What Is The Effect Of The Keto Diet On Cholesterol? Safety And Risks
People on a ketogenic diet, or keto diet, consume large amounts of fat, moderate amounts of protein and very small amounts of carbohydrates. There is some evidence that following this diet may affect cholesterol levels.
How Does Keto Work?
The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that was developed to help children and adults suffering from seizures. It is now used to help people achieve a range of health goals, including weight loss. This diet requires you to consume about 5-10% of your daily calories from carbohydrates, 15-20% from protein, and up to 70% from fat. Severe restriction of carbohydrates (your body’s preferred fuel source) forces your body to burn fat for energy. Research has shown that the keto diet has several health benefits, at least in the short term. Specifically, people on the diet experienced significant weight loss, improved blood sugar levels and improved cardiovascular health (ding ding!).
Is This Healthy?
This is a tough question. Let’s just say it’s not unhealthy. If you choose the right foods – like unsaturated fats, lean proteins and complex high-fiber carbohydrates – then yes, it can be “healthy”. These foods will help you get important nutrients, but the diet is still very restrictive, which means you may be missing other essential nutrients and could be at risk for some deficiencies. It is also not necessary (or sustainable) for most people in the long term. While there are undoubtedly short-term benefits, such as weight loss and better blood sugar control, there is a lack of science on the long-term health benefits and/or risks associated with a ketogenic diet.
So What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in the blood. It is produced by your liver (which means you don’t need to get it from external sources like food) and plays a key role in the proper functioning of your body. You can thank cholesterol for things like producing hormones, building tissues and cells, and absorbing fat-soluble vitamins (oh, hey, vitamin D!). Cholesterol is also found in foods, including animal products such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.
What Types Of Cholesterol Should Be Affected By Keto?
The keto diet has been shown to affect both LDL (“bad”) and HDL (“good”) cholesterol, but the studies are small, short-lived, and have had mixed results. Some studies have shown a benefit of keto diets on LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, while others have found no effect. Some have reported an increase in LDL cholesterol. It’s a bit of a toss-up, but science seems to agree that eating nutrient-rich foods as part of a keto diet does not negatively impact cholesterol levels or heart health.
What Effect Does The Keto Diet Have On Your Cholesterol Levels?
The keto diet appears to improve markers of cardiovascular health, including (according to some studies) cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Studies conducted in 2004 showed that obese and hypercholesterolemic patients lost more weight and improved their triglyceride and HDL levels more when they followed a keto diet compared to a traditional low-fat diet. Fewer studies have reported adverse outcomes such as elevated LDL levels and decreased HDL levels, and these tend to improve over time. The important thing to remember is that the types of foods you eat really do matter.
Can People With High Cholesterol Follow The Keto Diet?
Some people, especially those who have familial high cholesterol (high cholesterol levels inherited from your family), kidney and liver disease, are not good candidates for the keto diet because it tends to make these conditions worse. Some people may find that their bodies cannot handle this amount of fat on a daily basis. Even in healthy people, a diet high in saturated fat from red meat and whole dairy products and low in fruits and vegetables can be damaging and detrimental to cardiovascular health in the long run. In fact, a 2011 study found that otherwise healthy men who ate a diet low in carbohydrates and high in saturated fat had an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
What Foods Are Approved For Human Consumption?
Ketogenic diets typically use specific calculations to get you into ketosis (a fat burning state), maintain that state, and meet your personal needs Eating 5-10% more carbohydrates will usually get you out of ketosis.
You will eat the following:
- Red meat
- Dairy products
- fruits and vegetables
For most people, getting 5-10% of their calories from carbohydrates means consuming less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day, or just 20 grams of carbohydrates. For example, 2 cups of cooked broccoli or 1 ½ cups of strawberries equals about 20 grams of carbohydrates, which is more carbohydrates than 1/2 cup of lean rice, albeit the same 20 grams of carbohydrates with very few nutrients. Once you’ve solved the carbohydrate problem, the next step is fat and protein. Technically, you can choose to eat as much fat and protein as you want, but sticking to unsaturated fats and lean proteins – eggs, fish, seeds, nuts, etc. – can maintain and even improve your health, depending on where you start.
Risks Of The Keto Diet
Some people on a keto diet may experience headaches, weakness, muscle cramps and other symptoms. Some people who are on a keto diet may experience these symptoms
- Feeling of weakness
- Muscle cramps
- Changes in blood pressure
- Keto Flu
The keto flu is a mild, short-term symptom that some people experience when they start a keto diet. These symptoms may include
- Movement disorders
Some studies have shown that a keto diet can affect cholesterol levels. When people consume fewer carbohydrates, the liver produces fewer triglycerides, which may be associated with higher HDL cholesterol levels. However, the keto diet may raise LDL cholesterol levels in some people. Therefore, the diet may not be right for everyone. For example, it may not be suitable for people with fat-induced lipemia. This condition can lead to very high levels of fat in the blood. If a person with fat-induced lipemia follows a keto diet, his or her triglyceride levels may continue to rise, which can lead to pancreatitis. In general, people with dyslipidemia should follow a low-fat diet. If you want to lose weight, consult your doctor to find the right diet for you. When considering a ketogenic diet, your doctor should weigh the risks against the potential benefits, such as rapid weight loss, lower triglyceride levels, and increased HDL cholesterol levels.