Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat?

To continue with my blog trend topic of food and health, I decided that I wanted to tackle something that is most likely on everyone’s mind with Thanksgiving being right around the corner—weight gain. But what foods actually make you gain weight, and why? Is eating two plates of mashed potatoes and corn just as bad as eating two plates of turkey and ham? Should I just avoid everything at the table because it is too “fattening?” Personally, I don’t want to be stressed this holiday season, especially when it comes to something so enjoyable like food, so I want to explore what foods that have been actually tested have a significant effect on both weight gain and weight loss.

 According to an article on NPR released this past September, a study has been published that adds evidence to the argument that cutting back on carbs, not fat can lead to more weight loss. Researchers from Tulane University conducted a randomized experimental study that tracked two groups of dieters for one year. The 148 participants consisted of men and women, ages ranging from their early 20s to mid-70s, and included a mix of African-Americans and Caucasians. I understood the intention of the testers of trying to get a broad perspective of how these different diets many vary from one another, but I feel as if there could have been more blocking involved in order to gain better clarity of the effects of the diet on different characteristics. For example, testers could have blocked participants by age because as we grow older, our body systems begin to slow including our metabolisms. Also, I thought it was mildly confusing because each group was meant to be the other group’s control (those who decreased their carb intake kept their fat intake the same and vice versa).

The results showed that the low-carb group, which reduced their carb consumption to about 28% of their daily calories, lost almost three times as much weight as the low-fat dieters, who received about 40 to 45% of their calories from carbs. For lunch and dinner, the low-carb dieters ate lots of vegetables, salads and protein, including fish, chicken and some red meat. They had generous portions of healthy fats such as olive oils, canola and other plant-based oils. The low-carb group lost an average of 12 pounds even thought they were taking in the same amount of calories as the low-fat diet. This doesn’t prove that having a diet with a lower carb intake will reduce one’s weight, but it suggest that there is a strong correlation between the two. I found this very insightful because I have heard many arguments claiming that the most important part was the amount of calories that are taken in rather than the ratio of foods that make up one’s caloric intake. This experiment also rules out the possibility of reverse causation since they did not pick up the diet because they lost the weight. There is the possibility that chanced played a part in this experiment, but I highly doubt it due to the nature of the testing.

There is a common misconception that foods that are high in fat will make you fat, which is easy enough to understand. However, according to WebMD, there are two different types of fats that had different effects on the body: saturated and unsaturated. Unsaturated fats, like the ones found in vegetable oils, have been found to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Saturated fats do the exact opposite: raise cholesterol, clog arteries, and increase the risk for heart disease. Both of these mentioned risks are relative since there isn’t established beforehand how likely it is for someone to contract heart disease, since it is also different for everyone due to lifestyle and genetic disposition. Carbs are believed to make us fat because it over stimulates the release of insulin, which directs more calories into storage in fat cells, and provides little nutritional value, making us feel unsatisfied after we are done consuming.

All together, I believe this was a well-done experiment that provided some light to an area that was previously misunderstood. So is it sensible for the common person to change to a low-carb diet? Not necessarily. Each person has a unique metabolism that is affected differently by different foods. People need to consider their own health and lifestyle before taking on a diet change. If you have suffered from chronic health issues regarding weight, this may be something to consider, but if you don’t have any apparent problems with your health or weight this change might not be worth the time and energy necessary.





8 thoughts on “Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat?

  1. Asia Grant Post author


    Thanks for sharing your experience! Just out of curiosity–what were the types of fatty foods you were consuming? Because maybe you have different reactions to different fatty foods. But I do feel the same way–I am completely in love with a huge slice of pizza of a dinner plate full of pasta, however I can rarely avoid the feeling of bloated regret and dismay after I am done eating. Which is completely different from the energized feeling I get from eating either a handful of nuts or a toasted almond salad. There are many factors that go into considering weight gain other than just food, but it is still something important to consider.

  2. Asia Grant Post author

    Ha Young,

    Thanks for the added information! I know that when I eat too much I may feel lethargic and then other times I might feel elated. I try to keep track of how different foods have different effects on my body, but overall I just try not to eat as much all together. It would be interesting if there was a study done on long term effects on emotions in regards to overeating. Maybe people who eat too much lead an extremely happy life because of the wonderful feeling food gives us or maybe there might be a connection to chronic depression–maybe that would be something you would be interested in looking into.

