So there are two defined sides in the diet debate right now. One side says that carbs are the devil and they make you fat and diabetic while the other side says that fat is the anti-christ and is all that is evil in the world. Neither side is right and I will tell you why.
Neither fat alone or carbohydrate alone makes anyone fat or diabetic. There are other issue at play which make me decide which diet I prefer and think is more healthy but we will leave that out of this. All we are talking about today is obesity and diabetes.
All of this is pretty easy to explain just looking at some very basics of human physiology.
How is energy processed if we only eat carbs?
- Carbohydrate is broken down into glucose primarily and using insulin it is pushed into cells.
- It is converted to pruvate which is then converted to AcetylCoA which is the input for the Krebs cycle which makes ATP (cellular energy) and high energy electrons of NADH which are fed into the mitochondria to fuel the Electron Transport Chain. This makes even more ATP for fueling the body.
- Whatever glucose we can’t use for energy is converted to glycogen and stored in the liver and the muscle. If we happen to exceed that storage the glucose will get converted to fat for storage in fat.
Now lets look at this for the average woman pretending she only eats carbs.
Now this is a normal woman with no metabolic conditions. Let us not just assume we are talking about any woman here.
Lets give this woman a weight of 150lbs with an average amount of lean mass being 112lbs. She works out an average of 3 times per week.
Someone this size can store about 1,000 calories worth of carbohydrate in the muscles and liver as glycogen. That is not going to fat. She also has a resting metabolic rate of approximately 1,500 calories and a Total Daily Energy expenditure of about 2,200 cals. What does that mean exactly to this carb only eating woman?
Lets just look at resting metabolic rate for fun. She will use 1500 calories just to stay alive in a day. She also has approximately 1,500 calories worth of storage in her muscles and liver. That means that she will have to consume at least 2,500 calories worth of only carbs before she will start actually storing any as fat. That is alot of food to get in 2500 calories worth of carbs only. It is hard to do. I’ve tried. With no fat to eat with carbs it is not very pleasant and there is too much fibre to do it easily.
Now what happens if she consumes fat with this?
Since the carbs require lots of insulin, any fat you eat with this will be sent directly to storage and it will not be used until all of the carb energy you are eating is used. It is meal based as well so it would look like this:
- Meal is eaten with fat and carbs.
- Fat is stored while carbs are used for energy.
- If energy need is met and there are carbs left over then leftover carbs are sent to muscles and liver for storage.
- Once insulin comes down fat will start to be used but not solely fat. The body will draw on some glycogen as well from the muscles all the time but at rest more fat will be used. Still, there is always a mix.
All of this is fine so long as you use up all that fat you ate for the last meal before the next meal. If you don’t happen to use it all before you eat again then the same process repeats and you just add more fat and more glycogen to the storage pools. This is what happens on most peoples diets. Carbs and fat are too high for energy needs in a meal so they store fat and use glucose. They then eat again before they have a chance to use all the fat that they stored at the last meal. They keep adding to the pot of both glycogen and fat at every meal. Eventually the glycogen stores are full at every meal and the only storage they have left is fat. This is the start of obesity.
Now lets look further down the road at when Diabetes starts.
You are eating a meal of mixed fat and carbohydrate before you use up your stored fat and glycogen. You are constantly adding to fat stores and are starting to gain weight. Everyone is different in the amount of fat they can store genetically. This is why some people seem to stay lean no matter what they eat. We hate those people. The thing here is, they are not lucky. There is something called “Personal Fat Threshold”. This is a persons genetic ability to create new fat cells or to grow the ones they have. Personal fat threshold dictates how much extra dietary fat or carbohydrate will be able to get stored in adipose tissue. Once someone exceeds this limit is when the trouble starts. That is when fat starts to accumulate in the organs and especially the liver. Once this happens they are well on their way to diabetes. Once we reach our personal fat threshold this also means our metabolic ability to handle energy is now dramatically diminished. We no longer can handle our 1,000 cals of carbs for storage because that is full. We can now only handle the 1500 calories of our basal metabolic rate. That is bad news already since this woman is already exceeding that level enough to overfill all storage already. She will now start accelerating fat gain.
