Does eating fat make me fat?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

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.

Brian Tanzer
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

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.

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

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.

Neal Spruce
Neal Spruce on behalf of dotFIT
Fitness Specialist

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.

Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

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.

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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.