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Why Humans Crave Fat
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March 22, 2011
3:44 pm
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It is an indisputable fact that humans crave fat.

"Why Can't I Stop Eating Fatty Foods?"

French fries, onion rings, donuts, and everything else that comes out of a deep-fryer. Corn chips, potato chips, Cheetos, Fritos, Doritos, Tostitos, and all the other oil-soaked, salt-coated starches in the snack aisle. Oreos, buttered toast, salad dressing. Cheese, mayonnaise, and Alfredo sauce. The list goes on, and on.

Decades of diet propaganda, telling us over and over again that…

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March 22, 2011
4:43 pm
Janna
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It just popped into my mind today as I passed a 7-11 that it's odd that I don't crave Doritos and crap like that at ALL anymore. I haven't eaten much junk like that very for years, but it still always sounded scandalously delicious. Now that I'm eating paleo and getting tons of great animal fat, no urge at all!

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March 22, 2011
5:00 pm
Kenny Younger
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This blog has consistently become one of my favorite reads. Keep up the awesome, awesome content. Fativores - love it.

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March 22, 2011
6:42 pm
Bodhi
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Mine too! Fativores, that makes us special again.

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March 22, 2011
7:49 pm
Wanderer
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March 14, 2011
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I believe this is - if I just eat a lean meat my hunger will roar back within a very few hours with a quickness. I've had to convince my wife that I really do want the 80% hamburger and no I don't want to drain the fat.

I actually cooked some angus burgers in a frying pan on low heat with a half of stick of butter and one onion the other day. I dumped it all into a bowl and let the meat swim in the melted butter and beef fat as I ate it :)

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March 22, 2011
8:24 pm
Bill
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With the 10% shrinkage in brain size, have we lost the power of developing a sixth sense? Did the Pleistocene humans have mental powers that have been diminished over time from the Neolithic up to the present?

I hope "fativore" catches on. Brilliant!

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March 22, 2011
9:23 pm
Tim
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Love it! Glad you took a time out from skiing and general fun-hogging to get this Gnollsday's post up! I've got a lucky situation where a handful of hunters and grass-raised beef ranchers give me kidney suet, marrow bones, and various organs for the cost of process/freezing. Cheap and abundant healthy animal fat for me and mine thanks to our current Government supported lowfat dogma.

And my little 11 month old boy is taking a big liking to pemmican!

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March 23, 2011
6:04 am
Nax
Guest

Keep piling on the science, love it.

Tim, would you be from Rapid City?
I hail from Sturgis.

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March 23, 2011
6:25 am
Tim
Guest

Yup, howdy, Nax!

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March 24, 2011
12:00 pm
Brian Scott
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To what extent are external sources of glucose needed in humans? Since the Inuit have access to almost no vegetable sources of food, I'm guessing it's completely unnecessary as long as you eat enough fat.

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March 24, 2011
2:32 pm
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Janna:

That's absolutely true in my experience.  If you're eating 'paleo' and still getting junk food cravings, odds are you're still trying to follow the Faileo Diet, e.g. 'low-fat' paleo as advocated by Cordain and (I think) DeVany.  I'm glad it's working for you!

Kenny:

Thanks for the encouragement.  These articles take some time to write, and it helps to know that others find them useful even if they don't want to argue about the topic!

Bodhi:

It's an interesting evolutionary niche, and there will most likely be another post about the details of how we got there.  Humans are very strange animals!

Edwin:

That sounds delicious!  I cooked a prime rib roast the other day, and ate all of it over the next two days: gristle, giant fat chunks, everything.  The more fat I eat along with meat, the better I feel -- and I usually finish off dessert with some Greek yogurt which is over 3/4 fat!

Bill:

That's fascinating to speculate on, but I have no idea how one would go about investigating it.  But as I point out here, hunters were most likely far smarter than the agriculturalists that followed them...and their powers of observation and tracking would seem magical to any of us.

Tim:

Yes, low-fat dogma provides us with cheap fat.  I get free trimmings from the local butcher sometimes (although recently I got lazy and just bought a bunch of beef tallow outright).

