The Impact of a High Fat Meal

You know that uncomfortably full feeling you get after eating a large meal? Especially if that meal is very rich like pizza or a cheeseburger and fries? While this feeling and the fatigue that often accompanies it is temporary, large quantities of unhealthy food may cause lasting damage to your organs. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation indicates that normal liver function is disrupted by high amounts of saturated fat eaten over a short period of time.

Liver disease is a growing problem in the United States, it is estimated that nearly one in every four US adults has non-alcoholic liver disease. This is metabolic condition similar to diabetes, a dysfunction in how the body processes fat and carbohydrates that is often the result of the way we live our lives: inadequate exercise and unhealthy eating.

The study evaluated the metabolic impact of a single dose of palm oil in an amount similar to the saturated fat in a meal of pizza or fast food. In the 14 healthy adult male participants, liver function was overwhelmed by this “fat loading”:

  • insulin sensitivity decreased by 25%
  • fat deposits in their liver spiked by 35%
  • liver production of glucose increased by 70%

While a healthy adult liver could bounce back from this type of meal, repeated high saturated fat intake eventually causes the liver to become clogged with fat deposits while blood sugar levels climb, potentially leading to fatty liver disease.

We don’t know how long this fat loading impairment lasts or how many times eating a meal like this can be dealt with by the liver without long term consequences to your health. The answer is likely different for each individual depending on your genetics, how much you exercise, your body fat amount and location as well as other factors in how you live your life.

There is currently no medical treatment for fatty liver disease, so prevention is your best bet and like many conditions, if you catch the disease process early enough you can heal it through a healthy diet and active lifestyle.

Foods high in saturated fat:

  • High fat animal meats: beef, pork, lamb
  • The skin and dark meat of chicken and turkey
  • Butter
  • Dairy – cheese and milk
  • Coconut oil and palm oil

While decreasing saturated fat in your diet, make sure to replace it with healthy foods:

  • Unsaturated fats like olive oil, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, and beans
  • Complex carbohydrates in fruit, vegetables, grains, and beans.

Happy eating,


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