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Does Eating Fat Make You Fat?

Daniel Brady | January 8, 2013 in Nutrition
McDonald's Meal

Does eating fat make you fat? Is it an old wives’ tale or scientific truth? In this article you will find out the truth.

Studies show that if calories consumed from fat is between 18-40% of total calories, then dietary fat doesn’t contribute to body fat.[1] Look at the following chart of rates of overweightness in the US alongside fat as a percentage of daily calories. People consumed less fat as a percentage of their diet, but became more overweight.

Overweight People and Fat Intake

A better predictor of obesity is added sugar as a percentage of daily calories. Obese people consume 38% of their calories from sugar compared to lean people consuming 25% of their calories from sugar.[2] This is likely because calories from sugar can be consumed very easily, for example, a 600ml Coca Cola has 258 calories, 100% of them from sugar.

Coke Calories

An average woman may have a daily calorie requirement of 1500 calories. Those 258 calories from the Coca Cola are 17% of her daily calories, that means she only has 83% of her calories left for food. Do you think she will reduce her food intake because she drank the Coke? Say she drank 2 Cokes, that would leave her with 66% of her calories for food, clearly she is going to go over her calorie requirement which leads to obesity.[3]

Coke is not the only source of added sugar, but is a clear example of an easy to consume sugar source. Other examples include many cereals, sweets, biscuits, ice cream, sauces, and many others. But let’s get back to the question at hand, whether fat makes you fat.

Meat Pie Calories

While a moderate intake of fat doesn’t make you fat, excessive fat intake does, since it is calorie dense, and too high calorie consumption leads to fat gain. [4] Some foods are particularly bad, let’s take a meat pie as an example. An average meat pie with 455 calories, 28.5g fat, 40.5g carbs, 7.5g protein has 255 calories from the fat, since fat has 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram in carbs and protein. The pie was only 19% fat by weight, but has 56% calories from fat. That fat is what will cause you to go over your daily calorie requirements.

So a food with 19% fat is too fatty and will lead you to become fat, but more healthy foods such as those with 10% fat or less and limited sugar will not lead to fat gain. These are the best foods for you to choose.

  1. Is dietary fat a major determinant of body fat? W C Willett. []
  2. Dietary fat, sugar, and fiber predict body fat content. Wayne C Miller, PhD, Michael G Niederpruem, MS, Janet P Wallace, PhD, Alice K Lindeman, PhD, RD []
  3. Portion Sizes and the Obesity Epidemic. Jenny H. Ledikwe, Julia A. Ello-Martin, and Barbara J. Rolls. []
  4. Portion Sizes and the Obesity Epidemic. Jenny H. Ledikwe, Julia A. Ello-Martin, and Barbara J. Rolls. []

Daniel has a strong interest in evidence supported fitness training, preparation and supplementation. His goal is to provide clear information that simply works. He's currently 16 kg of muscle above his starting weight (7kg in the past 12 months), and targeting a continued growth rate of 5kg+ per year.
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