High Fat Hangover

The short-term consequences of exclusively high fat diets have been given little attention until now.

| Aug 28, 2009

Everyone knows that eating only high fat food is unhealthy way down the road, but we don't really worry that eating a burger will hurt us by next week. Unfortunately, however, it turns out that a high fat diet damages our health (and our brain functioning) a lot sooner than we would like to think. In fact, new research shows that the effects are felt within only ten days. As far as I'm concerned, this was already shown conclusively in the film "Super Size Me," in which director Morgan Spurlock personally examined the effects of fast food on the human body. For one month, he ate only at McDonald's, ordering everything on the menu and "super-sizing" his order whenever asked. Right before our eyes, Spurlock began looking sicker and sicker.

But now Spurlock's experience has been substantiated by new research published online in the FASEB Journal, which shows that within fewer than ten days of eating a high-fat diet, rats had a decreased ability to exercise and experienced significant short-term memory loss. "Western diets are typically high in fat and are associated with long-term complications, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart failure, yet the short-term consequences of such diets have been given relatively little attention," said Andrew Murray, a co-author of the study from the University of Cambridge, in a press release.

The scientists studied rats that were fed a low-fat diet (7.5 percent of calories as fat) and rats that were fed a high-fat diet (55 percent of calories as fat). They found that after only four days, the muscles of the high-fat rats were less able to use oxygen to make the energy needed to exercise, causing their hearts to worker harder-and increase in size. After nine days on a high-fat diet, the rats took longer to complete a maze and made more mistakes in the process than their low-fat-diet counterparts. The researchers examined the rats' muscle cells and discovered increased levels of a protein called uncoupling protein 3, which made them less efficient at using oxygen to make the energy required for running.

So next time you go on a junk food binge, consider not only the effects you'll experience sometime in the vague future, but also how you'll feel and think just one week later.

Note: This research applies to eating high fat exclusively. This is unconnected to diets such as Dr. Richard Bernstein's who advocate a special combination of high protein and quality high fats (such as whole milk, and whole yogurt which, by the way, are lower carb than their low fat cousins). It's quite complicated and easy to get confused when discussing fat content.

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Posted by Feinman on 28 August 2009

Do you see ads for fat-meters on this page?
There are serious studies showing that if carbohydrates are kept low, fat has little effect on metabolism. If you have a glucometer you can prove this for yourself. It's not complicated.
The continued failure of clinical low fat studies in humans has led to increasing numbers of far-out studies in rodents. It is painful to read this article.

Posted by luveggies on 29 August 2009

a very low fat(20 gms/day), low glycemic index diet can improve BG control for some people with type 2 diabetes by reversing intramyocellular insulin resistance. it takes about 21 days of very low fat intake to clear the fatty acids out of the muscle cells and restore insulin sensitivity.
research indicates that EXCESS intake of carbohydrates AND/OR fats will eventually create a "metabolic traffic jam" of both fatty acids and glucose in the blood stream. therefore, to restore insulin sensitivity, cut way back on whichever macronutrient(s) one has been ingesting in EXCESS, in order to consistently keep caloric intake down to one's basic caloric needs.

Posted by Anonymous on 29 August 2009

All wrong!!! Take the carbs out of a high fat diet (including saturated fats) and you get completely different results.

The recommended low-fat diets have NOT reduced heart disease. Not by a long shot.

Posted by Anonymous on 3 September 2009

This story is suspect as is the journal article itself and makes me wonder if the editors at DiabetesHealth have already left for the Labor Day weekend before allowing this type of story to be published.

The attempted disclaimer referring to Dr. Bernstein's diet is weak and makes me wonder if those at DiabetesHealth have read any of his 3 books or any research regarding higher fat diets.

Fat intake/metabolism is indeed a complicated issue which appears to have confused the author of this article as well.

Posted by Anonymous on 4 September 2009

Repeat after me: humans are not rats, humans are not rats... I'd like to see the experiment replicated in dogs. Wouldn't work.

Posted by Anonymous on 4 September 2009

Bernstein does not recommend a "high protein" diet because he knows that protein is converted to glucose. He tells his patients to eat only as much protein as they need to keep from being hungry.

Posted by Anonymous on 4 September 2009

What does this mean: "eating high fat exclusively." If the diet was 55% fat, obviously they weren't eating only fat.

Posted by Gwenn on 4 September 2009

An important piece of information not mentioned here would be the type of fat that was used in this study. Sure a lot of the polyunsaturated vegetable oil variety would wreak havoc on health, whereas a high-monounsaturated/saturated fat diet has been shown to improve cardiac risks. But the overlooked component in the fast food diet in "Super-Size Me" was the extremely high carb content - buns, fries, and sodas, and desserts. This is largely what contributed to Spurlock's ills, combined with the high trans-fat consumption inherent in fast foods.

Posted by Anonymous on 4 September 2009

How does this compare to just a "regular fat" diet? The low-fat diet in their study was extremely low, and the high-fat diet was extremely high. How about comparing it to a regular, healthy, balanced diet????

Posted by cde on 5 September 2009

Certainly, in rats, dogs, or humans, eating a high fat diet is not the same as eating a combined high fat/high CHO diet. In the study cited, the other 45% of the diet were?

Years ago, a great physician and DM educator offered some of his patients with DM who were on a generally low-CHO diet and who were underweight the opportunity to drink/eat one cup of olive oil each day, as a path to gaining weight. Did it work? Absolutely not. No weight gain or mental lethargy reported.

It's the CHO, as Feinman points out. And, at least in my case (DM1, 40 years, Bernstein food plan), eating CHO (as in pigging out on Nutella) is the QUICKEST way to mental lethargy and foggy functioning.

Pigging out on bacon, however, does not lead to the same lethargy or lack of energy. Not scientific study or proof, admittedly, but in my experience, most people with DM will suffer the effects of chronic hyperglycemia, from CHO consumption, far before extra fat in the diet will produce problems of similar magnitude.

Dr. Stan De Loach
México, Distrito Federal

Posted by Anonymous on 6 September 2009

I really shake my head in wonder when I read articles such as this published in a "diabetes" publication. Dont you people understand that until you start informing eveyone why suceptable people fall "victim" to type 2 diabetes ,that is overconsumption of carbohydrates then really nothing will change. I can eat a high fat/protein meal and see my BG rise by 10-15% maximum,yet if I try eating a low fat high carbohydrate meal just watch my BG soar by well over 100%.I just dont understand your continuing total ignorance of the real cause of type 2 diabetes!!!

Posted by Anonymous on 24 December 2010

Curious... There are essential proteins, essential fats, but there are no essential carbohydrates... NONE!!!!

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