I can not even count how many of my clients were concerned that this high-fat, Keto Diet will increase their cholesterol and then increase their risk of cardiac disease…
This is probably one of the biggest Keto myths out there.
In this post, we will absolutely bust this myth because new research suggests that keto can help lower total cholesterol.
You will learn exactly how cholesterol works in the body and hopefully all fear will be dismissed.
TOPICS IN THIS BLOG POST:
- What most people know about cholesterol is flawed
- I’ll show you that eating cholesterol doesn’t raise your cholesterol
- Is there really something like “good” and “bad” cholesterol
- And then what happens to your cholesterol when you do keto
So, get ready to erase everything you know about cholesterol!
You know what concerns me when it comes to cholesterol and keto?
What concerns me is that many doctors use cholesterol levels as a primary indicator of your health – and would then prescribe Statins if cholesterol is too high. (The truth is that Statins might not always be the best thing for some patients – according to an article by Dr Andreas Eenfeldt.
Look, I am by no means a doctor or a medical professional, but science and research show us why your cholesterol levels are pretty much meaningless as an indicator of health. In fact, it actually shows the opposite in that we need cholesterol.
THE REALITY IS THAT EATING KETO DOESN’T GIVE YOU HIGH CHOLESTEROL
In the early days when doctors first studied the human heart, they found a correlation between hardened and clogged arteries and an increase in cardiovascular disease.
They then blamed cholesterol due to the plaque build-up they found in arteries.
I don’t quite blame them because if you look at the fat left in a pan after cooking fatty food – It could make sense why they came to that conclusion.
But this is not how cholesterol works.
Some interesting facts about cholesterol:
- When most people talk about cholesterol, they usually refer to the lipid profile, which is actually the fat and fatty acids in your blood measured during a lipid panel test.
- Cholesterol plays a vital role in the building of hormones (like estrogen and testosterone), strengthening cell membranes, transporting vitamins, and helping you absorb all the nutrients from your food
- Did you know that your body is capable of producing all the cholesterol it needs to function? In fact, 75% of the body’s cholesterol is produced in-house by the body. Just 25% of the cholesterol in your body comes from your diet.
- The truth is that almost all the cholesterol from your food can’t be absorbed or used by your body anyway, you eat it, and then your body processes it and leaves your body as waste.
THE “GOOD” CHOLESTEROL, THE “BAD” CHOLESTEROL, AND THE “UGLY” LIE ABOUT CHOLESTEROL AND CHOLESTEROL
We have three primary sources of fuel for the body; glucose, free fatty acids (triglycerides), and then the ketones that are made from free fatty acids.
Sugar (Glucose) and salt can easily “mix” with your bloodstream for transportation around the body.
However, this is not the case for cholesterol or triglycerides; they need some sort of a carrier for transportation (think of it as a boat that cholesterol and triglycerides require to move through the bloodstream).
This boat or carrier is called lipoproteins, and they are responsible for carrying cholesterol to the cells and organs that need it most.
The lipoproteins we most often hear about are low-density lipoprotein (LDL), commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is seen as the “good” guys.
So let’s have a look at the difference between these two types of carriers or lipoproteins.
WE WILL START WITH HIGH-DENSITY LIPOPROTEINS (HDL)
HDL is much denser because it contains more protein than fat.
HDL has also been labelled as the “good guys” because it is responsible for transporting all the cholesterol that is not being used by the body back to the liver.
In fact, Low HDL levels are not good for you at all, a study shows that with every drop of 1 mg/dL drop in HDL cholesterol, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases by 4%. (The link of this study is in the show notes below)
LOW-DENSITY LIPOPROTEINS (LDL):
LDL is not as bad as it is made out to be, because it does exactly what it is supposed to do, and that is to transport cholesterol with nutrients to your cells.
However, LDL particles tend to move much slower than HDL, causing it often to get stuck in your bloodstream. As they are stuck, it gets attacked by free radicals and starts to oxidise.
Oxidised LDL is much smaller and easier to break through your artery walls.
This then triggers your HDL cholesterol to start removing the LDL, and the cholesterol that doesn’t get removed enters your artery walls and starts the process of plaque build-up (aka, atherosclerosis).
So here’s the controversial question – if LDL cholesterol levels increase, does this indicate a risk for cardiovascular disease?
Contrary to conventional medicine – the answer is: No, not exactly.
Research now shows us that it’s not how much cholesterol you have when on Keto, but rather how big they are – In other words, is the cholesterol small enough to enter your artery walls and cause damage?
The real culprit here is very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) which is much smaller and more likely to break into your artery wall causing hardened arteries[*].
