Does Keto Raise Cholesterol?
You might be concerned that when you go on a low-carb/high-fat ketogenic diet that your cholesterol is going to go up. And if you look at conventional medicine and conventional research, that’s going to have you alarmed. Well here’s the thing, cholesterol is not a bad thing and there’s a very good chance that when you first start a ketogenic diet, you will see an increase in your cholesterol levels, both good and bad. But when you stick with me through the end of this video, you’re going to realize that that’s not a bad thing and that actually means you could be burning more fat. Hey, I’m Thomas DeLauer with Keto-Mojo and today we’re going to be breaking down the science of cholesterol and its relationship with keto and inflammation.
Let’s go ahead and start off with one study though, it was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, took a look at 118 participants. Now with these 118 participants, they divided them into two groups, a low-carb group that was also high fat and a low-fat group. They wanted to see who would lose more weight but they also wanted to look at typical blood markers. They found that the low-carb group at the end of the study ended up losing over 32 pounds whereas the low-fat group still lost a good amount of weight but they only lost 25 pounds, so not as much as the low-carb/high-fat group. Okay, that’s great, but what does this have to do with cholesterol? Well they found that the low-carb group had a decrease in triglycerides.
Now triglycerides are the storage form of fat, we want that number to go down, that means we’re good, healthy people. But they did see an increase in HDL which is the good cholesterol, and a small increase in LDL which is technically the bad. So they had an increase in both good and bad. Now if you understand cholesterol, you know that the HDL is the good cholesterol that removes the cholesterol from the blood, and the LDL delivers it. So if we have an increase in HDL but we also have an increase in LDL, it really is no real difference, right? So here’s what’s interesting though. We have to understand what happens with the ketogenic diet. When our body is mobilizing fats, what’s happening is a lot of these cells are expressing more cholesterol, so as we are getting fat adapted and as we are getting a bit more in the way of free fatty acids and triglycerides are getting mobilized, we will see a subsequent increase in cholesterol. However, it’s associated directly with fat burning, okay?
Now whether you’re doing keto for fat loss or just for cognitive, or just for long-term lifestyle changes, you’re going to see a little increase in cholesterol and then it will balance back out. Once your body becomes fat adapted, there’s no need for the cholesterol to be elevated, so you see with a lot of people that start keto, they get a quick bump in cholesterol, they get a little bit concerned, and then if they stick with the keto diet for a few weeks, that comes right back down to baseline. The important thing is that our triglycerides are going down, that is the one that could be dangerous for us. Let’s take a look at how cholesterol is actually absorbed because this is where it gets wild. Our dietary cholesterol, cholesterol that we get from eggs, from bacon, from some of these saturated fats and even different plant cholesterols, really don’t end up having an effect on our blood levels, you see, it’s way too hard to absorb them, but even more importantly, we have to understand that our bodies have a natural set point, a natural homeostasis of cholesterol, if you will. So what that means is 75% of the cholesterol in your body is made by your body, only 25% of the total cholesterol in your body is derived from the food you eat. Every single cell in your body creates cholesterol, it’s that important. And of all the cells in your body, only 20% of the cholesterol is actually made in the liver, 80% of it is made throughout the rest of the body because it’s that vital.
What happens is when we consume cholesterol, it has to be in what’s called an un-esterized form to even be absorbed. Now most of the cholesterol that we end up having in our digestive track ends up being what is called esterized, all that means is it’s put into blocky molecules that are too big to fit through the enterocytes, too big to fit through our intestinal cells. They end up going through the digestive system and then getting recirculated into the way of bile, the liver and then ultimately the gallbladder. So really, they’re just there for digestion purposes, only a small amount actually gets absorbed, and the whole idea of consuming dietary cholesterol and raising your blood levels of cholesterol is completely wrong.
We have genetic predispositions to our levels of cholesterol and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything good or bad, so here’s what we have to understand: oxidized LDL, okay. Bad cholesterol is not really that bad, in fact we found that LDL is actually quite good, it delivers cholesterol to what’s needed, steroid hormones to actually create important things, pregnenolone, testosterone, all these things that are vital for our survival. What ends up happening is when LDL becomes oxidized from things like sugar or things like stress, the LDL that is oxidized becomes the problem. Oxidized LDL can bury itself inside an artery ultimately and what ends up happening is when it’s oxidized, it triggers a lot of white blood cells to come to it and flock to it and swell it up. And the when it swells it up, it can calcify and have a whole reaction of white blood cells that triggers a clot to form. It’s not LDL specifically, it’s specific forms of LDL that have already been oxidized by stress, by sugar and by other free radicals. So typically, with the ketogenic diet, when you’re reducing the reactive oxygen species and reducing the overall stress in the body and reducing inflammation, the LDL that is elevated isn’t as potentially bad, so you’re in a great position. Now the ketogenic diet as a whole produces ketones and ketones are anti-inflammatory, which makes so that the LDL does not become oxidized because it’s able to fight off the inflammation.
So how do you know if you’re in keto? Well, of course that’s where the Keto-Mojo meter comes in. You want to be able to test your blood ketones and you want to be able to know where you’re at and make sure that you’re producing enough of these oxidizing buffers that are going to prevent LDL from becoming oxidized and becoming a problem. So it’s not about your cholesterol being high, it’s about your cholesterol being mobilized and it’s about getting your body in the right state to fight inflammation. And with that, you need ketones. So make sure you leave the measuring to the meter so you always know where you stand to make sure you’re getting the most of your ketogenic diet. I’m Thomas DeLauer with Keto-Mojo and I’ll see you soon.