Dietary fat contains lots of calories, just like carbohydrates.

But the metabolic response differs.

For example, for ingested fat, the body has a much lower insulin response.

Is all the fat you eat metabolised or stored, or does the body have a (protection?) mechanism to respond to large amounts of dietary fat by simply letting it pass straight through?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Carey Gregory Aug 2 '19 at 13:30
  • 1
    The more fat you eat, the better you become at absorbing it: sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180411131639.htm – Count Iblis Aug 2 '19 at 22:46
  • @CountIblis - Are you able to use this in an answer? – Chris Rogers Aug 4 '19 at 11:23
  • 1
    Welcome to MedicalSciences.SE! Please take the tour and read the help center. For reasons mentioned in this post and in How to Ask, we require prior research information when asking questions. Please help us to help you and edit your question to provide more information on what you have read on this subject, what made you ask this question, and any problems you are having understanding your research. This helps to provide an answer which will be more helpful. If you found nothing, what did you Google? – Chris Rogers Aug 4 '19 at 11:24
  • 1
    Ben, I used most of that conversation in my answer below. – Jan Aug 7 '19 at 14:57

After ingestion of even large amount of fat (like 200 g/day), most of it will be absorbed and then either used as an energy source or stored as body fat. In the context of weight gain, a healthy human body has no effective mechanism to "ignore" fat once it is ingested. Ingestion of abnormally large amounts of fat at once could trigger diarrhea, though.

How do we know that most of fat is absorbed?

There is a fecal fat test in which you are instructed to consume 100-150 g fat per day for few days and then the amount of fat in your stool is measured for few days. The normal amount of fat in the stool in healthy adults is up to 7 g/day (Rochester.edu). So, from 100-150 grams ingested only up to 7 g can normally escape absorption. Larger amounts of fat in stool (steatorrhea) occur in malabsorption conditions.

How do we know that fat, once absorbed, is not excreted as fat?

When dietary fat is absorbed, it is either burned or stored as body fat. Where else could it go? A healthy human body can excrete unmetabolized nutrients via the stool, urine and skin. A minimal amount of fat is secreted via bile into the intestine, but most of it is reabsorbed. Fat is not excreted via urine in any significant amounts, and when it is (lipiduria), it can be a sign of kidney disease. Sebaceous glands excrete only few grams of fat per day.

  • I was with you right up until the last phrase. Based on my own research the response of the endocrine system to different macronutrients can deliver significantly different weight-loss outcomes, implying that counting calories is not enough: whether those calories come from carbs or fats (for example), appears to matter. – 52d6c6af Aug 7 '19 at 15:01
  • @Ben, they are always some studies that show that. Would you mind to link to one or two systematic reviews that support your belief. I also suggest you to intentionally search for another review that concludes the opposite from what you believe to see that the current evidence is not completely convincing. I've added one link to my last paragraph. – Jan Aug 8 '19 at 7:47
  • I am not saying that nutrient absorption is affected by macronutrient ratio. I am saying that endocrine response is affected. This is basic medical knowledge. For example, the insulin response to different kinds of macronutrient is very different. This is not controversial. – 52d6c6af Aug 8 '19 at 8:05
  • @Ben, can you link to the study that says what you said, so we will both know what we are talking about. So, which diet affects the endocrine system (insulin, leptin..?) in the way that encourages weight gain. – Jan Aug 8 '19 at 8:09
  • 1
    I deleted the last paragraph to keep my answer focused on what was asked in the original question. – Jan Aug 8 '19 at 14:17

Not all the fat we eat is absorbed, but if we eat more fat then the body will become more efficient at absorbing fats. This is because certain intestinal microbes in the small bowel that help us to absorb fats, will increase in numbers in response to an increase in the amount of fat available there. There must, of course, be a good reason why the feedback mechanism is positive instead of negative, as evolution can be assumed to have led to a well designed body. In Nature animals don't have an obesity problem, they need to survive on the sources of calories they can actually find. So, if there is a shift from carbs to fats in the diet, it makes sense that the animal will become better at absorbing fats rather than becoming worse at absorbing fats.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.