Dietary fat is NOT the enemy of good glycemic control. It turns out, dietary fat enhances insulin release helping to minimize after meal sugar spikes
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How dietary fats improve sugar deliveries
I often talk about what I like to call THE RULE OF THIRDS. The premise behind the idea is that when it comes to sitting down to eat, it is a good idea to mix things up i.e. to include some carbs, some protein and some fat.
The value of this approach is that it optimizes the post-prandial signaling.
Lessons from milk
It’s actually a principle Mother Nature starts us out on.
If you take a look at the macronutrient composition of NORMAL cow’s milk. 200 ml of milk will leave you with
- 7.0 g of protein
- 9.5 g of carbohydrate
- 7.4 g of fat
It’s not exact, but it’s approx. 1/3 protein, 1/3 carbs and 1/3 fat.
NOTE : In human milk the exact composition varies the fat content is marginally higher and protein content is a little lower.
Traditional meals v modern meals
The RULE OF THIRDS, also applies to traditional Western meals – think meat and potatoes.
But it’s something that is often not done in modern eating scenarios.
Carbs are almost always there. Fats also often make an appearance. Unfortunately, the form they take is not always optimum. NOTE : Refined fats like margarine and soy oil are not in the same league as the more natural fats.
Protein……………. is frequently “missing”.
Or said another way, there is just not enough to count.
1 egg in a sea of flour (carb), sugar (carb) and margarine (fat) is just not enough to get the protein signaling going.
That’s why I talk about the RULE OF THIRDS.
You don’t have to stick to A THIRD, absolutely – but you do NEED to have enough of everything to “ping” the signaling.
The “I AM FULL” signal
Now most of the time, the protein and fat benefit, is attributed to the fact that these nutrients trigger the “I AM FULL” message.
Basically they help you put down your fork/spoon before things get ugly.
But there is more to the signaling than just satiety and this is particularly important if BETTER SUGAR CONTROL, is your goal. Unfortunately it’s not quite as straight forward as one would expect.
The network of pings
In terms of the biochemistry, carbohydrates ping insulin release. But, as more of the science has been uncovered, proteins also ping insulin release.
It’s NOT DIRECT. It’s via via…………
The incretins (GIP and GLP-1), trigger alpha cells to release glucagon, which triggers the beta cells to release insulin – insulin then puts away THE GROCERIES, most notably glucose.
The dietary fat contribution
Officially, fats do NOTHING to stimulate insulin release.
Or, if you’re thinking at a cellular level, fats are actually considered HARMFUL, since they STOP glucose uptake because of a phenomenon which has been dubbed, the RANDLE CYCLE.
Metabolic flexibility is necessary
Basically a cell, at any given moment, can only use ONE fuel source. Most cells don’t give a damn which one it is, they’re happy to use glucose or fat – they just won’t use both at the same time. What characterizes the metabolically healthy, is that switching between fuel sources is effortless. When you’re metabolically challenged, you are invariably metabolically inflexible, which means making the switch is A BIG DEAL.
This inflexibility is what drives sugar spikes and big bellies.
It turns out, fats are right there in the thick of things, in terms of the sugar story.
Dietary fats unpacked
When dietary fats are talked about, we are primarily talking about triglycerides i.e. three fatty acids stuck onto a glycerol molecule. But triglycerides are the storage form of fats, in fact, in this form the fats are inert. To be useful the fatty acids must be separated from the glycerol, in this form they are referred to as free fatty acids or FFAs for short.
The fatty acids that are found in triglycerides are pretty long, carbon lengths range from 14-26 carbons, so when we talk about them, we refer to them as long chain fatty acids or LCFA for short. They can be burned for fuel, but they are involved in signaling via the Free Fatty Acid Receptors.
NOTE : For the record, they can be saturated (have only one bond between the carbons) or unsaturated (have a double bond between the carbons). This isn’t particularly important in this story.
Processing dietary fat bites
Our story begins in the small intestine, where the triglycerides are pulled apart with the help of bile and lipases.
It is these GUT free fatty acids that do the heavy lifting.
They worm their way to the enteroendocrine cells that line the gut and trigger their Free Fatty Acid Receptors (FFA receptors), precipitating the release of gut hormones, by the respective cells.
- I cells release CCK (cholecystokinin).
- L cells release GLP-1.
- K cells release GIP.
The incretin effect
The GLP-1 and GIP whooshes through to the pancreas prompting beta cells to release insulin and the alpha cells to release glucagon………….
It’s the incretin effect AGAIN.
And it helps to put the sugars away.
But the benefits don’t stop there, dietary fats do more ….
It’s time to party
Beta cells just like the enteroendocrine cells have free fatty acid receptors.
If the blood glucose levels are also high, something that should only be happening, when you’ve just eaten something yummy, the free fatty acids that are circulating in the blood give beta cells a prod to release insulin, via these receptors.
NOTE : At this stage the details of how this happens is not clear, but what is known is that it is an INSIDE JOB.
But the beta cell response to free fatty acids is nuanced.
If the glucose levels are low, NOTHING HAPPENS.
Mother Nature is so smart…..
The party is out of control
Of course, when you’re pre-diabetic/diabetic – glucose levels are high, when they’re not supposed to be.
High sugar levels
high fatty acid levels
at the same time can contribute to inappropriate insulin production.
This is not healthful biology. Some would argue it is THE PROBLEM and argue that THIS IS THE REASON, to avoid eating fats, specifically saturated fats.
NOTE : The reason for picking on saturated fats – is these are the fats that are most likely to be circulating.
It a post-prandial response
The ability of fats to churn out insulin is first and foremost a post-prandial phenomenon.
The guys doing the heavy lifting in terms of sugar control are gut free fatty acids.
You need to eat dietary fat to experience the benefit of their contribution, , which is why eating a little fat with dinner can be most helpful. Fortunately, all it takes to get this biology working for you, is to OBEY THE RULE OF THIRDS, every time you eat.
Breakfast, lunch, supper and in be-tweens.
This is one of the easiest tweaks you can make to your eating habits to create BETTER BODY CHEMISTRY. If you’re ready to give it a try and need a little help & support, join the BETTER BODY CHEMISTRY community.
Each droplet of fat, is carefully wrapped in bubble wrap so that the high energy fat molecules don’t cause a fire, but in obesity, you’re often “on fire”.
When there is a worm in the house, your body removes the food, the good news, you don’t need a worm to make this appetite suppression strategy work for you.
A bowl of high-fat rice pudding, with fewer calories is more satiating than the same size bowl of a high-carbohydrate rice pudding, so fill up on fats…