Once the personal fat threshold is hit, the cells start developing a resistance to having more glucose or fat pushed into them. This means the energy we consume in excess of what we can use is staying in the blood. This is very dangerous to the body. The initial response is to increase inulin output to deal with the high blood glucose and fat levels. This is when you see people with high blood sugar and high blood triglyceride. No place for either to go so they sit in the blood.
Now the increased insulin will actually force creation of new fat cells despite the fact that we have hit the personal fat threshold. This can be seen dramatically in people that inject insulin. If they inject in the same spot too often they will start seeing fatty lumps grow in the area only. This will keep the person gaining weight and keep the disease from progressing for some time. It keeps going like this until the body stops being able to make insulin fast enough to create new fat cells. This means the blood sugar and trigs start climbing again. This is the point where their doctor prescribes insulin. The added insulin will then promote the further growth of more fat cells which again gets the blood sugar levels down. Eventually the pancreas burns out and they can no longer produce their own insulin. They are then going to need far more insulin to compensate and are considered insulin dependant. This is bad news. This is pretty much end stage Type2 Diabetes and they will have to be on insulin for the rest of their lives.
This is the progression of Type 2 diabetes and what happens if you eat carbs and fat together in the wrong amounts. Now this being said, if you can somehow manage to keep your energy intake precisely low enough that you can use up all the glucose you consume and use up all the fat you stored before the next day of eating starts again, you can control your weight. It can be done but as we all know that is not easy.
Now lets look at what happens when you just eat fat.
When you only eat fat, fat will go into storage. Just like it does with the carb and fat meals. This is true. The difference is, you don’t have carbs to use first so the fat might go into storage but it is a revolving door. It comes out just as fast as it goes. .
- You eat fat and it goes to storage.
- Since fat has very little insulin response the storage doors remain more open.
- Fat is broken down to AcetylCoA, which we said was the fuel for the Kreb’s cycle that creates ATP (energy) and high energy electrons that feed into the mitochondria and the Electron Transport Chain to produce more ATP.
- If there is extra fat than what is needed for energy, since there is no insulin present it can’t be pushed back into cells for storage so it gets converted to ketones.
- Ketones have an additional storage in the blood which does not cause weight gain and they can also be wasted in urine and breath.
So that is neat. We can actually sore ketones and waste them. So if we have excess fat energy we can actually waste it unlike glucose that must be stored. Now ketone levels can get to a point where the body will stimulate an insulin response but that is very high and from my experience it is hard to get there. The insulin response will stop fat from coming out of storage and force your body to use exclusively ketones which will lower the ketones to a safe range. Not really a big problem and again this is rare to see anyone reach these levels.
Now if you start adding carbs to this high fat meal the same things as we discussed above will happen. The fat will be stored while the carbs are dealt with and if you don’t manage to use all the fat that went into storage before your next meal the weight will climb and the same metabolically damaging process will occur.
So we can see now why carbs nor fat in isolation is the cause of obesity or Type 2 Diabetes.
I have proved this several times my self by eating only fruit for a period of time. I don’t gain weight and I often lose. Now that won’t be the case for everyone. People that are very insulin resistant already will not lose weight like this because their insulin levels will just remain too high for too long from the fruit to allow any fat to be used from storage. But if someone is metabolically normal, they can eat very high levels of carbohydrate and not get fat or diabetic. They just have to remain below that threshold of energy intake that they can adequately use up all the fat they store at meal time before the next meal. It is just much harder than not eating carbs at all and more fat. 🙂
I hope that all makes sense. Here is a link to a test I did on eating all fruit for two weeks. It discusses same thing a bit more along with some of the negative side effects I saw from eating high carb.
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