Friday, February 3, 2012

The Results of Consuming Extra Saturated Fat

The beginning of February marked the end of my month-long experiment with adding an additional 20 grams of saturated fat to my diet every day. So what happened?


Absolutely nothing. I already know that increasing the natural, saturated fat in my diet has improved my cholesterol ratios. I don't know what affect my coconut milk shake had on my total calorie consumption. Most of my diet is based on real food, and real food normally doesn't come with nutrition labels, so I never even attempt to track calories. Since I just eat until I'm full when I get hungry, there is a good chance the extra calories in my snack caused me to eat less at dinner. There is also a good chance that my metabolism sped up to compensate for the extra calories, since our bodies are very efficient at regulating weight when our hormones aren't being thrown off by high blood sugar and insulin levels.

A couple of years ago, when I thought that a healthy diet needed to include a lot of supposedly healthy whole grains, I was over 20 pounds heavier than I am now. I wasn't trying to overeat, but I had excess insulin telling my body to store fat at the same time it was crashing my blood sugar. A lot of people like to act like maintaining a healthy weight is all about willpower and making sure you don't eat too many calories. But it doesn't matter how much willpower you have, when your blood sugar drops dramatically you are going to be compelled to eat. There is too much evolution driving your hunger at that point for you to ignore it.

And since fat storage is regulated by hormones that are directly affected by blood sugar, any attempt to burn fat through exercise without keeping blood sugar under control is a complete waste of time. Someone who spends an hour on a treadmill without addressing their blood sugar will literally just be "working up an appetite." If they attempt to ignore that hunger, their body will just slow down its metabolism so it can hang onto as much of its fat reserves as possible.

But high blood sugar doesn't just promote fat storage. It is toxic for your cells, which is why your body releases insulin to control it in the first place. A blood sugar level over 140, especially when it stays over that level for an extended period, damages organs. That is why the complications associated with type 2 diabetes include things like heart disease, amputated feet and legs, kidney failure and blindness. And cancer cells require glucose to grow, meaning that high blood sugar directly feeds them while lowering blood sugar starves them. Think about that the next time you see a pink ribbon printed on the package of a sugar or starch-heavy processed food.

The only way to really know what a food does to your blood sugar is to check some of your blood about an hour after you eat. So now that I'm done with the coconut milk experiment I've purchased a surprisingly-cheap-at-less-than-$10 blood glucose meter. Like an inkjet printer, the real cost of the meter is in the consumables. The test strips can cost anywhere from $.040 to over $1 apiece, so pay attention to that if you buy one. An hour after last night's dinner of pork osso buco braised in white wine and tomatoes with some homemade risotto and roasted broccoli I was at 129. An hour after eating a breakfast of three grass-pastured eggs scrambled in coconut oil with two strips of bacon and some unhomogenized whole milk this morning it was 81.


The only complaint I have so far is that I don't think the included lancing device was designed for a gearhead's fingers. Even pricking myself at the highest setting, I sometimes have trouble getting enough blood for an accurate reading, but I am getting better with practice. I will be very interested to see what different foods I eat on my barbecue quest do to my blood sugar. How much worse for you is a sweet sauce compared to a dry rub? How bad is it to add a side of potato salad? If you want to lose weight, is it better to order black-eyed peas or yams with your soul food? Does anyone else care? My barbecue and soul food quest is already being driven by curiosity, so I am interested in getting some extra information about what the food I eat is doing to me. 

8 comments:

  1. This is awesome stuff, you need to get a side job writing for a periodical

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    1. Thanks. It would be nice to make some money doing this, but I kind of like the freedom to say whatever is on my mind that comes from having my own blog.

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  2. Just discovered this. I'm unsurprised that your numbers didn't change; what I'm curious about is how the coconut/whey shake tasted and how well it satiated you? I've been looking for a high protein / high fat snack (or meal replacement) and that looks perfect.

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  3. I used chocolate whey isolate from muscle gauge nutrition and it tasted great with chilled coconut milk. You need a good blender bottle or the cold coconut milk will be super chunky. I wouldn't use it as a meal replacement since it doesn't provide any of the additional nutrients you get from real food. But it is a good supplement if you are looking to add some muscle. I was just using it as an extra snack to prove a point. Whey protein is absorbed really quickly so to get muscle building benefits from the drink you'd need to drink it immediately after a weight-lifting session.

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    1. Sounds good. I'm interested in it for all-day endurance events, where I've got just a few minutes to eat and I need a lot of calories. I usually go with cold sliced ribeye but even that gets old sometimes! Sugary stuff leads to a grumpy blood sugar crash, and not eating at all REALLY leads to a bad day. :)

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    2. It could be great for situations like that. One word of warning; test to see how you react ahead of time. Some brands of whey have a gutbomb effect on me. Must be some of the additives they use. Definitely not something you want to discover during an endurance event.

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