Does eating extra fat make you fat?

Cheese

Does eating extra fat via fat bombs and Bulletproof Coffee make you fat? Here’s the short answer. Yes and no.

If you are slender, then eating fat will not make you fat. If you are obese or overweight then yes, eating more fat will make you fat. Let me explain. The answer, of course, has nothing to do with calories (an entirely outdated and useless concept) and has everything to do with physiology.

FatBombsLet’s back up a bit. Under a ketogenic / Low Carb High Fat diet, people are encouraged to eat the large majority of calories as fat. Generally, they should eat real food, until full. Some people have taken this to mean that they should add extra fat to everything they eat – witness the popularity of ‘Fat Bombs’ – treats or foods with very high fat content or Bulletproof Coffee – coffee with the addition of extra oil (MCT, coconut etc). There has been some people who find this slows down weight loss and others that feel it does not. What’s happening?

Insulin is the major driver of weight gain. When you gain body fat, the body responds by increasing secretion of a hormone called leptin, which tells the body to stop gaining weight. This is a negative feedback loop, designed to prevent us from becoming too fat. This is a survival mechanism because obese animals who cannot move properly will get eaten. This is also one of the reasons why people say “We are genetically programmed to eat everything in front of our face” or “We are programmed to get fat, but food was scarce before” are completely idiotic mistaken. So why doesn’t it work for us?

Insulin and leptin essentially are opposites. One tells the body to store body fat and the other tells it to stop. If we continue to eat fructose, causing insulin resistance and persistently high insulin, then we will also persistently stimulate leptin. Like all hormones, a persistently high hormone level leads to downregulation of hormonal receptors and the development of resistance. So persistently high leptin levels eventually lead to leptin resistance, which is exactly what we see in common obesity. So, lean people are leptin sensitive and obese people are leptin resistant.

The physiology of eating fat

FatBombs2 copyLet’s now think about the physiology of eating dietary fat. Remember there are only two fuels for the body – you either burn sugar or you burn fat. When you eat carbohydrates or excess protein, it goes to the liver, through the portal vein and stimulates insulin, which tells the body to start burning sugar, and store the rest as glycogen or fat.

Dietary fat, on the other hand, does no such thing. It is absorbed in the intestines as chylomicrons, goes through the lymphatic system to the thoracic duct and directly into the systemic blood circulation (not the portal circulation of the liver). From there it goes into the fat cells to be stored. In other words, the fat does not affect the liver, and therefore does not need any help from insulin signaling and goes directly into fat stores.

FatBombs3So, doesn’t that mean that eating fat makes you fat? No, no at all. Let’s take the lean person (leptin sensitive) first. Remember the story of Sam Feltham’s 5000 calories/day experiment? He ate an enormous number of calories per day, and still did not gain weight (53% fat, 10% carb). As you eat lots of fat, it will get stored into fat cells, but insulin does not go up. As fat mass goes up, leptin does as well. Since the lean person is sensitive to leptin, he will stop eating in order to let his body weight go back down. If you force-feed him, as Sam did, the metabolism ramps up to burn off those extra calories.

What happens if an overweight person overeats fat?

Now, the situation for the obese, leptin resistant person. As you eat lots and lots of fat, insulin does not go up. However, that ‘fat bomb’ does indeed go directly into your fat stores. You respond by increasing leptin levels in your blood. But here’s the difference. Your body doesn’t care. It’s resistant to the effects of leptin. So, your metabolism does not go up. Your appetite does not go down. None of the beneficial weight loss effects of eating that ‘fat bomb’ happens. And yes, you will need to eventually burn off that extra fat you’ve taken in.

The practical implication is this. If you are lean and leptin sensitive, then eating more dietary fat, like cheese, will not make you gain weight. However, if you are trying to lose weight, and have some problem with obesity/ insulin/ leptin resistance, then adding extra fat to your meals is NOT a good idea. Once again, you can see that we do not need to go back to that outdated, and useless notion of calories. Obesity is a hormonal, not a caloric, imbalance.

What can you do instead? Well, eating more carbs is not a good idea. Neither is eating more protein. Nor is eating more fat. So, what is left? That’s what we call fasting.

At this point, you might worry about nutrient deficiency. That is why so many people talk about nutrient density. How can you get the maximum nutrients for the minimum calories? This is muddled thinking. Why do I care? Ask yourself this – are you worried about treating obesity or nutrient deficiency? If you choose obesity, then worry about obesity. You don’t need more nutrients, you need less. Less of everything.

