Is the Ketogenic Diet Good for Your Heart and Cholesterol?

As we explore the health benefits of the ketogenic diet, cardiologist and heart failure researcher W. H. Wilson Tang, MD, wants you to understand the basics before jumping on this enduring trend. Dr.

Tang emphasizes that just because you're decreasing your carbohydrate intake, it doesn't mean you're automatically preventing heart disease. Due to the potentially damaging effects of the ketogenic diet on cardiac patients, Dr. Tang and other heart failure specialists recommend taking a less strict approach. If you're really determined to follow a strict ketogenic diet, Dr.

Tang suggests two “natural and safe” options for generating ketone bodies. The second is to consider reducing caloric intake through intermittent fasting, although this still requires close monitoring by your doctor. It is certainly advisable to talk to your doctor before proceeding, if you decide to follow a specific diet. Hollywood warns that it's important to consider these “extreme” diet programs, such as an aggressive carbohydrate-conscious ketogenic diet. In addition, a ketogenic diet can help lower blood sugar and improve insulin function, and can be anti-inflammatory. Keto diets rely heavily on red meat, fish, nuts, cream, eggs, cheese, oil, and non-starchy vegetables, but avoid fruits, starchy vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils.

There is a range of diets that restrict carbohydrates, but a true ketogenic diet is one that induces a state of ketosis. While these short-term benefits may make you feel better, the long-term effects of the ketogenic diet remain unclear. Whether these numbers, particularly HDL (good cholesterol), increase or decrease depends largely on the quality of your ketogenic diet. The study authors also found that ketogenic diets are particularly dangerous for people who are pregnant or who may become pregnant. People on a ketogenic diet tend to avoid certain fruits and vegetables, as they are usually high in carbohydrates. The ketogenic diet has become a mainstream diet, particularly for weight loss, but its long-term effects on heart health remain unclear.

In addition, for people living with chronic kidney disease, the high amounts of protein consumed in the ketogenic diet can lead to excessive stress on the kidneys and worsen the long-term internal damage of the disease. The ketogenic diet is associated with higher levels of HDL (good cholesterol), which is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. As an article on the Harvard Health Blog explains, data shows that cholesterol may rise when you first start a ketogenic diet, but then decline after a few months of ketosis. In terms of population studies and clinical trials, the impact that the ketogenic diet has on lipids is modest according to Dr. Daniel Soffer, internist and lipidologist at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia. Starting a ketogenic diet may be a first step toward reducing overall carbohydrate intake as a healthy lifestyle change, even if continued restriction doesn't meet ketogenic goals. The ketogenic diet was originally developed in the 1920s as a treatment for patients with severe drug-resistant epilepsy and was shown to be effective in reducing seizures in extreme cases.

Many studies have demonstrated the association of ketogenic diets with increased LDL (bad cholesterol), but this finding is not consistent across all studies.

Bruce Chen
Bruce Chen

Medical & health reporter. Award-winning internet evangelist. Embraced the low-carb keto diet and lost 9 pounds.