Is Keto Diet Bad For Cholesterol

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Cholesterol and the Keto Diet: Friend or Foe?

Cholesterol And The Keto Diet: Friend or Foe?

The ketogenic diet, also known as the keto diet, is a popular low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. It differs from most low-carb diets in that it restricts the number of macronutrients that can be consumed. Carbohydrates, fats, and protein are all macronutrients. They provide calories and energy, as well as the majority of the nutrients that people consume.

While there is no single "standard" keto diet with a specific macronutrient ratio, the keto diet typically restricts total carbohydrate intake to less than 5%–10% of total daily calories, or about 20–50 grams per day. On a keto diet, fat accounts for roughly 70%–80% of total daily calories, with protein accounting for 10%–20% of total calories. 

Keto Macronutrients

The following is a typical keto diet:

  • Carbohydrate intake of 5%–10% (approximately 20–50 grams per day)
  • Fat intake should be between 70% and 80%.
  • Protein intake should be between 10% and 20%.

Because the keto diet is so high in fat, it begs the question of whether it can have a positive or negative impact on your cholesterol levels. Cholesterol levels are linked to the risk of heart disease, so this is a valid concern. The impact of a keto diet on heart health, on the other hand, is less clear.

This article will go over the different types of cholesterol found in the human body, as well as the findings of research into how a ketogenic diet may affect those levels.

Explaining Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in your body's cells. It aids in the formation of cell membranes, vitamin D, and hormones in the body. Too much cholesterol, on the other hand, can cause heart problems.

There are various types of cholesterol, each with its own effect on heart health, such as:

  • Because it contributes to fatty buildup in the arteries, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is known as the "bad" cholesterol. Atherosclerosis is a disease that results from fatty buildup in the arteries narrowing.  The risk of heart attack and stroke is increased by atherosclerosis.
  • The "good" cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), is known for its ability to protect against heart attacks and strokes. HDL cholesterol aids in the removal of some LDL cholesterol from the arteries, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Triglycerides are the most common type of fat, or lipid, in your body. They are not a type of cholesterol. Extra calories from food are converted to triglycerides, which are then used for energy in between meals. The combination of a high triglyceride level and a high cholesterol level raises your risk of heart disease.

LDL and HDL cholesterol, as well as 20% of your triglycerides, make up your total cholesterol level.

How Does a Keto Diet Affect Cholesterol?

Low-carbohydrate diets and their effects on cardiovascular health have been the subject of some research. Many of the studies are short-term (less than two years), have a small sample size, and look at different variations of very-low-carb diets, making it difficult to draw specific conclusions on the topic.

Nonetheless, we are learning more about how very-low-carbohydrate diets, also known as ketogenic diets, may affect cholesterol levels. A summary of some of the research studies can be found below.

Statement of Position

Diets low or very low in carbohydrates (including ketogenic diets) and their relationship to body weight and other cardiometabolic risk factors were the subject of a position statement released by the National Lipid Association in 2019.

The association concluded that these diets do result in weight loss but are not superior to other weight-loss diets based on the evidence reviewed.

However, in people with type 2 diabetes, they appear to provide greater benefits in terms of appetite control, lowering triglycerides, and reducing the need for medication. LDL cholesterol levels were found to be variable in studies, with some showing an increase and others showing a decrease.

Ketogenic vs. Low-Calorie Diet

In a 24-week study in Kuwait, adults with and without diabetes were compared to a low-calorie versus very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet.

Dietary counseling was given at the start of the study and then every two weeks.

The study concluded that both diets resulted in significant weight loss. In addition, the very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet reduced triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels in the people studied, with a noticeable increase in HDL cholesterol levels.

Diabetes and the Ketogenic Diet

In one small study, 11 type 2 diabetes patients were put on a ketogenic diet for 90 days. Participants' HDL cholesterol increased, their triglycerides decreased, and their LDL cholesterol did not change significantly after 90 days. In addition, the study found that the participants' body weight and blood pressure had decreased. 

In a CrossFit Group, Ketogenic Diet

A 12-week study of healthy people looked at the effects of a ketogenic diet in people who regularly exercised in CrossFit. The study included twelve people who did a high-intensity, interval-training workout. The control group consisted of five people who continued to eat a regular diet, while the ketogenic diet group consisted of seven people.

In 2016, another review of studies comparing low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets came up with similar findings. Participants on low-carbohydrate diets lost more weight and had higher HDL cholesterol levels, but had higher LDL cholesterol levels than those on a low-fat diet, according to the researchers.

Saturated Fat's Impact

A 12-month study compared the effects of low-fat diets versus low-carb, high-fat diets on cholesterol levels in overweight or obese people. Researchers discovered that those who followed low-fat diets saw significant reductions in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. In high-fat-diet participants, however, an increase in HDL cholesterol and a decrease in triglyceride levels were more noticeable.

The way the very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet is followed, particularly with the types of fats consumed determines whether cholesterol rises or falls.

