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The Deal with Fat

We don’t talk a lot about dietary science
here on SciShow because, frankly, it can seem like a hype factory designed more to generate
clicks than to generate understanding. People want to hear what to eat and what not to eat
in order to be healthy. The problem with that… is that it’s complicated.
It’s too complicated to fit into a headline. Eating lots of fat will make you unhealthy,
but so will eating lots of anything. Studies show that cutting fat intake is useless when
attempting to help people lose weight if those calories are replaced by something else, which
they tend to be. Now fat is relatively straightforward chemically,
but it’s boggled dietary scientists and, especially, journalists writing about it for
decades. But the basics of what we understand aren’t that complicated, so let’s get
to the heart of fat. Fats are molecules that organisms use to store
energy…they are very good at that and so they can be converted into lots and lots of
energy for running an organism, whether it’s a seed growing into a plant or a neuron firing
in your brain. Fat is super good at energy storage. In nutrition,
we talk about energy in “calories” which is really a measure of heat. But, basically, the first thing to know about
fat is that it is energy dense. So per gram, fat has more than twice the energy of protein
or carbohydrates. Fats, like everything we eat, are made of
chemicals. And those chemicals are primarily composed of large chains of carbon atoms.
Each of those carbon carbon bonds can be broken by your body and converted into usable energy. The energy density of fat combined with the
fact that people who ate high fat diets tended to be less healthy was the original cause
of the anti-fat craze that started in the 60s and continues at least to some extent
today. But it turns out that fats are not inherently
bad for you, indeed, they are an absolutely necessary part of the diet. But there are definitely some fats that promote
health more than others, and some that are downright dangerous. You’ve heard of the
main categories: You got your trans, saturated, unsaturated,
hydrogenated, polyunsaturated, omega 3…all of these words are chemistry terms that get
talked about a lot without discussing what they mean, like, at all. But this is SciShow, so let’s go there. Carbon has four unpaired electrons, so each
carbon atom likes to bond to four other things. This is methane: carbon bonded to four hydrogens.
And yes, I am using snatoms– Veritasium’s molecular modeling kit which I’m very excited
about. If the carbon is in a saturated carbon chain,
two of those things will be other carbons– unless it’s the end of the chain. And two of those things are going to be hydrogen.
If this is what the carbon chain looks like with a bunch of carbon atoms, each bonded
to two carbons and two hydrogens, that is a saturated fat, which tend to be solid and
are mostly made by animals…though also coconuts. The thing that saturated fats are saturated
with is hydrogen. Every carbon is bonded to two of them, except the last, which is bonded
to three. And unsaturated fats are not saturated. They
have fewer hydrogens…how? Well they’ve got at least one double bond between two carbons
in the chain. Each double bond means two fewer hydrogens. So unsaturated fats don’t have as many hydrogens
as they could have per carbon atom. And this is not as minor a change as it might sound.
Single bonds can rotate around their axis no problem, but double bonds lock a structure
into place. And that double bond can either lock the chain
into a kink or lock it straight. In nature, a double bond in a fat chain almost
always locks it into a kink. This prevents the fat molecules from stacking into lattices
making them more likely to be liquid at room temperature. So unsaturated fats tend to be
liquid, making them oils, and come mostly from plants and fish. The kinked configuration is called the “cis
isomer” and the straight one is the trans isomer. The word ‘isomer’ just means that
the molecules have the same chemical formula, but are different shapes. And the different shapes matter…a lot. Saturated fats are less healthy than unsaturated
fats because they pack together easily and can form plaques in your arteries and can
also interact with cholesterol making it build up in your bloodstream. Cis unsaturated fats (which the rest of the
world just calls unsaturated fats) don’t stack well and so don’t form plaques. So
that difference exists, but it isn’t as big as we used to think it was. It turns out
our bodies are pretty good at dealing with whatever we throw at it…as long as it’s
fairly familiar. Worse by far are the trans unsaturated fats.
These are almost all manufactured by adding hydrogens or “partially hydrogenating”
some unsaturated fat like soybean oil. So trans fat and hydrogenated fats are the same
thing…one refers to the process through which they are created, the other their chemical
structure. These are fats that have double bonds AND
stack well…in fact, they stack even better than saturated fats AND our biochemical systems
aren’t designed to break them down AND they interact badly with cholesterol. A two percent increase in daily intake of
trans fat corresponds with a 23% increase in the chance of heart disease. Amazingly
they were initially seen as a healthy alternative to saturated fats and are now in the process
of being completely banned in America. Now, even in these categories there’s variation,
and inside that variation comes more active areas of research where less is known for
sure. Polyunsaturated fats, or fats with more than
one double bond might be more or less healthy than monounsaturated fats… no one really
agrees because they both have benefits and drawbacks, and it matters where in the chain
the double bonds are. You should probably have some of both. And If the double bond is just before the
third carbon from the end, we call that an omega three fatty acid and they seem to have
a wide range of benefits. And they’re also one of the two essential fatty acids (the
other being omega 6). Essential compounds are chemicals that our bodies need to function
correctly but can’t manufacture on their own…so we literally need to eat those kinds
of fats in order to survive. And indeed, we need to eat fat in general
to survive. It’s good for you…in the correct quantities. So those are the basics of fat you guys! They
have TONS of energy in them, so they’re great when you need calories. But they also
make it super easy to eat too many calories. They’re absolutely necessary for life, they
taste good and are good for you, but unsaturated fats are better and trans fats might very
well kill you. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow,
which was brought to you by our patrons on Patreon. If you want to help support this
show, just go to patreon.com/scishow. And if you’re interested in Snatoms– I’m
not sure if the kickstarter is still going on– but they’re basically these little
magnetic modeling kits. They’re very cool, we’ll put a link in the description.

