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Why Cholesterol and LDL Can Increase on Ketos Low carb Diet

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 11/13/2017

You’ve been following a healthy ketoTM diet for several weeks now, with just the results you were hoping for. You've experienced significant weight loss. Your energy has skyrocketed. You’re so mentally focused you feel like you could solve complex math problems in your head while chatting with a friend.

You’re eagerly awaiting the results of your latest blood test. And…

Your cholesterol level increased instead of dropping!

a picture of a cholesterol meter showing low normal high

How is it possible to have high levels of cholesterol on a low-carb diet?

It doesn’t make sense!

You cut out sugars, you went on a low-carb diet, you got into ketosis on a high-fat diet - yet your total cholesterol went up.

What on earth is going on?

Let me explain.

In this article:

  1. Why Cholesterol Rises?
  2. Is Keto Diet Healthy?
  3. Why You Need Cholesterol?
  4. 7 Ways Keto Improves Cholesterol
  5. Is There a Low Cholesterol Keto Diet?
  6. #1 Way to Reduce Cholesterol Spike
  7. Stay on Keto

Here’s Why Your Cholesterol Rises

When you lose weight, you’re releasing the contents of your fat cells. Fat cells contain triglycerides and cholesterol Thus, when you start losing weight, the cholesterol level and triglyceride level in your blood will increase. But this increase is temporary - that’s key to keep in mind.

As well, a keto diet is rich in healthy fats, including saturated fat and cholesterol found naturally in animal-derived foods like eggs and meat, leading many people to experience an increase in their cholesterol level after beginning the keto diet.


Is The Keto Diet Really Healthy?

Even though the increase in cholesterol is temporary, you may still be wondering if the keto diet is bad for your heart. It’s not; in fact, the keto diet has actually been associated with improvements in cardiovascular health.

Research shows that high cholesterol levels aren't always unhealthy. Chronic inflammation, elevated triglycerides from a high-carb and low-fat diet, Fat Storing Hormone resistance, and an unhealthy lifestyle are much more significant threats to your health than is a high cholesterol level.

So, yes, the keto diet really is good for your health.


Why You Need Cholesterol

It helps to understand the role that cholesterol plays in your body. Let’s start by looking at some basic facts about how cholesterol works.

Cholesterol plays many important roles in the body. For example, cholesterol:

  • Helps with sex hormone production (including of progesterone, estrogen and testosterone)
  • Forms structures of the brain
  • Supports cognitive/mental function
  • Facilitates absorption of fat-soluble nutrients (including vitamins A, E, D and K)
  • Helps take nutrients, triglycerides and other compounds into your cells to be used for energy

You can see how cholesterol is vital for your health, rather than the demon it’s so often made out to be. Low cholesterol is a much bigger issue than high cholesterol; without sufficient cholesterol, your body simply can’t perform some of its essential functions.This is a reason why a low-fat diet is actually problematic - you won't get sufficient cholesterol for your health.


7 Ways The Keto Diet Improves Your Cholesterol Profile (And Overall Health)

We’ve all heard about HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol, often called the good kind, and LDL (low density lipoprotein), usually referred to as the bad kind. But this characterization of cholesterol is pretty simplistic, so let’s dig a little deeper into keto’s benefits for cholesterol and in turn, for your overall health. The ketogenic diet can:

  1. Increase LDL particle size, which leads to less risk for oxidative stress in your body.
  2. Improve the LDL to HDL ratio. In other words, increases HDL cholesterol, which helps to balance the effects of LDL
  3. Lower triglycerides, reducing the risk of stroke and heart problems
  4. Improve your triglyceride to HDL ratio
  5. Reduce Fat Storing Hormone resistance and help manage blood sugar levels, especially when compared to high-carb diets
  6. Help reduce chronic inflammation
  7. Help prevent obesity by reducing hunger and decreasing caloric intake from snacking

Additionally, eating plenty of keto-friendly healthy fats on the keto diet will raise HDL cholesterol level and increase your LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio, which are two key markers of general health.

Keto also will usually decrease your levels of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, blood glucose; along with reducing your body mass index.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? You can put your high cholesterol fears to rest. You're not putting yourself at risk for heart disease. Your cholesterol level may be elevated now, but remember that it's a temporary spike - and that making sure your body contains enough cholesterol levels is vital for your health.


But Is There Such A Thing As A Low Cholesterol Keto Diet?

Sure, it’s technically possible to eat a low cholesterol keto diet. A healthy keto diet includes a number of foods that lower cholesterol. Examples are avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds and vegetables.

However, you don’t need to avoid all foods like eggs or cheese that contain cholesterol in order to support your heart health. Many sources of dietary cholesterol can be nutrient-dense foods that will support your overall health.


The #1 Way To Reduce The Temporary Spike In Cholesterol

My #1 recommendation for you is to continue to consume large amounts of vegetables. This will help your body clear all the fat that’s being released from you fat cells, which decreases the risk of that released fat clogging up your liver or other organs.

Keep your vegetable intake at 7-10 cups per day. If that’s too much raw vegetables for you to face, try this kale shake recipe I made for people who don’t like vegetables.

a healthy green vegetable drink

Stay On Keto, And Don’t Worry About That Rise In Cholesterol

Now that I’ve shown you plenty of evidence that keto is healthy for you even with that temporary spike in cholesterol, I’m sure you’ll want to stay on keto.

One key is to share as much information as you can with your physician as your partner in health care. Help them to understand why you don’t need to worry about high cholesterol.

The substantial benefits of keto far outweigh any temporary elevation in cholesterol.

So take a deep breath and release your worry. You’re not putting yourself at risk.

Instead, you’ve made an important commitment to your health and longevity.

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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