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Can Eating More Fat Make You Leaner?

sharma-obesity-visceral-fat-mriYes, if the excess fat is poly-unsaturated – no, if it is saturated.

At least this was the finding in an overfeeding study conducted by Fredrik Rosqvist and colleagues from the Uppsala University, Sweden, published in DIABETES.

The study with the memorable acronym LIPOGAIN, was a double-blind, parallel-group, randomized trial involving 39 young normal-weight individuals who were overfed muffins either high in saturated fats (palm oil) or in n-6 poly-unsaturated fats (sunflower oil) for seven weeks.

The number of muffins that each subject had to consume were individually adjusted to ensure that each subject increased their body weight by about 1.5 Kg (or 3%). To achieve this, the subjects consumed on average three muffins or about an extra 750 kcals/day.

However, where the excess calories went was quite different.

While the subjects eating saturated fat markedly increased their liver fat and gained almost twice as much visceral fat as those in the poly-unsaturated fat group, the latter experienced a nearly three-fold larger increase in lean tissue than the saturated fat group.

The two diets also had quite different effects on the expression of genes regulating energy dissipation, insulin resistance, body composition and fat cell differentiation in subcutaneous fat tissue.

Thus, the authors conclude that while overeating saturated fat promotes liver and visceral fat storage, the excess energy from poly-unsaturated fat may instead promote the growth of lean tissue.

What I learnt from this study is that there are indeed important differences in how the body handles excess calories depending on where they come from.

In that respect at least, not all calories are equal.

Edmonton, AB

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ResearchBlogging.orgRosqvist F, Iggman D, Kullberg J, Jonathan Cedernaes J, Johansson HE, Larsson A, Johansson L, Ahlström H, Arner P, Dahlman I, & Risérus U (2014). Overfeeding Polyunsaturated and Saturated Fat Causes Distinct Effects on Liver and Visceral Fat Accumulation in Humans. Diabetes PMID: 24550191



  1. There’s a difference between eating more saturated fat and eating a higher percentage of saturated fat, especially when saturated fats are consumed in in conjunction with carbohydrates. The body makes palmitic acid from carbohydrates. Consequently, consuming high levels of palmitic acid plus carbohydrate boosts serum palmitic acid to dangerously high levels. Experimentally, high serum palmitic acid is strongly associated with inflammatory markers.

    So yes, under such stressful conditions one might reasonably expect lean tissue building activity to be curtailed.

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  2. ??? Why use omega 6 oil.

    It is well known too much omega 6 will eat up the beneficial omega 3

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  3. I’m looking forward to the comments on this post, because several questions come to mind immediately. First, is saturated fat from refined oil the same as saturated fat in meat and dairy, for example, especially if that meat is in a “natural state,” not refined away from its original components. I know the Paleo folks and Nourishing Traditions folks maintain that makes a lot of difference. I assume those muffins were made with refined grain and sugar, too, and that might have something to do with it as well. I would love to see further studies with nuts, with different kinds of fats in their “whole foods” state, etc. I also look forward to the science geek types helping explain the flaws in the study.

    Thank you for sharing!

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  4. Yah sure. Muffins are about 75% acellular carbohydrates, and 25% fat. Muffins made with coconut fat require less fat, and I expect palm oil is the same. So what this study really shows is added acellular carbohydrate causes weight gain. Duh.

    What was the effect on their AM fasting insulin level?

    If you want to see the effect of fat, try drinking a few drops of oil, (cold pressed canola oil, or coconut oil) not a high O6 oil, in tea when you get hungry. Hunger goes, aka shangri la diet.

    What this study probably shows is if you want to lose weight, quit eating muffins. Stop desiring and consuming any type of acellular carbohydrates in any form, and weight loss comes.

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  5. A most interesting study, although not sure why it was done that way, what way you ask? Why not just do a study that adds the two types of fat to a so called “normal” nutritional diet to get the percent of the macronutrient up and increase body weight that way?

    Personally, I have been consuming 20% of my calories with protein (mainly from fish, seafood, chicken and eggs, little from 4 legged animals), 20% with carbohydrates (mostly from vegetables, minimal fruit, dates and raisins, dark chocolate) and the remaining 60% from fat, mostly olive oil, fish oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds.

    I have lost over 40 pounds, maintained since November 1st, 2013 and my physical fitness level is through the roof. My Framingham Score went from 7.9% in Nov/12 to 4.7% Nov/13.

    Today, I basically get my energy from fat, not carbohydrates. My focus, energy level, concentration and mood are consistently above average for me. I have lost plenty of fat and kept my lean muscle. I feel great!

    I know that this macronutrient makeup is not normal, but I ask, is it normal to go on a low fat diet with plenty of fiber, whole grains, chicken, fish, eating egg whites only, lots of fruits and vegetables, no fast food and having an above average physically active lifestyle for decades and still be overweight/obese (BMI = 32) with a Framingham Score of 7.9%?

    One more thing I find curious, we have identified essential amino acids and essential fatty acids that the body requires and does not produce, however, there is no essential glucose (or carbohydrate equivalent?) So, why have we been told to eat a diet made up of a moderate level protein, higher level of carbohydrate and low level of fat, what is the rational behind this?

    Thank you for the opportunity to share my story, much appreciated.

    Now, I will just sit back and pay attention.

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