Is keto diet safe if you have high cholesterol? How does the keto diet affect cholesterol levels?
Every individual is different in terms of how they will react to a low carb high fat diet like Keto, however in general evidence has been found which shows that keto is safe and effective when it comes to improving overall cardiovascular health.
But before diving into what the research has revealed, it is important to understand what roles the fat, cholesterol, and carrier molecules called lipoproteins play in the body.
Fats which are also known as lipids in the biological term is a miscellaneous group of molecules which do not mix with water. In human body, fats are mostly found in bloodstream in two forms.
The first type is known as triglycerides, a fatty acid that stores energy for later use. Note: Too high concentration of triglycerides in blood indicates possibility of developing diabetes and cardiovascular illnesses in future.
The other important class of lipids in the human body is a wax-like substance called cholesterol. Cholesterol has a variety of functions such as building hormones including estrogen and testosterone. It also maintains the health of cell membranes, and aid in the absorption of vitamins.
Cholesterol needed by the body is available in the liver and other cells throughout the body. For a healthy human 75% of the body’s cholesterol is produced by the body itself while other 25% needs to be ingested from external sources like animal-based foods such as eggs, dairy, and red meat.
Cholesterol is transported in the blood by molecules composed of fat and protein called lipoproteins. The low-density lipoproteins are commonly known as LDL while high-density lipoproteins are called HDL clinically. The general consensus among scientists and medical professionals is that HDL-cholesterol is healthy for the body and that higher levels of HDL-C actually is good for heart health as it balances LDL (the harmful variety).
How the Keto Diet Affects Cholesterol?
Studies done so far have found that the keto diet can positively affect cholesterol levels and overall cardiovascular health in the following ways:
- It increases LDL particle size which leads to less risk for oxidative stress
- It improves the LDL to HDL ratio which helps to balance the effects of LDL (the ‘bad cholesterol’)
- Low carb high-fat diet has also been found to lower triglycerides, which when present in blood in high concentration indicate an elevated risk of stroke and heart problems.
A review published in 2017 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, mentions that :
“Low-carbohydrate high fat diets (LCHF diets) consistently improve all other markers of cardiovascular risk — lowering elevated blood glucose, insulin, triglyceride, ApoB and saturated fat (especially palmitoleic acid) concentrations, reducing small dense LDL particle numbers, glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) levels, blood pressure and body weight while increasing low HDL-cholesterol concentrations and reversing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).”
Bottom line: Though cholesterol levels can rise a bit for a minority of people who are on ketogenic diet, for most people the cholesterol profile usually improves, e.g. the good cholesterol (HDL) usually goes up the most which are connected to a lowered risk by itself.