Does the Keto Diet Affect Cholesterol?

Time and time again research shows that high-fat diet plans, like the keto diet, are actually healthy for cholesterol profiles. Healthy fat sources, such as macadamia nuts, fish, coconut oil, and others are great for your heart and blood lipids. 

In fact, research shows ketone bodies can enhance blood lipid profiles and cardiac wellness by reducing LDL (aka “bad”) cholesterol and fasting serum insulin levels. 

Some naysayers will lambast the keto diet on the premises that it endangers health and wellness; nevertheless, only a select few research studies have actually examined the impacts of a ketogenic diet plan on cholesterol profiles and potential risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Read on as this article dives into the data to uncover the surprising truth about how the keto diet affects cholesterol.

What Science Says About the Keto Diet and Cholesterol

Research subjects started on a low-carb diet plan of 8% carbohydrates, 61% fats, and 30% proteins. Adjustment to this keto diet regimen resulted in considerable (and favorable) metabolic changes:

  • 33% reduction in serum triacylglycerols/TAG (blood lipids)
  • 29% less postprandial lipemia (presence of abnormally high blood fats) after a fat-rich meal
  • 34% decrease in fasting insulin levels
  • 11% increase in HDL (aka “healthy”) cholesterol
  • Negligible increase in LDL cholesterol

Why Fat Source Matters

In this study, there was a substantial 33% decline in postprandial (i.e. after-eating) lipemia after a fat-rich meal. Even more substantial was the 50% decline in postprandial lipemia in subjects who followed a keto diet plan that was higher in monounsaturated fats (like those found in macadamia nuts and avocados).

In contrast to these outcomes, a different study reports that a low-fat (19% of overall energy), high-carbohydrate (64% of overall energy) diet plan actually increases overall cholesterol and decreases HDL cholesterol. Ironically, low-carb diet plans like the keto diet actually improve cholesterol profiles in nearly all extant literature.

It’s interesting to think that your body naturally has a better balance of blood lipids when you eat more fat and fewer carbs. Not sure which fat sources are best for the keto diet? Check out our Ultimate Keto Food List!

Moreover, the substantial decrease in fasting blood lipids from the keto diet is most likely due to a lower VLDL cholesterol synthesis rate. (Which has actually been revealed to increase on a high-carbohydrate diet plan.)

Moreover, there is a boost in blood fat elimination from high-fat diet plans; this denotes a substantial increase plasma lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity and skeletal muscle LPL activity in human beings. LPL is an enzyme responsible for breaking down fat molecules in your body.

The bulk of research studies report compelling connections between modifications in fasting and postprandial blood lipids; a current research study shows that a high-carb, low-fat dietary program reduces fasting blood lipids, but does not result in a decrease in the postprandial blood lipids.

This highlights the value of determining postprandial blood lipids to evaluate heart disease risk. Ultimately, the keto diet is quite heart-healthy (which you can read more about here).

Does Eating A Lot of Cholesterol Really Matter?

In the first study we touched on, dietary cholesterol consumption increased by more than 100% when research subjects changed to the keto diet plan. Naturally, we would expect to see significant rises in overall cholesterol and LDL cholesterol; yet, neither of these were substantially raised after six weeks of the ketogenic diet plan.

In fact, changing to a fat-rich diet plan (46% vs. 24% of overall energy) was revealed to increase LDL-1 molecule diameter (i.e. decrease the density) and reduce thick LDL-III cholesterol; decreases in dietary fat have the inverse result.

The non-nerd lingo answer to all this: As long as you’re consuming healthy fats from the right sources, then a keto diet will not harm your cholesterol levels. In fact, it will improve your cholesterol and blood lipid profile!

Check out our Guide to Ketogenic Dieting to determine how much fat you need on the keto diet!

More Readings:

Is the Keto Diet Bad For Your Heart?

Top 5 Tips for Keto Diet Success

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Elliot received his BS in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota and has been a freelance writer specializing in nutritional and health sciences for the past 5 years. He is thoroughly passionate about exercise, nutrition, and dietary supplementation, especially how they play a role in human health, longevity, and performance. In his free time you can most likely find him lifting weights at the gym or out hiking through the mountains of Colorado. He is also the co-founder of Anxietyhack.com and host of the upcoming BioKeto podcast. You can connect with him on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/elliot.reimers) and Instagram (@eazy_ell)

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