The ketogenic diet is probably the most popular diet there is today, but it does come with its own oppositions. You must have heard of warnings about the negative effects of the keto diet on cholesterol levels because of the high fat intake.
Of course, a higher cholesterol level is a valid concern. After all, a spike in cholesterol levels, as we already know, can place an individual at a higher risk for heart disease. The point of the ketogenic diet is to place the body in a fat-burning state called ketosis, and to do this, you can expect to consume a lot of fat per day.
But does the keto diet really have a devastating impact on cholesterol levels?
According to Daniel Soffer, an internist and lipidologist at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, the keto diet does not have a dramatic impact on cholesterol levels — a claim made after multiple clinical trials and studies. If anything, the keto diet only has slight effects on the levels of triglycerides, HDL or high-density lipoprotein, and LDL or low-density lipoprotein.
However, it is still crucial to note another important point: the actual quality of the keto diet matters a lot. Because there are many different ways to follow the diet, some people may not be very careful about the types of food they are consuming, caring only about meeting the protein and fat content quota.
To realistically meet the quota, some may resort to eating unhealthier, saturated sources of fat.
The different impacts of keto on cholesterol levels
Studies show that the impacts of the keto diet on cholesterol levels widely vary. Some people report seeing better cholesterol levels overall: higher HDL or good cholesterol, lower triglycerides, and lower LDL or bad cholesterol.
But on the flip side, some people report having a completely opposite experience. People whose diets consisted of unhealthy saturated fat saw an increase in LDL or bad cholesterol. Hence, when you’re on the keto diet, it is crucial to not only count fat content but to actually choose good and healthy sources of fat.
If you want to follow the ketogenic diet, pay close attention to your LDL levels since this is the type of cholesterol that is associated with heart disease and stroke. While the diet itself may not be responsible for LDL level spikes, consuming too much of unhealthy saturated fat is.
The role of genetics in LDL regulation
A healthy individual may not need to worry so much about their LDL levels even when they are on the keto diet. However, some people have genetic mutations, such as familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), that affect LDL regulation. If a person has this genetic mutation and decides to follow the keto diet, their LDL levels can get dangerously high.
What does this mean for you? Since you may not be aware of a pre-existing genetic mutation, you need to be very careful in taking your next step. In order to confirm if you are safe to go on the keto diet, it is important to study your personal medical history as well as your family history. Learn about your close family members and take note if some have suffered from cardiovascular diseases.
For someone with a genetic predisposition to having higher cholesterol levels, the effect of going on the keto diet long-term can be catastrophic. Another step you can take to know if the keto diet is for you is to undergo a DNA test to know if you have predispositions for certain diseases and conditions.
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