Randall Smitham



  1. Me Posted on December 12, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Saturated fat. That's what your body fat is mad of. Do you really think the body wouldn't have a way to handle saturated fats without damage?

  2. Jmack1lla Posted on December 20, 2017 at 12:54 am

    Ive lost 40 pounds twice by cutting sugar. Gained it back when i ate the sugar again and had to stop and losr it again. Im done eating sugar lol

  3. BvsMAcosh Posted on December 21, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    when even cis and straight are different things

  4. Jerry Bruton Posted on December 22, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    Your comments on saturated fats less healthy is not true and is basically balderdash. Shows your scientific research needs updating.

  5. Chuck Freeburg Posted on December 23, 2017 at 4:14 am

    What does that mean a 2% increase associates to a 23% increase in heart disease? Is that saying 100grams daily going to 102 grams daily increases it 23% as would 1 gram increasing to 1.02 grams daily? What if someone ate zero and they went to .1grams daily. its an infinite increase.

  6. Andrew Meininger Posted on December 23, 2017 at 5:33 am

    You’re wrong. Saturated fat doesn’t clog arteries.

  7. matthew collins Posted on December 27, 2017 at 8:48 am

    Very good video 🙂 No-one else describes these things

  8. Gustavo H. Galvanini-Boldrini Posted on December 28, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    I eat a 90% Fat ketogenic diet, my doctor was amazed with my numbers.

  9. Cora Posted on December 31, 2017 at 9:46 am

    THIS is why I'm trying to go ketogenic. High fat diets help your brain functioning, satisfaction after meals, energy levels and much more.

  10. William Morey-Baker Posted on January 1, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    the very first claim made in this video is outright false… not a good start. from there it goes down hill.

  11. William Morey-Baker Posted on January 1, 2018 at 7:15 pm

    SciShow. you disappoint me yet again. old ass information, supported by old ass studies, spreading lies and misinformation designed to sell the standard American diet or otherwise spread enough doubt to cause people to disengage and resort to old eating habits. yet another case of scishow feeding people a load of BS… I'm done with this group of pseudo-scientists, and if you want real info, you should be too.

  12. classicsound90 Posted on January 4, 2018 at 11:53 pm

    Wow. Very good presentation!

