Does eating the ketogenic way elevate cholesterol levels? It's a common question asked by a lot of people interested in this way of eating. The truth is, for most people, the keto diet can actually lower cholesterol numbers. For a few, it can have the opposite effect.
Let's delve into what cholesterol is and how eating the keto way affects it.
What Exactly Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is essential for the healthy functioning of the human body. It's used in building cell walls, producing certain hormones, and synthesizing Vitamin D. Without it, the body would not be able to create new healthy cells. It wouldn't be able to manage communication between cells either.
But, cholesterol isn't a single entity. In fact there are different types of cholesterol. If you take a cholesterol test, your doctor is going to give you four numbers, each for a different type of cholesterol.
- Triglycerides are the main component of body fat. Elevated levels are an indicator for coronary artery disease.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) transports fat out of artery walls and helps stop the progression of atherosclerosis.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) transports fat to arterial walls and contributes to the development of atherosclerosis.
- Total cholesterol is the combined total of HDL and LDL.
HDL is often called "good" cholesterol, while LDL is often called "bad" cholesterol. High levels of triglycerides also fall into the "bad" category. Doctors always like to see high HDL, and low LDL and triglycerides.
The Keto Diet and Cholesterol Levels
Multiple studies have found that following the ketogenic diet provides several benefits. It helps people lose weight. It reduces blood sugar and insulin levels. This way of eating can also help lower blood pressure.
The good results don't stop there. Studies have found that people on a keto diet have higher levels of HDL cholesterol and lower levels of LDL and triglycerides.
These studies show that eating a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet can positively affect all three types of cholesterol doctors check on lipid panels. However, there are people who don't experience all of these benefits. For some, eating a keto diet actually raises their LDL levels. Why?
LDL Particle Size
LDL particles are not all the same size. They tend to fall into three rough categories: small, medium, and large. Size is important when it comes to the effect of LDL on arterial health.
Smaller LDL particles can easily deliver fat to the cells within the arterial walls. Larger LDL particles, on the other hand, have a tough time making the same delivery. They tend to bounce off the wall instead of penetrating it. This difference is size is key.
Put in a simpler way. People who have higher concentrations of small LDL particles are more likely to develop atherosclerosis. Those with larger LDL particles are less likely. This renders the LDL count on a typical lipid panel hard to interpret. It measures LDL count, no matter the particle size.
People on a ketogenic diet tend to have higher concentrations of the large LDL particles over the smaller ones. This means, even if the lipid panel shows an elevated LDL count, the particle size should be larger for those on the keto diet.
If your next lipid panel shows you have an elevated LDL count, talk to your doctor, Ask the doctor to perform a NMR or VAP lipoprotein test. These tests are usually covered by insurance, and they measure the size and count of LDL particles.
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