If you are instead worried about nutrient deficiency, then treat the nutrient deficiency, but let’s be clear – THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE TREATMENT OF OBESITY. If you are worried about, say, Vitamin C because you have scurvy, then by all means, take foods dense with Vitamin C. But it will not make a bit of difference for the treatment of obesity.

The issue of obesity and the issue of nutrient deficiency are completely different. Do not confuse the two. I treat obesity, not beriberi disease. So I worry about reversing hyperinsulinemia/ insulin resistance/ leptin resistance. If you are leptin resistant, then no, adding more fat does not make you lose weight.

Fat bombs, for you, are not a good idea.


Jason Fung

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57 Comments

Top Comments

  1. John C.
    Folks, I feel like some need to re-read this article or if you haven't read them already, his books. Dr. Fung is speaking in terms of a LCHF/Keto diet which is naturally high fat using real foods. He doesn't say to go low fat.

    You don't need to over-do it on the fat if you have fat to lose. This was his message in The Obesity Code: 1 or 2 TEAspoons of heavy whipping cream in your coffee IF you need it for compliance with fasting. Don't be afraid of eating fat but no need to add BPCs and fat bombs.

    Replies: #18, #26
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  2. Mara C
    How is fasting & not eating extra fat not a low calorie, low fat diet? A year ago, when I first started following this website they said cutting carbs and eating fat would help you lose weight. Now you're saying "oh but if you're fat you need to cut calories by fasting and not add extra fat" which cuts your calories as well. So, low fat/low calorie is really the only solution for those of us who are leptin and insulin resistant. Feels like I've been lied to...
    Replies: #38, #48
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All Comments

  1. Jane
    Just wanted to add that the first time I can across the concept of fat bombs was in the context of people who were stalling on lchf doing a FAT FAST (my emphasis). The idea was that on a fat fast you would eat nearly all of your calories from fat but the total calories would be restricted to 500/600 as it would in some intermittent fasting. I try and only eat fat bombs as a meal replacement (no addition) when time is really a factor.
  2. 2 comments removed
  3. Rose
    The information is confusing. As I am obese, and shouldnt be eating a high fat diet?
    But this what I have been doing for 1 week and it works for me.
    The first 3 days, I had zero carbs. I went into Ketosis. (Old school Dr. Atkins) I then adjusted my macros, so that I only have 10 carbs a day, Again Old School Dr. Atkins, meaning 40 years ago) by doing that I stay in ketosis, dark purple. I do 25 percent protein, and 70 percent fat. On 1200-1400 calories. I do intermitment fasting. At 10am I drink a keto coffee, which does not take you out of fasting!!! Then between 7-10, I eat the rest of my micros. I am obese, I am 63 female, 5'10", was 234 last Sunday, today 226. I know this will not continue as fast, but being in ketosis does indeed burn fat stores. My weight goal is 145. Dr. Atkins plan used to be (and it works) no carbs until you are in ketosis, the 10 for a few weeks, then add 5 a week, as long as you stay in ketosis, never over 100.
    The one think that was not taken into account was caloric count, again old school, if you consume more calories than you need, they will turn to fat, consume less than you need, you will lose weight. And PS if you burn up 500 extra calories, no you cannot eat more. LOL. Good luck everyone. PS. I am never hungry.
  4. gina
    Well explained Kathy. That is my understanding too.
    It would be helpful for people if there was an infographic showing energy resources of the body 'in an order'. We have to make our body to go to the "stored fat" to lose weight and that is only possibleby cutting on carbs and daily fat.
  5. Hg
    Is it necessary to count macros? I've read that one should maintain their fat intake for ketosis, but on this site , it states not to if you're 40 plus.
  6. Hg
    Do you count macros?
  7. Peter Biörck Team Diet Doctor
    We recommend avoiding to much macro counting. Most people will lose weight and get a other health benefits by just counting grams of carb per day and keep them low. :)

    More reading can be found here:
    https://www.dietdoctor.com/how-to-lose-weight

  8. Karen
    Now I’m really confused. You say to avoid too much macro counting and only count carbs. However, elsewhere on the site it says do not eat too much protein and the above article says don’t eat too much fat, if you are fat. I only need to lose 20-30 lbs so I’m not obese. I do get concerned with eating too much fat and your menu items are so high in calories that I’m sure I wouldn’t lose weight as they are more calories than I normally eat on any given day.
  9. marilyn polifroni
    Hi My bad cholesterol is a little high. I am not understanding how eating high fat , bacon , etc etc will not make it go higher . I have been doing IF and keto for 3 months... love it !!! But I am concerned about my Cholesterol... there must be something that I am not understanding. Any help would be appreciated . thanks
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