That's so great that your little kid likes pemmican!  It's a crime what most people feed their kids: slamming them instantly from a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet of mother's milk (necessary to grow a baby) immediately onto sugary, low-protein, low-fat pablum.  And then we wonder why so many are diabetic!  If we want our children to grow smart, healthy, and strong, we need to feed them eggs and fatty meat.

And kids basically want to eat what you're eating.  If you're constantly sucking down candy and danishes with a look of bliss on your face, that's what they'll want too.  But if you're eating real food, that's what they'll want.  Babies don't know facts, but they know emotions perfectly...and they can tell when you're faking it.

Nax:

Much appreciated!  Stick around, I've got plenty more to say.

Brian:

Humans have no absolute need for carbohydrate: we can run mostly on ketones, and gluconeogenesis can provide enough glucose for us to live on.

That being said, it may be less than optimally healthy to do so.  The Jaminets note that we convert ~15-20% of energy to glucose if we don't eat it directly, so we might as well eat that 15-20% ourselves and spare our body the extra effort.  (Unless we're trying to lose weight or maintain ketosis for other reasons, like treating epileptic seizures.)

 

Thanks to everyone for contributing!  Regular feedback helps keep me writing.  And please spread these articles around: they're written to be understandable outside the paleo community.  We already know this stuff, entertaining though it is: it's the people with IBS, autoimmune disease, insulin resistance, and/or trapped in yo-yo diet hell who need to see it.  Hell, everyone should see it, because even if (like me) you have no frank diseases or problems, you'll still feel far better on an evolutionary suitable diet of high-fat paleo.

JS

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March 24, 2011
6:22 pm
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And just to plant my flag:

Humans, being fativores, are a fativorous species that engages in frequent fativory.

JS

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March 25, 2011
5:28 am
Daniel
Guest

Thanks for the interesting article. I agree with your argument that we are not natural vegans and we all crave fat.

Regarding Kleiber's law, it's true that we need a high calorie and nutrient dense foods to maintain our large brains. While I agree that fatty meat can serve as one of those food, I think we should not forget the role of cooked starches like tubers in our evolution.

There are compelling evidences that we can be starchivores too. Most of us have the amylase enzyme in our saliva. Also there are populations around the world that thrive on starches like rice, sweet potatoes and yams.

Corn chips and potato chips taste good because they consist of both starch and fat. That's why almost all the culture in this world eats starches paired with fat in their main meals. Eating starch by itself is not very appetizing as well as eating only fat and meat.

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March 25, 2011
6:36 am
Check the links̷
Guest

[...] Fat. [...]

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March 25, 2011
8:20 am
Dana
Guest

The arboreal theory says that all primates descend from a tree-canopy-dwelling mammal. What food is available in a tree canopy?

Leaves, fruit... and bugs.

One thing pretty much all primates have in common is that they loooove bugs. Even human beings who have not had the desire for insects tabooed out of them love bugs. And for those who do have the social taboo against partaking, we still eat things like crab and shrimp--which might as well be bugs, if very large ones with gills.

Everybody looks at the leaves and the fruit when it comes to primate diets. Nobody seems to look at the bugs. Why is that?

Daniel: I don't think your big brain would stay big for long if you tried to meet its energy needs with starch. Food is not just fuel, it's also spare parts, and the brain *requires* fat and cholesterol, structurally.

We actually don't make that much amylase. Getting by on starch is an energy fallback. We don't *have* to do it. Our glucose requirement is roughly equivalent to about a teaspoon of sugar for the entire body, and that's for cells that cannot get by on ketones or fatty acids. Which, not that many human cells meet that description.

Fatty meat, not appetizing? That's funny. Hilarious, even.

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March 25, 2011
8:34 am
Chris
Guest

Thanks for the article! I read it a few days ago and it took me re-reading it on some down time to really digest it.

You are one-hundred percent on target. I've noticed that if I 'cheat' on a little bit of modern foods, like that office-provided cupcake for that birthday celebration, I never feel full and always crave more. Yet, when I eat something that's "high-fat" (what is high-fat defined as really? I've never been able to figure this out), like a rib-eye steak, or new york cut and maybe some tubers with a bit of butter, I feel full extremely quickly. And I don't feel hungry for a long time.

Thanks for the awesome article, when people ask me how I get so much energy all the time (and why I eat the way I do), I point them to your site and tell them to 'read and stop being lazy' because you do a great job of breaking it down for everyone to understand (even though to some of us, it's 'common sense').

