Can The Keto Diet Help Lower Cholesterol?

One of the main reasons you’ve chosen or are considering eating a Keto diet is to improve your health. At KetoKeto we know your health is important to you and you want to know exactly what will help you look and feel your best.  

But it can be confusing. You have many questions about the Keto diet, and with so much contradictory information out there, you find it hard to know what’s true.

Do you have high cholesterol and want to know if the Keto diet can help you lower it? Are you confused about what good and bad cholesterol are? Have you heard that Keto could improve your cholesterol but don’t have enough info to help you make a decision?

We have all the essential details about good and bad cholesterol, as well as the Keto diet and its effect on your cholesterol right here.

Confused About Cholesterol?

We hear about cholesterol quite a lot. It’s often used in marketing campaigns to sell healthy food products. Or it’s tested when we head to the doctors for a check-up. We hear about good and bad cholesterol and most of us pretend that we know what it means. But do you really know what cholesterol is? Don’t worry, you’re not alone, most of us have no idea.

Let’s find out.

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in the cells of your body. It’s actually essential for many functions such as helping your body build cell membranes, Vitamin D and hormones. So why has cholesterol got such a bad reputation? 

Because too much cholesterol can lead to heart problems. But it isn’t straightforward since there are different types of cholesterol:

Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol

Aka the ‘bad’ cholesterol. This can add to fatty buildup in your arteries, causing a narrowing and increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Cholesterol

Aka the ‘good’ cholesterol. Helps to protect against heart attacks and stroke by ‘cleaning up’ some LDL cholesterol from your arteries. Can therefore be considered a protective form of cholesterol.

Your cholesterol level is actually a measure of both your LDL and HDL cholesterol along with 20% of your triglycerides (a common type of fat that can also increase heart disease if high). So your cholesterol level is not a clear indication of high ‘bad’ cholesterol. It may be that you have more ‘good’ cholesterol - a great thing!

What’s So Bad About High Cholesterol?

Nonetheless, high LDL cholesterol is thought to increase the risk of:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)
  • Blood clots
  • Coronary heart disease

This is why there can be much talk about cholesterol levels, particularly lowering levels if it's considered to be too high. It can cause long-term damage that can lead to serious health problems.

What Causes High Cholesterol?

As usual, there’s not one particular thing that causes high cholesterol, but usually a combination of factors. Here are the main things thought to cause high cholesterol:

  • An unhealthy diet such as high amounts of unhealthy fats
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of high cholesterol

Isn’t The High-Fat Keto Diet Bad For Cholesterol?

The Keto diet is mostly made up of fats, a moderate amount of protein and minimal carbohydrates. Your body’s metabolic state shifts when you begin Keto, from burning glucose for fuel to using Ketones instead.

Fat is often considered a bad thing for our health and has gathered a bad rap over the last few decades.

Yet the evidence shows that not all fat is bad, in fact, it’s essential for many functions in our bodies and has protective properties. It’s the types of fat you consume that are important. Many are healthy, and crucial for great health.

For more on the topic of fat, check out our recent post Is Fat Bad? HFSS Legislation, Keto and The Perception of Fat’.

What Does The Science Say About Keto, Fat and Cholesterol?

How the Keto diet affects your arteries and cholesterol levels depends on the types of fat you consume. If you only eat unhealthy trans fats like cakes, biscuits, crisps and chips then yes your cholesterol levels will suffer. That’s why these types of foods are removed from the Keto diet! They’re full of unhealthy fats and high in carbs. 

Let’s look at some scientific research into diets and their impact on cholesterol.

A research study conducted in 2013 investigated a number of studies and conducted a meta-analysis of the findings. The research concluded:

  • Increases in HDL (good) cholesterol levels were related to higher amounts of total fats in participants’ diets. Largely made up of monounsaturated fats from either plant or animal origins.
  • Increases in triglyceride levels were associated with higher intakes of carbohydrates.
  • Lower LDL (bad) cholesterol was marginally associated with lower saturated fat intake. 

In other words, HDL (good) cholesterol is increased by high-fat diets such as Keto. Fats from animal and plant foods were included in the high-fat diets.

Whereas triglyceride levels, known to increase health problems such as heart attacks and strokes, are associated with diets high in carbohydrates. Lower saturated fat diets made some small difference in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, but not enough to be significant.

It seems from these findings that the best way to improve your cholesterol levels is to eat a high-fat diet such as Keto.

Do Cholesterol Levels Give You The Full Picture?

This takes us back to cholesterol levels and how they may not be giving you the full picture of what makes up a healthy diet.  

Your cholesterol level readings include the good, the bad and the triglyceride. Your results could indicate high levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides or plenty of good - it’s not clear!

The research shows that your high LDL cholesterol levels are likely due to high-carb diets, rather than high-fat diets like Keto.

Can The Keto Diet Help Lower Cholesterol?

In summary, can the Keto diet help lower your cholesterol levels?

It sure can. But not in the way you might expect!

Contrary to common belief, a high-fat, low-carb Keto diet can increase your good cholesterol and decrease your bad. It will also reduce your levels of triglycerides which are known to contribute to poor heart health.

Bad cholesterol and triglycerides are the levels we need to worry about. Good cholesterol is protective and helps your overall health.

So the next time you get a high cholesterol reading, be sure to find out exactly which cholesterol measures are high. You may be pleasantly surprised to find your good cholesterol is on the up and your bad cholesterol is sitting low.

The Keto diet has been shown to improve your cholesterol all round; upping the protective HDL cholesterol and reducing the LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, thanks to its high-fat and low-carb content. 

Would you like some tasty high-fat snacks to keep you energised while on the go? Take a look at our range of delicious snack bars, perfect for grabbing and munching wherever life takes you.

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The KetoKeto Mix Box

If you are new to KetoKeto bars, we created the mix box just for you. It gives you the chance to experience all five delicious flavours. Each bar is full of healthy fats and has less than 3g of net carbs. The perfect “fill you up” snack to help curb those cravings.

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