How Nutritionally Complete Are Our Fat Reserves?
With the prevailing popularity of a whole plethora of diets which ultimately work by triggering the burning of fat for energy during a calorific deficit (Ketogenic Diets, Intermittent Fasting Diets and even more radical approaches such as the “Snake Juice” fasting approach) an important question does not seem to be getting routinely answered.
The easiest way to visualise fat is as a form of stored potential energy. Any calories you intake in a day that aren’t expended by your regular bodily processes or other exertion such as exercise are stored as fat to be used as energy later. This is a basic survival mechanism – it ensures that when you do not have access to food you still have a “back up” of energy to keep your body running. When humans were still hunter gatherers this was incredibly important as it granted us an opportunity to catch more food without starving to death.
The good thing about fat is that past a certain bodyfat percentage, it is very difficult to starve to death (Medical Context). Malnutrition however can still occur, as a range of vitamins and minerals can NOT be stored in your body as fat. During periods of prolonged fasting it is very important to maintain your potassium/sodium levels or you can experience light-headedness and other awful symptoms.
But how nutritionally complete is your fat on its own? With no external input how much can it bring to the table in terms of your micronutrient profile? A handful of nutrients are actually fat soluble and can be stored in your fat in cells which are commonly referred to as “lipocytes”, these nutrients are stored until this fat is burned off for energy during a calorific deficit brought on from diet/fasting/excercise.
Vitamins can generally be broken down into two categories: fat soluble and water soluble. the fat soluble vitamins can be stored and released later in your body, the water soluble vitamins are ingested and utilised by the body on the fly.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
How important are these fat soluble vitamins?
In short, very. they help regulate and contribute to a wealth of bodily functions. The downside is that unfortunately due to the nature of fat soluble vitamins and their ability to accumulate within your body, it is very important to monitor your intake of these vitamins and ensure you’re not constantly consuming over the recommended daily intake.
This vitamin is also referred to as retinol, it helps regulate your immune system, helps with core biological functions such as cell division and gene expression, helps keep your throat/nose/lungs/eyes/mouth moist and assists in a whole other host of bodily processes such as bone and tooth development.
Vitamin A deficiency can result in: Rashes, Night Blindness, Immune System Impairment and a host of other symptoms. the fact this is fat soluble is incredibly advantageous to human beings as a whole as it means that periods of fasting won’t cause instantaneous deprivation.
If you’ve ever heard someone tell you “carrots help you see in the dark” they’re not entirely lying – countries which lack a reasonable amount of beta-carotene in their diet (which contains retinol) tend to have much higher rates of night blindness and a host of other eyesight problems.
This vitamin affects your bodies ability to utilise calcium and phosoporous effectively. Vitamin D allows your small intestine to absorb greater amounts of calcium which is also critical in the formation, reparation and maintenance of strong bones. Vitamin D ALSO plays a role in your immune system.
Vitamin D deficiencies can be more severe – if a child is deficient in vitamin d they can develop rickets, a disorder where the legs are long and bowed and unable to bear the load of your body. it can also affect the formation of the skull (the back of the skull may become flat). Adults who suffer from vitamin D deficiency can experience bone and muscle weakness and even osteoporosis as their body is unable to synthesise the calcium required to maintain an acceptable muscle/bone density.
Thankfully Vitamin D is fat soluble and can also be absorbed via sunlight due to the amazing properties of human skin – this means that a deficiency is more common in people who wear excessive sunscreen, live in areas with poor sun coverage or wear excessive amounts of clothes to cover the skin.
Vitamin E prevents damage occurring to a handful of important components in your own bio-system, namely essential fatty acids, red blood cells and even other vitamins such as A and C.
Vitamin E deficiency is an incredibly rare deficiency present almost exclusively in infants who are born premature and people who suffer from conditions which mean they are unable to absorb fats.
Vitamin K helps aid bone health and assists in the production of proteins that are used by your blood, your kidneys and your bones.
A vitamin K deficiency can cause haemorrhaging due to your bodies clotting factor being weakened. as such people who take blood thinning medication are more susceptible to it. antibiotics may also lead to a vitamin k deficiency due to the fact that healthy intestinal bacteria can be killed by antibiotics (Anti-biotics tend not to discriminate heavily between good and bad bacteria). anyone with bowel issues such as frequent and chronic diarrhoea can evacuate food before the gut has had time to absorb vitamin K also.
- The majority of micro-nutrients required for healthy function can not be stored as fat.
- A handful of very important ones can.
- You should always remember to monitor your intake and educate yourself on the dangers of both overdosing on a nutrient and extended periods of deprivation of said nutrient.
- Amino acids are not the same as vitamins, although they fulfil an important purpose also.