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March 26, 2011
7:06 pm
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Daniel:

It's clear that modern humans have the facility to eat tubers: the question is when that become important for our evolution.

Richard Wrangham claims that tuber-eating was the primary driver for leaving the equatorial forests, but "Catching Fire" makes claims about the domestication of fire ~1.6 MYA that are, to say the least, not universally accepted.  I think the case for bone marrow and brain consumption in the Pliocene (both very high in fat) is stronger, and that tuber-eating would have been at best contemporaneous with scavenging marrow and brains from dead megafauna, and at worst would have followed it.

"Eating only fat and meat" isn't appetizing?  I disagree, especially in evolutionary time.  Pliocene hominids didn't have butter to spread on tubers, let alone fire to cook them: raw marrow, raw meat, and even raw brains beat raw ancestral yams and cassava.

Dana:

Termite-eating is well-known and understood, even if eating of other bugs is less so. All apes eat the bugs they groom off of each other AFAIK. And plenty of Asian cultures eat bugs: I think bug-phobia is mainly a Western thing.

I agree that starch was probably a fallback: go hungry for a day or two, and you'll very quickly find you're inclined to eat just about anything that doesn't immediately kill you. Remember it's our ability to survive bad times that limits our evolutionary success, not our ability to get fat in good times.

Chris:

Writing these articles is part of my own learning process: if I can't explain things on a level most people can understand, odds are good I don't really understand it myself.  If I've really done my job, what I wrote will seem obvious, like common sense…but it's only common sense unless you understand the facts behind it and how they fit together.

I'm working on an index to the site so that people can find information more quickly…look for it in the next couple of weeks.

Thanks so much for supporting and spreading gnolls.org!

JS

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March 26, 2011
11:17 pm
Cornelius
Guest

JS,

Again, a great article. It always makes me feel good to see you championing a way of eating that makes sense, both from a healthful and logical standpoint. As a race, we grew up eating fat, and then suddenly in the last half century or so, (which is just a fraction of a blink compared to the time we've been around) fat is supposed to be bad for us.

I get so tired of people almost automatically putting negative adjectives in front of the word fat, like admonishing people to get rid of all that "nasty" fat. Or calling fat "grease," which to me is the brown stuff that collects on rangehoods. And then there are the phrases like "heart-attack on a plate" when a dish contains a lot of fat.

The truly sad thing is that so vast a majority of people just "know" all this to be so that, as you have mentioned before, we who know better are often treated like lunatics if we forget ourselves and say so.

And so people try to eat "healthy," but things like heart disease and diabetes run rampant, and drug companies line their pockets with the money from all the drugs that are only there to treat symptoms, (many of them, like cholesterol completely false) not cure diseases. And we are told things like eating a bowl of Cheerios every morning can make us healthier, and what is more, we owe it to our loved ones to be responsible and eat those Cheerios, even if we would much rather have (much healthier) bacon and eggs. And people buy into this, and the sales of Cheerios soar, despite the fact that there is not a shred of evidence that their claims are true. Bad science, yes, with skewed conclusions extrapolated from presuppositions, but no actual evidence.

I remember a story concerning illegal dealers in controlled substances. However, the controlled substances in this case were not drugs, but were things like milk, eggs, butter, and bacon. Of course the story was science fiction. I really hope it does not turn out to be prophetic, as so much science fiction already has.

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March 29, 2011
9:47 am
HeMan
Guest

Cornelius:

The story you reference is called "Lipidleggin'", published in 1978. Way out there for the time... today, maybe not.

http://billstclair.com/DoingFreedom/000623/df.0600.fa.lipidleggin.html

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March 29, 2011
9:33 pm
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Cornelius:

The worst part is that it isn't even science fiction. Denmark has already levied a tax on saturated fat. I wish I were joking.

HeMan:

Great catch!  The irony, of course, being that it's much closer to truth now than in 1978.  

But we have the Internet and we have science, and there are more of us every day.  Keep spreading the paleo link love, whether it's to me or anyone else, and we'll win eventually — because real food tastes better.  Guilt and self-denial are bitter: saturated fat is delicious.

JS

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