Fats and Metabolism


Fats play an important role in weight loss, particularly by making us feel satisfied at the end of a meal.  This is intuitive and empirical.  And, there are a host of interesting concepts that come from the science lab that support the idea of using healthy, saturated fats for weight loss.  Good fats not only boost metabolism, but also immune function, and they assist in the absorption of minerals.

 

Another important concept from the science lab is to eat enough calories to prevent your body from going into “starvation mode.”  The body requires somewhere between 1000-1800 calories a day just to maintain itself.  This minimum level is required for the normal function of the body.  When calorie intake drops below this minimum level, a bell signaling famine goes off, telling the body to hoard calories.  This mechanism seems especially active in women, perhaps as a safety for reproduction.  When this occurs, calorie restriction becomes self-defeating.  A drop in metabolism also means quick weight gain when a person returns to a normal calorie intact.  Good fats help boost metabolism, create satiety, stabilize blood sugar, and help you “stay the course.”

 

Fat facts from the science lab:

  • Coconut oil boosts metabolism. As a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT), coconut oil is metabolized more quickly than vegetable oils.  MCTs are absorbed directly from the digestive tract into the blood stream without having to be transported by the lymph system to the liver.  Vegetable oils, in contrast, are long-chain triglycerides (LCT) which circulate  in the blood stream and, if not needed for energy, can readily be deposited as fat. 1   Coconut oil is burned at a rate three times faster than other fats.2 Part of the reason for this relates to the high lauric acid content of coconut oil.  Lauric acid, an effective antimicrobial, accounts for half of the content of coconut oil, and it is the most rapidly utilized of all the fatty acids.  By boosting metabolism, coconut oil raises body temperature, metabolic rate, energy and a sense of well-being.  Because it is stable, it can be a good choice for cooking, particularly for anyone with a slow metabolism or is hypothytoid.   At the same time, coconut oil is limited by the fact that it contains no essential fatty acids (EFAs), and unlike butter from grass-fed animals, it is not a source of fat-soluble vitamins, so it is best used as a complementary fat in the diet. 3.

 

  • Butter is a short-chain triglyceride (SCT) with just 4 carbons (coconut oil as a MCT with fatty acid components of between 6 and 12 carbon molecules).  Short and medium chain fatty acids have fewer calories than longer chain (18 carbon) vegetable oils and, as mentioned, they are metabolized quickly rather than being as readily stored as fat.  Butter from grass-fed animals is a powerful antimicrobial, with the proper balance of omega-3s and -6s, as well as being a source of a variety of trace minerals, including selenium.  Butterfat also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which helps to fight cancer.4   Butter from grass-fed animals is rich in the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K, particularly vitamin A and also vitamin D, making butter a more balanced, nutritious fat than coconut oil.

 

  • Cod liver oil, high in vitamins A and D, is also helpful for weight loss.  It provides necessary vitamin D to help the body utilize insulin.  Vitamin A helps adrenal function and aides diabetics, who are not able to utilize beta carotene in foods.  Fish oils are high in EPA and DHA, which are precursors of prostaglandins that help regulate metabolism.

 

  • Fats in the small intestine help silence hunger pangs.  The body reacts to fat in the small intestine by releasing hormones that quiet hunger contractions.

 

  • Non-dairy sources of calcium stimulate weight loss. (Seaweeds, along with green vegetables are a good choice.  Seaweeds are the highest source of calcium and, due to their high levels of iodine, they also help boost thyroid function.)

 

  • Trans fats, like vegetable oils but even more so, are best avoided.  Trans fats, not only disrupt the normal biochemistry of the body, but they also play havoc with weight loss.  Trans fats depress metabolism and foster diabetes.  Holding calories constant, people gain more weight on diets that include trans fats.  Trans fats affect adipose cell size because they are packed in cells  less tightly than saturated fats.

Sources:

Mary Enig, Know Your Fats

Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions

Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, Eat Fat to Lose Fat

Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, Dangers of Statin Drugs

Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods

Udo Eramus, Fats that Kill, Fats that Heal

Ronald Schmid, Traditional Foods are Your Best Medicine

Copyright Pathways4Health.org


  1. Udo Eramus, Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, 309. []
  2.  Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, Eat Fat to Lose Fat. []
  3. Also, if you are concerned about cholesterol (about which I have reservations) lauric acid may actually raise total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels…Elson Haas, 65 []
  4. Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, 15. []

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