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Fat has been demonized throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Then in the 90s and 2000s, we learned that it was carbs that make you overweight. Come back, fat, all is forgiven... Which of these nutrients is really to blame for weight gain?

For years, we were all told that eating whole grains was the way forward. Our benighted ancestors may have opened the day with a fry-up, or gone to work on an egg, but our arteries would be kept cholesterol free by a space-age regime of bran and jogging. 

Now the conventional wisdom has changed, and we know that jogging is a great way to ruin your knees, your endocrine system and your cardiovascular system at the same time, and that some of the fats dismissed as deadly cholesterol actually dissolve the fats that clog arteries.  Meanwhile a high-carbohydrate diet is associated with dental caries and diabetes. 

So when you’re planning a diet, whether that’s simply to stay healthy or whether you have a preexisting condition you want to work with, or you’re trying to lose weight, which should you avoid: Fat or carbs?

Duke Ellington once said there were only two kinds of music: good music and bad music.  He wouldn't choose between blues and jazz, just between good and bad. And the carbs/fat choice is the same. It’s not fat that makes you fat, and it’s not carbs either. But eating both together as part of a crummy diet? Now that will mess you up, because the sugars trigger an insulin spike and the fat is deposited in adipose tissue.

What makes you fat is the wrong kind of fat and the wrong kind of carbs.

Carbs are a short to medium term energy source. 

You can absorb short chain carbs through the membranes in your cheeks directly into your bloodstream; you don’t even need to swallow them. 

Fat isn't even digested until it reaches the small intestine, three to six hours after you eat it. When it is digested, it enters the bloodstream slowly. And it’s the least thermogenic and most energy dense of all the micronutrients. Thermogenesis is a measure of heat-making – how much heat is created in the process of digestion. Protein is the most thermogenic, but its effects are felt more slowly.  Carbohydrates loiter somewhere in the middle. 

Fat is a great fuel, and the fat you eat doesn't somehow turn to the fat on your body – unless you eat way too much of it.

The wrong kinds of fats are basically added fats. 

Trans fats, hydrogenated fats and fats from an animal’s abdominal cavity that have been added to a food product will damage your general health and are more likely to be laid down as fats. And they come as a double whammy because they’re so often found in the same foods as short-chain carbohydrates. 

When you eat short-chain carbohydrates, your liver responds to a sudden spike of blood sugar by dumping insulin into your bloodstream. Excess sugar is pulled out of your bloodstream and dumped in the liver, and in the muscles if they are giving off chemical signals that they need to have their glycogen reserves restocked. The rest? Either it stays in the bloodstream or it gets reconverted and laid down as fat.

While that’s going on the fat you ate hasn't even hit your bloodstream yet. So how come sugary foods make fat laydown worse?

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