  3. Asia Grant Post author


    Similar to what I said to Alyssa, I completely agree upon the importance of carbs in relationship to athletes. However, carbs do not directly increase muscle mass–you can only build muscle with proteins and amino acids since that is what they are made up with. Carbs are there to aid in the creation of muscle (indirectly). In order to build muscle a lot of energy is expelled and thats where the carbs and sugars play their role. Fats provide a much slower and long term energy source compared to carbs, so they aren’t the first choice. However, that does not discredit potential health benefits of fat.

    People have different preferences regarding lifestyle and how they would like to look. Yes, muscle does weigh more than fat when looking at volume. But everyone is unique and may have different types of body densities overall. I just wanted to clear up the understand for the average person, not the athlete in particular.

  4. Asia Grant Post author


    I can completely sympathize with you–I was a year-round runner and especially during cross country season we would throw huge banquets the days before meets where we would just eat endless amounts of cards. But to address your point on muscle development, you can’t build muscle with carbs–you build it with protein and reinforce their strength with amino-acids. Carbs are sought out by athletes because of the energy that they provide for the high level of work that is done during sports.

    Maybe I wasn’t clear (or maybe you’re still confused on the concept of fat), but it seems that you are talking about the fats that are already synthesized within the body and just become unnecessary energy storage, which is what we see when we are chubby or overweight. THOSE fats are hard to burn because when the body works it first burns sugars (which comes from carbs) and then stored fat (which comes from unused carbs). The fats I am talking about are things like nuts, oils, and the fats found in meat.

    Yes there are things that are different between “good” and “bad” carbs, however you really need to look at how the body uses that potential energy once it is consumed. Check out this website for some more clarification.


  5. Alyssa Marie Gregory

    As an athlete I was always told to stack up on carbs to help with muscle development but now that Im in college and not as active I’ve realized that I don’t need carbs as much as I think I used to. Although I see your point in your blog I am still on the pure fact that carbs are no good for you if you are not active.These carbs store and essentially turn into sugar that eventually turn into fat which isn’t good. It is said that if you don’t burn fat it turns into unwanted fat. Therefore sadly I disagree with your post. But as scientist we must look at both sides. After doing some research I realized that there is such thing as bad and good carbs. If we take a look at this link it will further explain that notion http://diet.lovetoknow.com/wiki/List_of_Good_Carbs_and_Bad_Carbs

  6. Kendall Agosto

    This is a very interesting topic. As an athlete (soccer player) I have always been told to eat a lot of carbs so at this point, I feel like it is basically impossible for me to cut them out of my everyday life. After reading this post, I was interested to learn more about how carbs may effect weight loss and what I found was quite interesting. What I discovered is that carbs help in the process of gaining muscle (which is critical to athletes). Everyone knows that muscle weighs more than fat, so this could be why people on a low carb diet lose weight. If you are on a low carb diet, you may not be losing weight in the way you wished, you may just be losing muscle (which in most cases is what people want to keep or add to) instead of body fat. So as a result of this diet, you may see the number on the scale go down, but unfortunately you won’t see the physical results you were hoping for.


  7. Ha Young Kim

    Great Post!! as many of you are concerned of gaining weight during thanks giving, I found an interesting article that said negative emotions you feel after eating too much food (feeling of guilty)can be an obstacle of weight lose. The consumer report national center has announced that it is very important for us to manage our emotions and behaviors to lose weight because our emotions play center role in weight lose.
    For these reasons, for those who are concerned of weight gain during thanks giving, make sure not to feel negative emotions when eating thanks giving food 🙂


  8. Rebecca Sorensen

    This is a really great topic. I am always concerned about my weight and try to watch what I eat, but my love for carbs always gets in the way. I do find in my own experience that bingeing on carbs can be more damaging than bingeing on typical fatty foods, but I never looked for anything to confirm this. While each person and their bodies and genes are different, I do think that there is some substance behind this study that can show that carbs may actually be the bigger problem when trying to lose weight. This article (http://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/101/nutrition-basics/good-carbs-bad-carbs.aspx) talks more about the differences of good carbs and bad carbs and which ones to avoid. Great post!

Leave a Reply