Does eating fat make me fat?

Dr. Mark Hyman, MD
Family Medicine
Despite what we think, fat is not something that makes us fat. The fat that you eat, the fat on your body – even though it looks the same and the word is the same -- is not the enemy. In the past, there has been a theory about energy balance. Eat less, exercise more, calories in, calories out -- it’s all about the calories. So, fat has 9 calories per gram and carbs and protein have 4. If you eat less fat, then you’re going to cut out more calories and you lose weight. That’s the opposite of what really happens because the body is not this closed system. It is not all about energy. It’s about information.
Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics

Fats are calorie dense foods but they will not make you fat if you are eating a balanced diet. Many times when people go fat free they actually increase their chances of gaining weight. Fats do have more calories per gram then proteins or carbohydrates but they are a necessary ingredient in a healthy diet. Fats, especially monounsaturated fats, keep your brain and heart healthy. They also promote satiety and keep you full for long periods of time. Natural nut butters, seeds and nuts, olives, and olive oil are examples of healthy fats.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Fat may have more calories per gram than protein or carbs, but that doesn't mean eating fat makes you fat, says Dr. Oz. In this video, he shares his two favorite kinds of fat for cooking.

Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics

Eating anything in excess can help increase body weight. Fat is essential to our lives as it helps keep us healthy. In order to lose weight, a well-balanced diet (lean proteins, fiber rich carbohydrates and healthy fats) is as important as regular exercise. If you end up eating more calories than your body burns off in a day, it gets stored and you gain weight. When we exercise, we burn off some of the extra calories we’ve taken in which can lead to maintaining our weight or losing weight.

If you’re having a hard time understanding which fats to include in your life and which ones to minimize follow this rule of thumb: fats that come from animals (butter, lard, etc.) are more harmful for the body then helpful; while fats from plants (olive oil, nuts, avocados) are more helpful for the body than animal fats. But remember, if you consume even the healthier fats in large amounts, it will increase your body weight.

Brian Tanzer
Nutrition & Dietetics
This is a common misconception. Fat, like other nutrients, provides essential components (essential fatty acids) that contribute to overall health and well-being. Fat does provide more calories on a per gram basis than protein and carbohydrates (9 calories/gram vs. 4 calories/gram respectively). The key to making sure one doesn't gain weight and or body fat is to not consume excess calories. Since fat does provide more calories, than consuming more fat may tend to lead to weight gain and excess body fat accumulation. By limiting one's calorie intake to the amount of calories one requires on a daily basis, then it is unlikely one will gain weight or body fat.

The key is to consume healthy fats in moderation. Healthy fats include monounsaturated fats (olives, olive oil, almonds and other nuts, avocadoes, etc.) polyunsaturated fats-omega-3 (fish, flaxseed, etc.) polyunsaturated fats-omega-6 (unrefined safflower and sunflower oil, nuts and seeds, etc.). Avoid the unhealthy fats such as trans-fats (packaged/process foods, snack foods, margarine, etc.), and excess saturated fats whole milk, ice cream, butter and red meat.

The bottom line is fats provide our bodies with critical components needed for survival, but, similar to other macronutrients (carbohydrates and protein), they should be consumed in certain forms and in moderation. Doing this will help reduce the risk of dietary fat contributing to excess weight gain and body fat accumulation.
Neal Spruce
Neal Spruce on behalf of dotFIT
No. Eating more calories than you burn makes you fat, whether those calories come from carbohydrates, protein or fat. Any amount of food/calories you consume over the average amount of calories you burn will be stored as fat. At the end of the day it is our non-fitness friendly environment that forces us to sit or not move most of the day, combined with our biology that has hard wired us to eat when food is available (and all of it) whether we are hungry or not that has led to overweight societies in developed nations. Americans eat 250 more calories per day than they did a decade ago and they move less because of technology and lifestyle.

Just remember one thing: excess calories make you fat. Your daily calories can contain anywhere between 15-30% fat as long as the majority comes from polyunsaturated fats, which contribute to your health. Avoid saturated fats, which primarily come from animal sources as much as possible. Our Sharecare Fitness Application under the Coach tab contains a selection of ideal diets. Click here to get started:

Continue Learning about Fats


At 9 calories per gram, fats can add up quickly in your diet, yet experts recommend that you get only 7% of your calorie intake from fat. Fats also affect your cholesterol, and there are both good and bad fats. The best kind of fa...

ts are called unsaturated fats, and can be found in oils like olive and canola oils, nuts and seeds. These fats can help your body get rid of cholesterol. Saturated fats often have had hydrogen added to them to make them more solid. Other saturated fats are found in cream, butter and meats. They can raise your blood cholesterol. Its wise to learn which is which and check nutrition labels to make proper choices.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.