  13. sebcde Posted on January 5, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    Who can clarify this? At 2:44 he says "unsaturated fats don't have as many hydrogens as they could have per carbon atom". Why are "hydrogenated" fats ("manufactured by adding hydrogens" 3:50) also unsaturated then? Shouldn't the addition of hydrogens prevent the existence of double bonds?

  14. Caroline Saliba Posted on January 8, 2018 at 9:04 am

    Love you Hank 😌❤️

  15. Trenton Rich Posted on January 13, 2018 at 8:58 am

    Very helpful, thank you

  16. tarjei99 Posted on January 20, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    You should read up on what have happened in nutrition. Especially about who cheated. And the critical question : why was heart disease uncommon 100 years ago.

  17. Adrian Abromaitis Posted on January 22, 2018 at 7:21 am

    My professors told me that saturated fats are better for you. Do you mean to let me that I’m being lied to?

  18. Ashley Wilson Posted on January 23, 2018 at 10:20 pm

    PLEASE do this for carbohydrates!!

  19. William Emanuelsson Posted on January 24, 2018 at 2:06 am

    I love nutritional science, the more you learn the less you know

  20. Felipe Fülber Posted on January 26, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    the blue stripes against the blue background made me think there was something wrong with my screen hahah
    great vid as always, thanks for the info!

  21. Ricky Williams Posted on January 28, 2018 at 1:26 am

    This "war on fats" that started in the 60's comes from faulty research that was pushed by the sugar industry. As people began to blame fat and push it out of their diets "healthy" alternatives to your favorite foods began to grow in popularity. However, it's a giant lie.

    If you were to look at the substitutes, example Healthy Choice, and the original frozen dinners, example Stouffer's, you'll see something wrong with the substitute. As the healthy choice meals may be less in calories and fat than it's original counterpart. However, the healthy choice meal is packed with sugar. I remember looking at two beef stroganoffs. The healthy choice one had 14g of sugar where as the normal one had only 2g of sugar. Now yes Stouffer's has it's own share of problems but the fact that a "healthy option" has that much sugar in it is astounded me.

    I say to drop any idea that any kind of fat is bad for you and become more sugar conscious. Look at the foods you have for yes unhealthy fats like trans fat, but also the amount of sugar being put into it.

  22. Adler S Posted on January 28, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    ahah another reason coconuts are a mammal

  23. EDZERO Posted on February 2, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    More nutritinal science please

  24. Anthony Grigoryan Posted on February 4, 2018 at 5:20 am

    Trans fat banned? Tbh that would probably be great

  25. Freedomcat Posted on February 6, 2018 at 4:52 am

    You justify using mayonnaise on sandwiches. The kind I get has omega 3 in it

  26. Dennis Smith Posted on February 6, 2018 at 10:34 am

    Adam ruins fat/diets/sugar shows with citations the antifat craze was started by lobbyist working for the sugar industry. His explanation makes good sense but he is (at least partly) contradicted here, who is right?

  27. Mark Smith Posted on February 8, 2018 at 12:41 am

    god i hate chemistry

  28. king james488 Posted on February 9, 2018 at 10:16 am

    nothing wrong with fat… that's where the fat soluble vitamins are.
    the ones that have had all the vitamins stripped out are bad.

  29. I want to commit sudoku Posted on February 12, 2018 at 6:15 am

    Oh no I'm gonna start checking things for trans fats everyday now

  30. Stephen Hazel Posted on February 24, 2018 at 3:17 am

    saturated fat is only solid at room temperate. it's LIQUID at body temperature. and it's how people store fat. so ain't nothin wrong with it.

  31. y0rema Posted on February 27, 2018 at 9:43 pm

    When a particular type of fat is banned in America of all places, you know it's bad.

  32. haruno21 Posted on March 2, 2018 at 6:12 am


  33. S.J.'s DIY Adventures Posted on March 2, 2018 at 10:36 pm

    Awesome! Finally someone with a real explanation of good vs bad fat!

  34. Jay Silvey Vera Posted on March 6, 2018 at 9:32 am

    You did not talk about ketosis induced by ketogenic diet or fasting.

