By Dr. Bill Hemmer
Last week, I started my discussion about Metabolism. It’s one of the most mysterious processes in our body. Basically, you burn (or metabolize) three different substances, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to make energy. As we discussed last week, carbohydrates and proteins turn to sugar, usually glucose, and are then used to build new cells or create energy.
This week, we are going to discuss what happens to fat when you want to turn it into energy. The first thing you need to know about fat metabolism is it is extremely important in producing energy for your daily life. Our bodies were designed to switch back and forth from carbohydrate/protein metabolism to fat metabolism instantly.
When we were hunting and gathering, thousands of years ago, we would go through times that we had plenty of carbohydrate or protein-based foods, like during the summer when plants and animals were plentiful. But when the winter came, we had to rely on our own fat stores for survival. Our ancestors might not eat or get out of their dwellings for days or even weeks at a time.
Today, our food supply is totally different. We have more carbohydrate/protein-based foods than we know what to do with and we have all been told to stay away from fat like it’s the plague. Both factors have led us to where we are today. The most obese society the world has ever seen!
But let’s get back to the topic of fat metabolism. When you eat fat, your gallbladder secretes bile into your upper small intestine to begin to break the fat down into smaller pieces. These smaller pieces (called triglycerides) are absorbed into the walls of the intestines and combined with cholesterol. Then this combination is transported into your lymphatic system.
What most people don’t know is that these triglycerides are then taken to your heart and used for fuel. In fact, triglycerides are the preferred fuel of your heart muscle! The combination of triglycerides and cholesterol that doesn’t go directly to your heart for energy starts to break down into smaller fatty acids and seep out of the lymphatic system into the bloodstream and tissues.
Once these particles enter the cell as a fatty acids, they are burned for fuel or recycled back into larger fatty molecules to go to fat storage. Fat burns cleaner than carbohydrates and proteins. When all of these three fuels burn, they give off oxygen. This oxygen combines with other molecules in the area to create something called free radicals. Too many free radicals cause damage inside the cell and can lead to cell death.
Therefore, burning fat for fuel is the cleanest energy you can create. Another interesting tidbit about fat burning energy is cancer cells cannot live when you are burning fat for fuel. This was proven back in the 1930’s and won the Nobel Prize for Medicine. Cancer cells only grow when glucose burns inside the cell.
The last word in Metabolism is you need to be able to switch between burning sugar and fat easily and efficiently throughout your day. The best way to make sure this happens is by using Intermittent Fasting and eating enough fat in your diet.
Remember, fat doesn’t make you fat…it helps you lose weight…mic drop!