I know this is very technical so let me quickly summarise up to this point….
- As you can now see, LDL cholesterol is not bad.
- Instead, we need to be concerned about two things:
- VLDL cholesterol and
- The size of the LDL particles.
- It is vital to understand that LDL carries cholesterol around your body, whereas VLDL carries triglycerides.
I am going somewhere, so listen up:
The more triglycerides are available in your bloodstream, the more harmful VLDL cholesterol will be required to transport them – that makes sense as VLDL carries triglycerides.
So here is a conclusion we can make up to this point:
LDL is not necessarily bad for us…
What we should focus on instead is:
- What causes this influx of triglycerides that activate harmful VLDL cholesterol, and
- What causes LDL cholesterol size to decrease.
SO, LET’S HAVE A LOOK AT WHAT CAUSES THIS INFLUX OF TRIGLYCERIDES?
When you consume a high-carbohydrate meal, the body will break this down into some simple sugars that you can use immediately for energy.
However, most of it will not be used and results in excess sugar in your bloodstream.
The body’s way to deal with this increased amount of sugar in your blood is to release insulin to try and move the sugar into your cells.
Here’s the punchline, so please pay attention…
Unfortunately, the body’s ability to store sugar is relatively limited, and unless you are busy running a marathon, this EXCESS SUGAR WILL BE CONVERTED INTO TRIGLYCERIDES which will then be stored as fat.
This is also why we see people that are insulin resistant have much higher levels of triglycerides in the blood. And as we all know, insulin resistance is as a result of consistently overeating carbohydrates.
So based on what I have just told you, let’s see if you can get to what causes increased levels of harmful VLDL cholesterol?
Let me answer this question with a research study.
In this specific study (link is in the show notes), researchers found that by eating sugar and high fructose corn syrup increased triglycerides, VLDL, and decreased LDL particle size while reducing HDL. Now guess what happened when these researchers removed the sugar from the control diets? They saw all of these markers improved radically.
So, the answer to my question – “what causes increased levels of harmful VLDL cholesterol” is:
A HIGH CARBOHYDRATE DIET INCREASES TRIGLYCERIDES that can lead to higher cardiovascular risks and metabolic disorders like obesity and type 2 diabetes.
NOW I WANT TO SHOW YOU HOW THE KETO DIET CAN HELP BALANCE YOUR CHOLESTEROL
Following the Keto Diet. Yes, even with all the fats, actually improves your cholesterol profile.
When you’re on a Keto Diet, you’ll be replacing triglyceride-raising carbs with good fats that actually boost HDL and increase LDL particle size.
The Keto Diet creates the right balance between HDL and LDL,
so that you have enough HDL to remove the slow-moving LDL from the bloodstream.
Listen to what Sylvan Lee Weinberg (former president of the American College of Cardiology) said regarding a low-fat diet [*]:
So, just like this Doctor, it’s time that we all change the way we think about cholesterol!
Limiting fat intake and dietary cholesterol, as we have been told, doesn’t work.
AND THIS IS WHERE THE KETOGENIC DIET COMES IN WITH CHOLESTEROL
Before I show you what recent research tells us about the Ketogenic Diet and cholesterol, let me give you an example much closer to home.
My hubby lives a super healthy lifestyle. He has been doing this since I met him. He does vigorous workouts 5 times a week, and he literally never eats anything wrong. Before Keto he would despise fat, he would cut the fat off from his meat, only use spray and cook in a cooking pan, he would never eat that juicy, fatty skin of the chicken, he would only drink fat-free milk, and the list goes on…
A few years ago, before we started Keto, he was diagnosed with extremely high cholesterol (7,8 – we know now that this is neither here nor there). Sadly, most doctors will prescribe Statins in this case, in fact, that is exactly what they did for him. By the way, he also had high blood pressure… Think about it, this makes absolutely no sense – he is the ultimate example of someone that is super disciplined and really focussed on being healthy. Well, so he thought, anyway…
This Picture was taken when he was at the peak of his high cholesterol just before we started him on the keto diet.
As you can see this doesn’t look like someone that should have high cholesterol…
One might argue that maybe his high cholesterol is genetic and hereditary….
this could be… we thought so anyway – because his dad was “diagnosed” with high cholesterol … but then look what happened next …..At that time, I was already a student of the Keto Diet and knew how bad Statins was, so after much deliberation, I convinced him that the Keto Diet is the answer, I provided him with some research, and he wholeheartedly started following the Keto Diet. Yes, he had high cholesterol, and I fed him more fat!
