How A High Fat Diet Makes you Diabetic

July 26, 2020

 Lose weight, eat fat! Go Keto! All the admonitions to eat fat so that you can lose weight. Is it real? What is the underlying premise and how does that all work? And is there a dark under-belly of problems? Well yes. Let's explain so that you understand the nuance.

First of all, losing weight is incredibly important for general health. In fact, in the short term, if you can muscle your way through any diet that gives you discipline, losing weight trumps every concern in this newsletter if you can keep it off. It is one of the main pillars of longevity: getting your BMI below 25. Ok, that said....

First, why is fat important in a weight loss diet? Fat doesn't turn on insulin. Fat is insulin neutral. Hence, when you eat fat, you feel sated and full. When you eat high glycemic carbs like bread, flour, sugar, rice, corn, or TOO MUCH protein, you turn on insulin which makes you store calories aka, weight gain. Everyone knows that foods that generate free carbohydrates quickly make you gain weight. Fats don't do that. So the first takeaway is that high glycemic foods will make you gain weight. The second is that too much-concentrated protein also turns on insulin as any extra protein gets turned into glucose, and then turns on insulin.....and you gain weight. (Get it? Insulin is the enemy).

The second key principle is that the nature of the fat you eat matters. Saturated animal fat (bacon fat, steak fat, animal fat) is the fat animals make when they eat too many carbs. Just like you. Force feed animals corn and beans instead of grass and they put on weight, just like you. They weigh more so the farmer gets paid more. You like that fat because it makes your steak taste juicy. And animal protein drives up TMAO, the chemical most closely associated with developing coronary artery disease.

A third critical principle is the magic nature of green vegetables. Above-ground vegetables like broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard, cauliflower..... is that they are secret fats in disguise. They get turned into BHB by the bacteria in your colon. When you eat a salad with olive oil, you are eating the fatty molecules in olive oil and your gut is changing the cell wells of the lettuce or other green vegetables into BHB in your gut. Neither affects insulin. That little magic trick might be the best takeaway from this blog for you. No effect on insulin by non-root vegetables (note: this does not include peas and beans).

Unsaturated fats break down easily to beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), the short tiny fatty acid that is the same fatty acid you make when you lose weight. The sequence is as follows. When your insulin level gets low enough, your fat cells open up and share their saved fats which get chopped up into BHB. That's called weight loss. Your mitochondria love BHB. In fact, it is one of the most conserved metabolic pathways in nature. You want to teach your body to run on BHB. It's good for your brain, your heart, your muscles your longevity. Olive oil and nut oils are champion precursors to BHB. Coconut oil is a combination of shorter saturated fats that can only be made into BHB. To lose weight, you must generate BHB and that happens ONLY when you have very low insulin.

But what's the real problem with saturated fat? That's the title of this blog. Get to the point! Ah, here is the most important takeaway today. Saturated fat has its own hidden secret. It is inflammatory. Here is the deep dive. Protein Kinase C-epsilon (PKC-e), is an enzyme that inhibits insulin action when it is activated. It puts a tag on the insulin receptor and makes it inactive. You need higher insulin. You become diabetic. That, by the way, is the definition of insulin resistance. For the last several years, it was thought that PKC-e was located in your liver. Not! It's in your fat tissue all over your body, most particularly, your gut. When PKC-e is turned on, your fat cells get big, engorged, and spew out inflammatory cytokines. They make your whole body inflamed. But what we really now see is there is a straight path from eating saturated fat to inflammation, insulin resistance, and diabetes. That pathway goes right through your fat cells and PKC-e. Once you are insulin resistant, you continue to have high insulin all the time and that makes you stay fat. Voila. A perfect trap you can only wiggle out of with careful attention to detail.

And if you simplify that and "reverse engineer it", that is the perfect way out of diabetes. Follow this. Stop eating high saturated fat food (animals fed on grains, eggs from chickens fed grains, milk, and cheese from cows fed grains) and high glycemic foods (potatoes, rice, bread, wheat, oats, corn, beans). Cut down on too much protein. Consider 6 oz a day as sufficient protein. Eat lots and lots of above-ground vegetables, olive oil, macadamia oil, avocado oil and coconut oils (A wee bit controversial but I think I'm right. The Kitavan study shows folks who eat no grains, smoke like chimneys and get 50-70% of their calories from coconut oil, and have no heart disease). Doesn't that sound like the Mediterranean diet? Yup!

WWW: What will work for me. I'm so eager for the farmer's markets to start working in these COVID times. I know, we have to keep our distance and wear masks, but I really want some farm-raised, organic vegetables. Some of our farmers will take orders you can pick up at the Farmer's market and spend less time being in the crowd. And we are cutting down our meat consumption and spreading out our cooking it. Tonight, pizza on the deck with friends, made with veges on cauliflower crusts, untouched by anyone in personal pizzas, and all of us 8 feet apart.

Pop Quiz

1. What foods turn on insulin? Answer: any carbohydrate product that has been processed by grinding such as wheat flour, or rices with their hulls removed, oats that are crushed, and any portion of animal protein that exceeds your metabolic need for protein. We eat about 3 times too much as a general rule.

2. What foods fail to turn on insulin? Answer: Fat. Two kinds of fat. The first kind looks like a fat, smells like fat, tastes like fat, must be fat. The second kind is the secret kind. Green vegetables that are digested in your gut to make beta-hydroxybutyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that is counted as a fat. (See Gorilla Diet: all green leaves but ends up being 60% beta-hydroxybutyrate - magic trick in your colon turning cell walls into fatty acids.)

3.  What fats are safe for you?   Answer: the ones that don't turn on PKCe, unsaturated fats.

4.  And just what does PKCe do?    Answer: Ah! Here is the rub.  It makes fat cells sickly, too big, inflamed and they proceed to spew out inflammatory cytokines that mess every part of your body up.  It's the slippery slope of diabetes.  

5.  What on earth can I eat?   Answer: eat like a gorilla.  Lots and lots of green, leafy vegetables that includes all the broccoli, cauliflower, avocado, spinach, Swiss chard....if it grows above ground, it's probably ok if you aren't sensitive to lectins, and it's not a legume or a grain.  Those who can tolerate lectins or who cook their legumes enough can tolerate and eat them.  And all the olive oil you want, all the safe nuts you want.  (Put cashews and peanuts last and choose almonds, walnuts, pistachios, macadamias first.)

References:  Diabetes, Medical News Today, Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Health Letter-Good Fats, NIH-Research Matter, Am Jr Physiology, Frontier Nutrition,  Cell Metabolism, Jr Nutrition