Since ketogenic diets are high in fat, there is a misconception that they will increase the cholesterol levels in your body and ultimately clog your arteries. Due to this, those who are overly cautious with the levels of cholesterol in their bodies have always avoided ketogenic diets just so that they don’t have to clog their arteries. However, if the recent research are anything to go by, you will be pleased to know that low-carb diets, such as ketogenic diets do not necessarily increase the levels of cholesterol in your but, optimizes them, leading to a more improved heart health.
Understanding the fats: Lipids and cholesterol
Before you can make a conclusion about keto being bad for cholesterol, it would be a good idea to first understand the various roles played by cholesterol, fats, and carrier molecules known as lipoproteins. Fats are also known as lipids and they form a diverse group of molecules with non-polar characteristics. In the human system, fats reside in the blood stream in one of two forms.
The first form of fats in the blood stream is the triglycerides which are fatty acids stored by the body for later use. They are usually composed of long molecules which can be further broken down to other fatty acids as well as glycerol to provide fuel for the body. Glycerol can still be broken down into glucose to provide a more readily available source of energy.
The other category of fats in the blood stream is cholesterol. These are waxy molecules with a variety of functions in the body, including maintaining the integrity of the cell membranes, building hormones such as testosterone and estrogen, and helping in the absorption of vitamins.
The production of all the cholesterol needed by the body is usually done by the liver and other body cells. Cholesterol can also be obtained through the consumption of animal based food such as red meat, dairy products and poultry. In most cases, about 75% of the body’s cholesterol is produced internally and just about 25% comes from the outside.
About HDL Cholesterol
HDL cholesterols is also known as the good cholesterol. It is responsible for transporting cholesterol around the body in addition to collecting the cholesterol not being utilized by the cells and transporting them to the liver to be destroyed or to be recycled. Through these actions, HDL cholesterol prevents the accumulation and clogging of the arteries by cholesterol, thus leading to good heart health. It is also worth pointing that HDL cholesterol is also believed to have anti-inflammatory effects where it is believed that it can reduce inflammatory activities through the regulation of immune system cells.
Is Cholesterol Bad
It is sad to observe that high cholesterol levels are being vilified by people who have very little understanding about what really “bad cholesterol” is. It is imperative to have a good understanding of how cholesterol works in the body before engaging in debates on whether or not it is bad.
As explained above, cholesterol has critical roles to play in the overall health and wellbeing of humans. You have probably heard it being preached every now and then that it is not safe to have high cholesterol levels, especially LDL cholesterol, as it puts you at a higher risk of suffering from heart diseases. But is it true that the problem lies with high levels of cholesterol?
You will be surprised to know that the regions with the lowest risks of heart diseases consume a lot of foods with high content of saturated fats, which would naturally imply that they will also have high levels of cholesterol. The Maasai community in Kenya, for example, have diets comprising of up to 66% of saturated fats, yet they are the least people affected by heart conditions. It means that cholesterol alone is not necessarily the major determining factor of whether or not one will be affected with heat related conditions.
The connection between keto and cholesterol
It is estimated that about 13% and 32% of women and men in the United States respectively suffer from low levels of HDL cholesterol. In addition to this, a good part of the population to not have HDL cholesterol in enough levels necessary to make them avoid cardiovascular diseases. As the instances of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular illness and diabetes continue to increase all over the world, there are attempts by scientists to find ways through which the levels of HDL can be increased in the body.
For a long time, physicians relied on the use of drugs knowns as statins to increase the levels of HDL in the body. But recently, the focus seems to be shifting towards the use of dietary solutions such as ketogenic diets as a way of optimizing the levels of HDL cholesterol in the body and preventing the onset of various cardiovascular diseases.
It is a fact that a well-formulated diet has the potential of increasing your cholesterol levels. This is true because keto emphasizes the consumption of large amounts of saturated fats and there is no denying that high levels of saturated fats will increases the cholesterol levels in the body.
It is interesting to note that low-card diets such as ketogenic diets have been discovered to be an effective way of raising the levels of HDL cholesterol and it has been proven that it does this better than the traditional weight loss diets which mostly discourage users from taking foods with high fat content.
Therefore, it is true that keto will increase the levels of cholesterol in your body but this is not necessarily a bad thing, given that it will likely increase the levels of HDL cholesterols and most importantly, there is no clear cut evidence that shows strong links between an increase in the levels of cholesterol and the likelihood of being affected by heart or cardiovascular diseases.
The most important thing you need to know about keto and cholesterol is that when keto introduces a lot of cholesterol into your body, the body will simply stop the production of its own cholesterol and this is not necessarily bad since the body knows just how and when to respond to the various changes you may be introducing to it.