  35. ChickenSplash Posted on March 7, 2018 at 9:41 pm

    Isn't it a coincidence that each molecule in a type of fat has that exact amount of carbon atoms? Not some with an extra carbon or one with a missing carbon

  36. PANKAJ GAUR Posted on March 8, 2018 at 8:50 pm

    So much into science that he forgot to comb his hair🤣

  37. dasten123 Posted on March 15, 2018 at 7:15 pm

    I understand this is not a food channel but I wished there were more examples in the video, like different oils you can buy and so on

  38. blk bbw Posted on March 18, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Can you do an updated video of this? Because now it's been discovered/revealed! that Saturated fats are actually Healthy fats. And that omega fats are actually the ones that cause inflammation!!! Causing the body to use cholesterol to Repair the damage caused, especially from omega 6!
    In facts it is now known that Insulin Resistance AND inflammation IS what causes the furring of the arteries!! i.e: Sugar & Omega 6! (plus some starch & omega 3) Because Sugar!!! causes VLDL Cholesterol!! We should ALL be getting our Artery Calcium Plaque checked with a scan!

  39. Corntoll Gaday Posted on April 5, 2018 at 11:23 pm

    3:45 you look like you have skinny fat body type. 🤔

  40. DcNative81 Posted on April 11, 2018 at 6:06 pm

    Excellent Video 👍

  41. Josiah Dent Posted on April 17, 2018 at 11:33 am

    A video on the Ketogenic diet would be very useful for a lot of people. Also everyone should read frankydman's comments below on Saturated Fat, this video is putting forward outdated information that just doesn't fit the current scientific concensus (albeit not yet the medical community, which is an insane situation to be in!)

  42. Sabrina-Liz Muthyala Posted on April 27, 2018 at 11:11 am

    We watched this in class and I was so confused because my teacher just said this guy is really at good explaining fat and I was like but it isn't just a guy, that's Hank

  43. Imthiaz Basha Posted on April 28, 2018 at 1:01 am

    Do insulin resist burning the fat ?
    Do insulin make you fat ?

  44. Ailurophile Posted on May 1, 2018 at 10:26 pm


  45. Roger van der Puije Posted on May 6, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    2:22 what are you talking about. coconuts are also mammals. they have milk, flesh and hair.

  46. Scott Wells Posted on May 7, 2018 at 9:23 pm


  47. Adwiteey Shishodia Posted on May 17, 2018 at 3:16 am

    You need to read more about saturated fat and why the arteries are clogged. They are clogged because insulin causes damage to arteries which cholesterol tries to heal by acting as a bandage. If you reduce the sugars, then saturated fats are actually healthy as they reduce oxidative stress as compared to unsaturated fats, which oxidize.

  48. Dercio Silveira Posted on May 22, 2018 at 11:26 pm

    Everything can kill us in this world. It sucks… I like to eat.

  49. Juan José Pérez Caridad Posted on May 24, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    I'd like to know how humans and other animals know the direction a sound come from. I always thoght in difference of phase, but, how can the brain detect that difference? Is it true that the owls have an ear higher than the other to hear sounds from above or below? Thanks.

  50. Kimberly Cooper Posted on May 25, 2018 at 1:23 am

    Hank, can you review the studies done by Ancel Keys and John Yudkin, please? It appears that Ancel Keys cherry picked his data to say that fats cause heart attacks. However, John Yudkin's research looks like sugar causes heart attacks and eating fats that we evolved on are good for us.

  51. Karlstens Posted on May 30, 2018 at 7:35 am

    "…but so will eating lots of anything". Not true. Eating lots of starchy vegetables, fruits and greens is absolutely healthy, and you need to eat more of them!

  52. Jonas Petersson Posted on June 1, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    This is so so so wrong in so many ways

  53. Alex Olvera Posted on June 3, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    Still some wrong things imformation in this video on fat

  54. Michael Pearson Posted on June 15, 2018 at 7:36 pm

    So saturated fats are harmful in your body even when your body isn't room temperature?

  55. Frech Studios Posted on July 15, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    My heart skipped a beat when trans fats were mentioned.

