Looking at a test tube of one’s own blood containing a large layer of fat, it would be tempting to conclude that a low fat diet was in order. In fact, that is exactly what many diet “experts” continue to recommend. But well understood science tells us another story. It is the consumption of simple sugars and starch that fills our blood, fat cells and liver with fat. How could that be? It becomes clear when you understand our body’s love/hate relationship with sugar.
One of my partners at Trinity, Dr. Mark McColl recently wrote an article in which he described fat storage as a luxury. You see, one of our body’s highest priorities is to regulate blood sugar levels. Too much sugar in the blood quickly becomes toxic but when it drops below a certain level we die. Sugar that we eat is processed by the liver and can be dealt with in 3 ways:
- Passing through to the blood for utilization by cells as energy.
- Getting stored as glycogen for use when needed.
- Converting into fatty acids which combine with glycerol (a sugar alcohol) to become triglycerides and show up in a test tube as an ample layer of fat.
Compared to sugar, this fat is relatively harmless. It can be used as fuel or stored in fat cells in very large amounts. In one sense, our livers detox sugar by turning it into fat. It is therefore a luxury to be able to do this. As anyone who has been to the county fair knows, we can eat giant funnel cakes covered with confectioner’s sugar and wash them down with 40 ounce sodas after a full meal of corn dogs and fries and survive 🙂 The resulting sky high triglyceride level is barely noticed and our fat cells always seem to make room. But, as most thoughtful people know, luxury comes at a high price. More on that Wednesday.