused on eating low-fat foods.

We can do this by changing what we eat, not how much we eat.

This Fat Debate will continue with more insights on types of fats, pros and cons, which process of fat extraction keeps the goodies in fat, good, the insulin index and more soon!

 

Ishita Biswas

Nutritionist

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