Reduced total cholesterol levels were linked to lower saturated fat intake and higher polyunsaturated fat intake in high-fat diets, according to the researchers. Increased HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, was linked to a higher monounsaturated fat intake. Lower saturated fat intake was linked to lower LDL cholesterol levels by a small margin. Additionally, higher carbohydrate intake was linked to increased triglyceride levels.

Mediterranean Ketogenic Diet with Phytoextracts

Over the course of six weeks, 106 overweight or obese people ate a ketogenic Mediterranean diet with phytoextracts (KEMEPHY) and took a daily multivitamin supplement, according to an Italian study published in 2019. Subjects were given an unlimited calorie diet consisting of green vegetables, olive oil, fish, meat, and other high-quality proteins, as well as a variety of food supplements and herbal extracts.

Body mass index (BMI), total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood glucose levels all decreased significantly. HDL cholesterol levels increased significantly as well.

What Role Does Genetics Play?

While the ketogenic diet may be safe for the majority of people, it may not be suitable for others. In some people at high risk for heart attack and stroke, a ketogenic diet may raise LDL cholesterol levels.

Before starting a ketogenic diet, people with an inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolemia should always consult with their healthcare provider. Very high LDL cholesterol levels and an increased risk of premature heart disease characterize familial hypercholesterolemia. According to the American Heart Association, only 10% of people with familial hypercholesterolemia are aware of their condition.

Furthermore, some people have a rare genetic condition that affects the regulation of LDL particles, resulting in high LDL cholesterol levels. The genetics behind this response are unknown, but the APOE gene, which gives instructions for making a protein called apolipoprotein e, could be one of several factors. The keto diet should be avoided by people who have this inherited genetic condition.

Frequently Asked Questions: What foods should I eat on keto to keep my cholesterol in good shape?

While on a keto diet, eating mostly unsaturated fats rather than saturated fats may improve cholesterol levels, particularly LDL cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats can be found in a variety of foods, including:

  • Olive, avocado, sunflower, corn, and canola oils are examples of plant oils.
  • Avocados \sOlives
  • Salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel are examples of fatty fish.
  • Peanuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, and walnuts, as well as nut butters
  • Flax, sesame, sunflower, and chia seeds are just a few examples.

Because the keto diet is typically low in fiber, maximizing the small amount of carbohydrates allowed while on the diet can help not only with cholesterol but also with gut health. Avocados, tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, and spinach are examples of non-starchy fruits and vegetables that can help.

Furthermore, because many people are unable to adhere to the keto diet for an extended period of time, having a clear and defined plan for how to exit the keto diet is critical in order to maintain any positive health benefits gained.

Is it true that keto is good for you?

Depending on your personal health history and how you follow the diet, a ketogenic diet may have a positive or negative impact on your health. When you eat mostly healthy, unsaturated fats instead of mostly saturated fats, the keto diet can be a safe and healthy option. It's also a good idea to consult with a doctor before starting or continuing a keto diet to ensure that it's safe and healthy for you.

Is keto a good option if you have high blood pressure and high cholesterol?

Before starting a ketogenic diet, speak with your doctor if you have high cholesterol or blood pressure. Before approving a keto diet, your doctor will consider your specific circumstances, such as your overall health, medications you take, and other risk factors. Given that some studies suggest that keto may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, it's worth speaking with your doctor about it.

What effect does keto have on your arteries?

Your individual health and the types of fats consumed while on the keto diet will determine how the keto diet affects your arteries. Saturated fats have been shown to raise LDL cholesterol levels, which has a negative impact on cholesterol levels. Plaque buildup in your arteries may result as a result of this.

Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, have the opposite effect on heart health, lowering LDL cholesterol and raising HDL cholesterol levels. This can help your heart health and reduce your chances of a heart attack or stroke.

On keto, how much sodium and cholesterol do you consume?

While following a ketogenic diet, there are no specific guidelines for how much sodium and cholesterol should be consumed. Healthy adults should consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, which is about 1 teaspoon of table salt, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Dietary cholesterol has no specific limits in the dietary guidelines, as recent research has shown that dietary cholesterol has less of an effect on blood cholesterol than previously thought.

However, it's worth noting that many high-cholesterol foods are also high in saturated fat, which may increase the risk of heart disease. Eggs and shrimp are the only exceptions. Because of this link, it may be prudent to limit your intake of foods high in both dietary cholesterol and saturated fat while on the keto diet.


The ketogenic diet is high in fat and low in carbohydrates. It's being studied how this affects HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and heart health. The majority of studies on the subject have been short-term and have come to a variety of conclusions.

The type of fats consumed influences choleserol outcomes in keto, with unsaturated fats being preferred. Genetics may also play a role in how the ketogenic diet affects a person's cholesterol levels.

Last Word

To ensure a safe path forward, close communication with your healthcare professional and regular testing are essential when starting any new diet regimen, including the keto diet. If you decide to follow a keto diet, consult your doctor to ensure that it is safe for you. Get your cholesterol levels checked before and after the diet to ensure they don't rise to dangerous levels.

If you're only going to be on the ketogenic diet for a short time, work out a plan with your doctor for how you'll get off it to ensure long-term success.

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