Wrong and outdated health information often causes worry about the healthiness of the ketogenic diet. One of the biggest concerns is: does a ketogenic diet change your lipid profile?
In order to tackle and address these concerns, we’ll be covering what lipid profile means, why it’s included in myths about the ketogenic diet and why you don’t need to worry about most of what you’ve been told.
Lipids and the Ketogenic Diet
The main purpose of the ketogenic diet today is to provide a measurable state of metabolism through nutritional ketosis. There are many benefits of ketosis, including weight loss, better mental clarity, and more energy. These benefits make the ketogenic diet enticing, but what about how it affects lipids in the body?
To understand this, let’s discuss what lipids are and the beliefs surrounding them and the keto diet.
What is a Lipid Profile?
A lipid profile is the measure of fats and fatty substances (lipids) that your body uses as energy. These are usually measured via a lipid panel of blood tests meant to look for any irregularities in your lipid amounts.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL, often know as “good,” cholesterol)
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL, often known as “bad,” cholesterol)
The ketogenic diet raises some concerns around the diet negatively affecting one’s lipid profile and increasing their risks of diseases related to high cholesterol or triglycerides. Let’s take a look at these concerns.
Myths About Fat and Cholesterol
Below are some of the myths when it comes to the ketogenic diet and lipid profiles. We’re used to hearing many of these due to bad or old science — and we all know the internet is rampant with poor (and sometimes harmful) information.
Myth: Cholesterol is bad.
A huge misconception about diets that are low-carb and high in animal protein and fat is that they’re bad for your cholesterol. The thought is that eating foods that contain saturated fat and dietary cholesterol lead to elevated blood cholesterol levels, which is bad for health.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Cholesterol is good! In fact, it’s necessary for living. It’s important for the creation of hormones, vitamins, and other vital substances. It’s crucial for the function of every cell wall in the body.
And we now know that not only does a low-carb/high-fat diet bring better weight loss results, it’s not harmful to heart health as once believed.
Myth: Low-carb diets raise cholesterol and cause heart disease.
Again, this is the most common rumor about cholesterol regarding a ketogenic or low-carb diet—that the intake of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol will cause heart disease.
But here’s the truth: there is actually no conclusive evidence supporting that diets high in fat or saturated fat lead to heart problems or an increase in cholesterol. People have just been told this for so many years that it’s become accepted as fact.
Healthy saturated fats are actually necessary part of a healthy diet. See these healthy ketogenic diet foods.
Now that we’ve covered the biggest myths, it’s important to understand what is actually true about how the ketogenic diet can affect your lipid profile and your health.
The Truth About the Ketogenic Diet and Lipids
Let’s look at some of the most important facts about the ketogenic diet and its relation to one’s lipid profile:
Lipid Profile Changes on the Ketogenic Diet
The facts show that a well-planned low-carb diet can actually lead to a better cholesterol profile, not a harmful one.
In obese patients, a ketogenic diet has been shown to significantly (within 24 weeks):
- Decrease weight
- Decrease BMI
- Decrease total cholesterol
- Increase HDL cholesterol levels
- Decrease LDL cholesterol levels
If you hear anyone talk about elevated cholesterol from a low-carb diet, that’s likely due to an increase in HDL cholesterol, which is actually beneficial and means a LOWER risk of heart disease because it increases HDL to LDL cholesterol ratio.
Plus, a whole foods, ketogenic diet eliminates sugar-creating foods that can cause inflammation and damage to the arteries. Since your body has less glucose available to make cholesterol, total cholesterol levels will drop.
You can also expect a drop in triglyceride levels, as eating carbohydrates spikes your triglyceride levels — so, a great decrease in carbs means lower triglyceride readings.
What to Eat for a Healthy Lipid Profile
If you’re eating the ketogenic diet for health, which is highly probable if you’re reading this article, be sure you choose healthy ketogenic foods. This means: low-carb, high-fat WHOLE food sources.
It’s easy to make the ketogenic diet a free-for-all of processed meats like bacon, processed oils, and low-carb packaged foods. This is where you can get into trouble with your health. Junk food is junk, no matter what diet you’re following. For good health, including a healthy lipid profile, the quality matters.
Healthy ketogenic foods include:
- High-quality saturated and monounsaturated fats like olive oil (especially high-quality extra virgin olive oil), coconut oil, nuts (focus on the high-fat varieties), avocados, pasture-raised egg yolks, and fatty fish
- Proteins like fatty organic beef, dark, fatty poultry, shellfish, and organ meats
- Low-carb fresh or frozen vegetables like spinach, kale, bok choy, swiss chard, broccoli, onions, bell peppers, and zucchini
If you’re new to the ketogenic diet and want to see the benefits for yourself, we encourage you to get your full lipid profile panel done prior to or at the beginning or starting the diet to compare your blood work results from before and after. That way you can monitor for yourself along with tracking your ketones levels.
Whether the ketogenic lifestyle is new to you or you’re a keto veteran, we hope this information regarding the myths and truths about eating keto and its affects on your lipid profile provides helpful information in your quest for better health.
Dr. Anthony Gustin is a board-certified sports chiropractor, functional medicine practitioner, entrepreneur, podcast host, and founder of Perfect Keto.
After growing his sports rehab and functional medicine clinics to six locations in San Francisco, he shifted his mission to help as many people as possible achieve optimal health and well-being.