Can the Ketogenic Diet Lower Cholesterol Levels?

The ketogenic diet is a popular weight loss plan that has been gaining traction in recent years. It is a low-carb, high-fat diet that can help people lose weight and improve their overall health and well-being. But, can it also lower cholesterol levels? The answer is yes, but it depends on the individual. For most people, the ketogenic diet will not have any adverse effects on their blood lipid levels.

Typical findings are stable LDL cholesterol levels, a decrease in triglycerides (good) and an increase in HDL cholesterol (also good). Some people may even see a drop in their LDL. The idea behind the ketogenic diet is to use fats as a fuel source instead of carbohydrates, which is the body's preferred fuel source. Ketosis occurs when these ketone bodies build up in the blood.

The exact amounts of carbohydrates to induce ketosis will vary, as achieving ketosis is highly individualized. It is also worth noting that this diet has been associated with short-term side effects, such as gastrointestinal discomfort, such as constipation, nausea and abdominal pain, which are often experienced in the first few weeks. Some people may experience symptoms described as “ketogenic flu” within 2 to 4 days after starting a ketogenic diet, which can occur as the body adjusts to the use of ketone bodies as fuel. This may last a few days to a week and include lightheadedness, dizziness, fatigue, difficulty exercising, lack of sleep, and constipation. Because the ketogenic diet is very high in fat, it can affect your cholesterol levels for better or worse. A review of low-fat diets versus low-carb and high-fat diets longer than 12 months in duration looked at the effects on cholesterol levels in people who are overweight or obese.

The authors found that participants on low-carb diets had greater weight loss and increased HDL cholesterol, but also showed higher levels of LDL cholesterol than those on a low-fat diet. It's important to note that if you have pre-existing high cholesterol levels, you'll need to adjust the structure of your ketogenic diet to prevent your cholesterol levels from rising. To get an idea of whether the ketogenic diet can have a negative effect on cholesterol, consider your initial triglyceride number. It's also best to be under the care of a doctor before and during a ketogenic diet to ensure it's safe and healthy for you. Most research suggests that ketogenic diets can help lower levels of total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. People with high cholesterol who follow the ketogenic diet may eat certain nuts and seeds, which are generally low in carbohydrates and high in fiber and protein. Based on the reviewed evidence, the association concluded that these diets do produce weight loss, but are not superior to other diets for weight loss. Animal studies have suggested that a ketogenic diet may cause changes in fetal growth and increase anxiety and depression in adulthood. In conclusion, while the ketogenic diet may be safe for most people, it may not be healthy for others to follow it.

A ketogenic diet might increase LDL cholesterol levels in some people at high risk of heart attack and stroke. However, for most people following this diet correctly will result in stable LDL cholesterol levels, a decrease in triglycerides (good) and an increase in HDL cholesterol (also good).

Bruce Chen
Bruce Chen

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