The Science of Fat Loss: Does Animal Fats Make You Fat?
A common question that I am asked all the time is “Does animal fats make you fat?”
If you are like most people, then it probably did not occur to you that there was any scientific evidence to support such a claim. However, if you read through some of the research studies that have been done on this topic, then it becomes apparent why so many people believe this.
It turns out that the answer to this question is no. There is absolutely no scientific evidence whatsoever to support the idea that animal fats will cause you to become obese. That being said, it would appear that plant oils do cause obesity.
So what’s going on here? Why are vegetable oils better than animal fats at preventing obesity?
Well, there are several reasons why they may be better than their animal counterparts but let’s take a look at them one by one.
1) Vegetable Oils Are More Nutritious Than Animal Fats
One reason why vegetable oils are better than animal fats is because they tend to be higher in healthy unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). MUFA are considered essential fatty acids. They’re found primarily in plant foods and they play a vital role in maintaining good health.
For example, omega 3s from fish oil and omega 6s from vegetable oils are very beneficial for your heart and brain function. MUFA can also improve insulin sensitivity and lower your risk for heart disease (1). So while animal fat does contain these nutrients, vegetable oils tend to contain higher amounts. In fact, many nuts are loaded with healthy unsaturated fatty acids so much so that eating them is considered beneficial for preventing heart disease.
2) Vegetable Oils Are More Calorically Dense
One of the reasons why vegetable oils are often linked to obesity is because they are more “calorically dense.” This basically means that for a given volume, vegetable oils contain more calories than animal fats. Now you might be wondering why this would make any difference if the caloric density was not too extreme (ie.
not too many calories per unit weight). Unfortunately, the calories from vegetable oils add up over time and as we all know, simply counting calories is important for weight maintenance. Again, this doesn’t mean that eating vegetable oils will automatically make you gain weight but it’s one of the reasons why they are often overconsumed.
3) Vegetable Oils Are Less Satiating Than Animal Fats
Another reason why vegetable oils may cause weight gain more than animal fats is because they are less satiating. In other words, you probably consume more calories than you need to if you eat a lot of vegetable oils.
Sources & references used in this article:
Eating-disordered behaviors, body fat, and psychopathology in overweight and normal-weight children. by M Tanofsky-Kraff, SZ Yanovski, DE Wilfley… – Journal of consulting …, 2004 – psycnet.apa.org
Dietary fat and obesity: a review of animal, clinical and epidemiological studies by GA Bray, S Paeratakul, BM Popkin – Physiology & behavior, 2004 – Elsevier
Is dietary fat a major determinant of body fat? by WC Willett – The American journal of clinical nutrition, 1998 – academic.oup.com
A prospective study of psychological predictors of body fat gain among children at high risk for adult obesity by M Tanofsky-Kraff, ML Cohen, SZ Yanovski, C Cox… – Pediatrics, 2006 – Am Acad Pediatrics
Changes in body weight and fat mass of men and women in the first year of college: A study of the” freshman 15″ by DJ Hoffman, P Policastro, V Quick… – Journal of American …, 2006 – Taylor & Francis