Six months later, when he tested his cholesterol again, his cholesterol levels came down to 3.2 and so did his blood pressure!
Let’s see if recent research supports what happened to my hubby when he went from low-fat to eating Keto?
A study was done by the DEPARTMENT OF CARDIOLOGY AT KASHAN UNIVERSITY, specifically looked at the cholesterol biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in overweight patients following a Ketogenic Diet – Let me show you what they found:
- The LDL particle size increased and was less prone to oxidation
- HDL levels increased significantly to deal with LDL before it oxidises
- The LDL to HDL ratio improved
- Triglycerides decreased, and the triglyceride to HDL ratio improved.
List this as the heading and then the for bullet points as bullet points be lowered as she speaks it to the right of the screen
Another study by the COMMONWEALTH SCIENTIFIC AND INDUSTRIAL RESEARCH ORGANIZATION found that the patients that went Keto experienced an average increase of 20.6% in their HDL cholesterol levels — a whopping four times higher compared to those in the low-fat group.
There are so many similar studies that I can go on forever, but let me give you one more.
This long-term trial in the JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL & CLINICAL CARDIOLOGY had overweight patients on a Keto Diet for 24 weeks.
They saw lower triglycerides, decreased body weight and body mass index, better blood glucose and better LDL profiles — and an increase in HDL.
So, stop worrying about eating cholesterol and fat on Keto – instead, worry more about eating too many carbs.
LET ME NOW TRY AND LAND THIS CHOLESTEROL PLANE BY QUICKLY GOING OVER THE BENEFITS OF CHOLESTEROL AND SATURATED FAT
As much as cholesterol and saturated fat have been demonised as part of Keto, it actually performs many vital roles in the body. So lemme give you some of these benefits.
Add saturated fat as the heading and then list the highlighted benefits as bullet points below it as she speaks it and then do the same for cholesterol
Let’s start with the benefits of saturated fat:
- Saturated fat is responsible for creating HEALTHY CELL MEMBRANES – 50% of cell membranes consist of saturated fatty acids, and they are responsible for the integrity of cells by ensuring stiff cell walls.
- Saturated fat helps build STRONG BONES. Saturated fat is needed so that calcium can be effectively incorporated into the skeletal structure.
- Saturated fat PROTECTS THE LIVER against alcohol and other toxins.
- Saturated fats IMPROVE YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM because your white blood cells need adequate amounts of saturated fat to properly recognise and destroy foreign invaders like viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
- Saturated fat PROTECTS OUR DIGESTIVE TRACT due to its antimicrobial properties that protect us against harmful microorganisms.
Let’s now have a look at the benefits of cholesterol on Keto:
- We have now seen that our blood vessels become damaged due to the irritation caused by free radicals or because the vessels are structurally weak – BTW the biggest culprit being a high-carb diet. When the body recognizes that blood vessels are damaged cholesterol is sent to REPAIR THE BLOOD VESSEL DAMAGE.
- Just like saturated fats, cholesterol is also responsible for creating STRONG CELL MEMBRANES. Diet high in omega-6 oils or vegetable oils tends to weaken your cellular walls. cholesterol is sent to these tissues to give its structural integrity.
- Cholesterol also IMPROVES SEROTONIN levels. cholesterol plays a vital role in the production and function of serotonin receptors. Serotonin is the body’s feel-good chemical, and low levels of cholesterol have been linked to depression and aggression.
- Cholesterol is the building block of many critical hormones. Contrary to what we have been told, cholesterol is actually a fundamental BUILDING BLOCK FOR ESSENTIAL HORMONES that help us deal with stress and protect us against cancer and heart disease. It is also vital to the PRODUCTION OF SEX HORMONES like estrogen, testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone.
- Cholesterol allows our bodies to ABSORB VITAMIN D. Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin needed for healthy bones, a healthy nervous system, insulin production, reproduction, the immune system, proper growth, mineral metabolism, and muscle tone.
- Cholesterol plays a vital role in the CREATION OF BILE which is essential for the digestion and digestion of fats in your diet.
- Cholesterol acts as an ANTIOXIDANT, which is why we see cholesterol levels tend to increase with age. As an antioxidant, cholesterol protects us against free radical damage that can lead to heart disease and cancer.
- cholesterol helps maintain INTESTINAL HEALTH. People with low cholesterol-vegetarian or vegan diets often develop leaky gut syndrome and have intestinal disorders due to low cholesterol.
If you’ve reached the end of this very lenghty post, congratuations! Cholesterol and Keto is a hot topic. Perhaps leaving you with this testimonial from one of my clients will also help discourage some of the concerns you may have about cholesterol and keto.