  56. mklik4 Posted on July 26, 2018 at 1:46 am

    How about speak a bit slower? Lots of info to take in

  57. Robert Schmitz Posted on July 29, 2018 at 3:35 pm


  58. Karen Shy Posted on August 11, 2018 at 10:46 am

    I guess vegans and/or vegetarians wouldn't be able to receive Omega-3 and/or Omega-6 without supplements, is that right?

  59. James Rogers Posted on August 13, 2018 at 1:14 am

    i for some reason felt very fat while watching this

  60. AA Productions Posted on August 21, 2018 at 12:36 am

    But even coconut oil, a saturated fat, is almost liquid at room temperature,
    and is certainly liquid when it's in your body, which is about 30 °F hotter.
    And so, why would there be any concern of it "stacking" into a solid, to clog any arteries?

  61. kyucifer Posted on August 24, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    Very clear. There's so much noise out there and I was getting hopelessly confused. Thank you Hank!

  62. Steampunk Ass Monster Posted on September 14, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    I have to physically resist making a joke about cis unsaturated and trans unsaturated fats

  63. Vasil Khachiashvili Posted on September 21, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    SLOW DOWN… Too fast, annoyingly fast..

  64. bestintheworldmusic Posted on October 1, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    Eat from the land we've been given and you can't go far wrong!

  65. soviet guy1 Posted on October 2, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    Chewin the fat

  66. soviet guy1 Posted on October 2, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    People just don't understand the concept of a balanced diet

  67. Princess YuBeace Posted on October 19, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    Also, if you don't digest enough fat, you can get constipated really bad. Fat can act like a lubricant for your guts.

  68. Prerna Gupta Posted on October 21, 2018 at 6:25 pm

    In crash course, you mentioned that trans fat don't exist though? I'm confused

  69. ganeshrvgk Posted on October 27, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    Saturated fat don't even touch each OTHER there transported by a lipoprotein dude this is wrong

  70. Fernando Turjo Posted on October 30, 2018 at 3:03 pm

    can you deliver your speech slowly..you are going too fast to be understood

  71. Chaffe J Carraway Posted on January 5, 2019 at 2:28 am

    Can you do an episode on deoxycholic acid injections? Those are supposed to be the new alternative to liposuction that chemically dissolve fat cells.

  72. Lizee J Posted on January 13, 2019 at 9:28 pm

    just eat real food

  73. Jason White Posted on January 25, 2019 at 4:58 am

    One of the best explanations I have heard 👏🏻👏🏻

  74. Youthoob Gamer Posted on February 5, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    So omega 6 have double bond just before 6 carbon atoms before end of chain?

  75. timmothy58 Posted on February 10, 2019 at 7:11 am

    hey…great wheelbarrow of information…maybe if you gave me two wheelbarrows…and spoke more quickly…i would be more uneducated…thumbs down…

  76. Max Do Posted on February 12, 2019 at 3:20 am

    – Eat both unsat fat and sat fat (saturated fat is not bad)
    – Eat more omega 3
    – Stay the heck away from transfat.

  77. savaka Posted on February 16, 2019 at 8:59 am

    Saturated fats turn to liquid on the palm of your hand.. Your internal body temperature is a good bit higher, just saying its hard to believe they actually clog up arterys

  78. Artificial Idiot Posted on February 19, 2019 at 11:05 am

    world banning stuff that can solve over population

  79. Fred Bach Posted on March 1, 2019 at 8:55 pm

    Sorry, fellows. The process of hydrogrnation produces both cis and trans fats. So trans and hydrogrnation are not really the same.

  80. Fred Bach Posted on March 1, 2019 at 9:04 pm

    Also, no discussion of fat on foods is complete without talking about the serious advantages of coconut oil. You only mentioned that coconuts produce saturated fats. That is not enough. And what about the new discoveries about the Omega-5 and Omega-7 oils and the value of short-length hydrocarbons such as the butrates needed for the large intestine? Your discussion was nice as far as it went, but like Einstein said "everything should be as simple as possible but not simpler". It was vastly oversimplified.

  81. Lukeamania Posted on March 5, 2019 at 2:09 am

    You can eat all the healthy food, get plenty of rest, drink lots of water…. And you will still die.

