Do High Fat Diets Worsen Diabetes?

The relationship between dietary fat intake and diabetes is a very interesting one to say the least.  It’s nowhere near as cut and dry as just about everyone thinks, and this is a very polarized issue, especially when it comes to saturated fat intake.

So you have one camp, which includes conventional medical thinking, that believes that high intakes of saturated fat worsen diabetes considerably, and you have the other side which believes saturated fat is benign and the more the better actually, since this is an inert macro and the only one of the three that doesn’t hurt us actually.

The extreme view here is the view that the ideal state is ketosis, where one’s fat intake should be as high as possible, with a particular emphasis on saturated fat.  Protein intake is kept low, and carb intake is virtually eliminated.

Given that we’ve shown this diet to work very well in many individuals in controlling diabetes, and fat intakes as a measure of calories are in the 80’s and 90’s percentage wise, it’s clearly not as simple as conventional thinking believes, as these diets are the most extreme version of what we’re told not to do, using an ultra fat diet and seeing good to great results.

So the keto people end up claiming that all diabetics or even all people should go on a diet like this, and they point out things like the virtual absence of diabetes among the Eskimo population, who nowadays prefer the term Inuit actually, who ate a diet like this for many centuries.

I ran into a short clip on diabetes and once in a while I will watch these, this one from Blue Shield of California predictably cautioned against a high fat diet, and there’s a couple on it that are exercising more and eating lower fat in their quest to prevent getting diabetes and this is pushed as a sound idea.

Of course you won’t find any science or even reasons in these things, they are just recommendations that people are expected to follow, by deferring to the expertise of the spokespeople, and this one has a medical doctor in it who makes some comments.  Medical doctors are neither trained or knowledgeable in diabetes though, although given the faith people put in them, they will assume they are of course.

If you ask these people, for instance, why they think we should reduce fat in looking to prevent or manage diabetes, you might get some kind of answer such as a high fat diet worsens insulin resistance, although that’s as far as you will probably ever get here as they really haven’t looked at this too closely, and you’d get pretty much a similarly cursory answer if you asked about high fat and cardiovascular disease, everyone knows that and they may look at you funny.

With high fat and diabetes, it is not so simple, and if you asked them why ketogenic diets work so well in managing diabetes they probably would not be able to explain this contradiction.  We’re speaking generally here and some doctors know more than others but they really don’t have time to spend on much science, beyond the basics, and don’t really have any training in nutrition aside from the basic crap they teach nutritionists.

We want to go deeper than just a superficial and cursory look at this though, and I’ve spoken about this topic in past articles to some degree, but we tend to run a lot of experiments with a given conclusion in mind, and let that color things, and a good example of this is the data that you see which seems to positively correlate high fat intake with diabetes.

There’s nothing wrong with correlations in themselves, and they can provide useful information, but often we distort the logic involved and assume causal relationships here when we’re not entitled to do so.

For instance we may find that people who drive red cars have more car accidents, and this one is actually true and insurance companies charge more to ensure red cars actually, but the cause of the accidents isn’t the red cars.  When we do a metastudy here we may find a higher percentage of accidents with these cars, but it’s probably due to the fact that people who like red cars may drive more aggressively, that’s the most plausible explanation.

So we’ve done metastudies and found that people who eat a high fat diet have a higher incidence of diabetes for example.  Aha, there’s your smoking gun they say, we knew it.  This shows nothing in itself, and someone then came along and said well let’s isolate this by BMI and they found that when this was done there’s no correlation between high fat and diabetes.

So this left us with the correlation between higher BMI and diabetes, but this doesn’t show any causal relationship either, as something may be causing both the obesity and the diabetes, and in fact we know that high levels of insulin cause both.  So we still need to use our heads and seek the most plausible explanation and always be willing to go deeper.

Often, our mistaken beliefs and lack of understanding can end up screwing all this up.  For instance the idea that type 2 diabetes is caused by a lack of insulin secretion, which is a very ignorant view but one held by many.

So for instance researchers will start with the hypothesis that lack of insulin secretion causes diabetes, and then study how a high fat diet affects this, show that it reduces insulin secretion, and then propose this causes diabetes.

This is completely absurd and to the point of being laughable, they think that high blood sugar is merely a condition where not enough insulin is being secreted even though massive amounts may already be involved, amounts that are outright dangerous, and the problem is that these amounts still aren’t high enough, and something that seeks to put a damper on this is somehow hurting not helping.

So when I read about this study, since the proper way to treat type 2 diabetes is to look to control and prevent too high levels of insulin, if a high fat diet is going to accomplish this through the pathways they suggest, what great news this is and we all need to get busy eating more fat.

While the relationship between dietary fat and diabetes is by no means a simple one, and not as simple as just saying eat all you want, the common denominator in this and all metabolic disease is high levels of insulin actually, and if insulin is high, high fat will actually be more harmful to you than lower fat, and this is where a lot of people have gotten confused.

So this is why low carbers can eat all the fat they want and be better off for it, because their insulin levels tend to be more healthy, and why high carbers can’t handle a high fat diet, because high insulin and high fat do not mix.  Once you get this, and not a lot of people do, then things start to make a lot more sense.

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