High-fat diets are still very trendy today.
When I say high-fat diet, I’m talking about the version that is also called a low-carbohydrate diet.
I want to be clear because you can have a diet that is both high in fat and carbohydrates.
But the high-fat, low-carb diet is a huge weight loss trend.
And that’s what we’re talking about today.
Specifically, we’re addressing the question of whether or not this high-fat diet could be a cause of diabetes?
Does fat cause diabetes?
When we’re looking at causes of diabetes, we’re discussing Type-2 Diabetes, or what was called adult-onset diabetes for a long time.
Type-2 diabetes is characterized by two different things.
First, it has insulin resistance which is when the cells stop responding very well to insulin.
The second part of Type-2 Diabetes is the deterioration of the body’s ability to produce insulin.
This decrease comes from damage (or death) to the beta cells inside the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas.
When you combine the death of beta cells with insulin resistance, you end up with Type-2 Diabetes.
But what causes this beta cell death and insulin resistance?
There are plenty of theories out there, most of which focus on eating too much sugar.
But we’ve already shown you how sugar is actually healthy for you and that it does NOT cause diabetes.
Scientists are still reasonably sure that diabetes is caused by diet somehow.
We’re left looking for what foods cause diabetes.
The next most likely culprit to look at is fat.
So, does a high-fat diet cause diabetes?
Let’s investigate with this recent study.
This study had two parts — it was done separately on mice and men.
This makes it a very interesting study because there are many studies done on mice, but it isn’t always clear that humans would have the same reactions.
But this time, we get some confirmation that the nutritional and biochemical results found for mice are the same as for men and women.
In the study, researchers divided everyone into groups.
They had control groups of the mice and of men.
And there was a group of mice and a group of men that were fed a high-fat diet.
They don’t tell us what type of fat they fed the humans in the study, but we do know that the institution’s kitchen made the food.
It’s reasonable to expect that these fatty diets contained what we would see in our own diets — vegetable oil poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).
We do know what the mice ate, though, because we can look it up.
The mice definitely ate a lot of the PUFAs.
So this study really should be called the high PUFA fat study.
PUFAs include omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids which are found in corn oil, soybean oil, and basically in almost all oils except for coconut oil and butter.
And yes, today’s lard is very high in PUFAs also.
So let’s look at what happened when people or mice were on a high-fat diet for any length of time.
First, we need to understand how our cells get energy — there are three ways.
They can live on fat, they can live on sugar, or they can live on sugar with a super high efficient method called oxidative phosphorylation.
Oxidative phosphorylation produces ten times more energy and a lot more carbon dioxide than sugar or fat burning.
Oxidative phosphorylation is the healthy way to energize your body.
As we get older or if we get cancer, our metabolism falls.
Our cells stop producing energy with oxidative phosphorylation, and we only burn sugar or burn fat in the inefficient way.
So how did the fatty diet affect the cells?
This study found that high-fat diets lower oxidative phosphorylation levels in the cells.
This results in lower metabolism and less carbon dioxide being produced.
As the study says, the high-fat diet eventually caused:
dietary-induced obesity and insulin resistance.
Now, the mice reacted much sooner and more extremely, but the result was the same in men.
Both the mice and the men were prone to becoming fatter and more insulin resistant with the high-fat diet.
The mice just got there quicker.
But why did it happen?
Why does a high-fat diet lower this most efficient respiration, oxidative phosphorylation?
One theory is that this diet releases a lot of fatty acids into the blood at once.
Having too many fatty acids in the blood is one quick way producing insulin resistance almost immediately.
This insulin resistance happens because the body stores energy primarily as fat.
When you need energy quickly, the body takes the fat and dumps it into the blood as free fatty acids.
The same happens when you eat these PUFAs — the body needs to focus on the fatty acids.
But it also causes immediate insulin resistance.
Fatty acids decrease insulin signaling.
Don’t blame insulin, though.
Insulin actually increases oxidative phosphorylation.
This high-fat diet causes damage through lowering the efficient form of cellular respiration, oxidative phosphorylation.
But it didn’t cause problems because of higher insulin — in fact, the opposite is true.
So if this flood of PUFAs causes the body to ignore insulin, what happens if you fast?
This study reveals that fasting produces the same types of changes — bad ones.
Both fasting and eating a high-fat diet cause the same issues:
Surprisingly, fasting produces changes that are strikingly similar to the pattern of fat-induced changes observed in our studies.
As the study concludes:
These studies support the novel hypothesis that high-fat diets explain the reduction in oxidative phosphorylation seen in aging, the prediabetic state, and in diabetes.
Nothing with human beings or mice is going to be the whole story.
Every person (or mouse) is very different.
But this is one of many studies which show that high-fat, low-carb diets are quite harmful.
And the damage accumulates in the longer run.
Eating a fatty diet could be a main cause of Type 2 Diabetes.
Fasting is just as damaging.
Neither one should be used very much.