  82. Brian Kerrigan Posted on March 10, 2019 at 5:59 pm

    Why have trans fats only been a "thing" for about 15 or so years? They were never spoken of til near then.

  83. Ligia Saravia Posted on March 18, 2019 at 11:11 pm

    WaiT AHHH HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOOO a love crash course

  84. kvtassel Posted on March 31, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    Fat makes you fat.  The stomach becomes satiated based on weight sensors and stretching  sensors.  Fat is light (no weight) and small (no stretching).  The calories are very high in comparison to protein and carbs.  Besides, we need way more fiber.  Fats DO NOT satisfy; spices and flavors satisfy.  Non-fat thickeners are nice though.  Furthermore, we don't get enough fiber.  In fact, way too much fat, way too little fiber.

  85. Arth Posted on April 8, 2019 at 11:42 pm

    Can't agree with claim that unsaturated fats are better. Saturated fats from C4 to C12 are super healthy. And – surprise – there are tons of research showing that high consumption of polyunsaturated omega 6 fats causes cardiovascular diseases. And You know what? Most of plant oils rich in polyunsaturated fats are omega 6 dominant with little to no omega 3. Not to mention that most polyunsaturated fats are used for processed foods or stored in transparent, plastic bottles (UV-B exposure, room temperature) so it's mailny oxidised forms which is another problem. You know, I prefer not oxidized saturated fats then spoiled vegetables oils that will wreak havoc inside my body with free radical species.
    Still, best source of essential polyunsaturated fats are fishes and eggs not vegetable oils.

  86. Archaeoptery X Posted on April 16, 2019 at 1:00 am

    Eat moar lard !

  87. Netional Posted on April 26, 2019 at 11:29 pm

    Just read a book about nutrition, and yet this 5 minute video still gave me some new info, like why the double bond produces a kink.

  88. Quality Videos Kingkitfox Posted on May 29, 2019 at 9:08 pm

    this vid needs an update, keto.

  89. Krieghart Posted on June 24, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    So saturated fat = good
    Saturated fat + refined carbs = really bad

  90. Kevin James Posted on June 24, 2019 at 8:19 pm

    Want to help the nation reduce their saturated fat intake and reduce heart attacks and strokes? Sign the petition to introduce a tax on saturated and trans fat https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/264831/sponsors/new?token=TVYoKfRecFrUEYFxBcd

  91. Taisto Tammilehto Posted on July 18, 2019 at 7:21 am

    How much of each fat tho 😡 like in percentages of bodyweight

  92. Ryae on Posted on August 5, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    can i got science about fat from our ancestor time?
    why they store fat? what it use for? should us modern time store fat?

  93. Myfwnwy Turnbull Posted on September 13, 2019 at 7:47 am

    whenever I wash my face with my benzoyl peroxide face wash, I can smell donuts or Mc Donalds apple pies. I KNEW science was behind it! I've been using the wash 2xs a day for over a year and more than 60% of the time I can smell the sweet deliciousness of transfat while the wash sits on my mug, is doing its thing.

  94. William Stumpff Posted on September 18, 2019 at 11:24 pm

    Lol I love this guy his explanations are amazing

  95. Razorback73 Posted on September 23, 2019 at 9:36 pm

    Far better for you than carbs. Not so good if you're eating carbs and fat mixes (which is what most people in the west do. Hence the mass fat git syndrome). Drop the carbs, and eat fat instead. Go full keto. Your body will thank you.

  96. Eucalyptus Jimmy Posted on October 7, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    359th dislike

  97. Joshua Jarvis Posted on November 3, 2019 at 1:43 pm

    How come you never hear of microbes infecting fat tissue?

  98. Hazarth Posted on November 8, 2019 at 9:47 pm

    I don't much care about dietary videos and recommendations because I believe that in general you only need to follow one simple rule: "Don't be an idiot" and "Too much of anything can be harmful" … but to the credit of SciShow, I enjoyed the more in-depth chemical explanation of the structure and processes behind what we consider "healthy or not".