Health Myths Debunked: Does Eating Fat Make You Fat?
Fat makes you fat.
The world’s fat-phobia started years ago when the infamous Ancel Keys published epidemiological data linking fat-consumption to heart disease. While this type of data doesn’t prove cause and effect, markets were swarmed with low-fat, fat-free, and 0% fat products in the 80s and 90s. These items were marketed as “diet” products and promoted as being helpful at helping people lose weight. Over time, society grew fearful of fat, and people started to believe the notion that eating will make you fact.
Although it’s not intuitive, carbohydrates, protein, and fat can all be stored as fat. Even though fat is more calorie-dense than carbohydrates and protein, studies show that low-fat diets actually don’t produce any more weight loss than other types of diets. There is also evidence that low carbohydrate (read: “high-fat”) diets may actually be more beneficial than low-fat diets for weight loss, when healthy sources of fat are included.
Ironically enough, at the same time low-fat “diet” products started to floor the shelves, people started getting heavier. While the jury’s still out as to whether there is any link between the two, some people have proposed that the sugar that started being added to foods when fat was removed is to blame for the rise in obesity.
The Bottom Line
Since all excess calories can be stored as fat, too much of any macronutrient (carbohydrates, protein, or yes, fat) can make you “fat.” While you should be mindful of the energy density of fats, which pack over twice the calories per gram as protein or carbohydrates, there is no reason to steer clear of this nutrient. In fact, fat is essential in so many bodily processes, including the absorption of many vitamins, the production of important hormones, and brain function. Nevertheless, there is nothing special about fats per se that cause it to be stored as fat more readily.
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