Does the ketogenic diet increase cholesterol levels?

The ketogenic diet is one of the most used to lose weight. But is it capable of increasing cholesterol? What are the secondary effects?

Last update: 24 March, 2022

The diet keto is one of the most popular for weight loss and It is characterized by being very low in carbohydrates, but high in fat.. Between 70 to 80% of all daily calories are supplied by lipids. For this reason, the question arises as to whether the ketogenic diet increases cholesterol levels.

The concern arises because cholesterol has been labeled as a substance harmful to the heart. However, what is not talked about is the importance it has for the body. Cells are made of cholesterol, just like our brains.

How bad is it then? Does a high-fat diet increase its levels? Keep reading to answer these and other questions about the ketogenic diet and its effects on cholesterol levels.

Characteristics of the ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet, also known as keto or keto, is a popular plan used for weight loss. However, in some cases it should be closely watched.

How is?

A typical ketogenic diet provides 5-10% of total caloric intake from carbohydrates, which corresponds to 20 and up to 50 grams per day. Fat intake is 70-80% of all daily calories and protein 10-20%.

This caloric distribution changes the origin of fuel for the body, forcing it to use fat as the main energy source. The diet keto It provides a very low amount of carbohydrates and, therefore, blood glucose is not enough to cover the requirements.

It is then that the cells use compounds that are obtained from the degradation of fats as a source of energy. These are the ketone bodies.

Reach nutritional ketosis

Changing the metabolic state of the body to obtain energy from ketone bodies is known as nutritional ketosis. It is based on the use of acetone, acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate, used by the brain, muscles and other organs.

Low carbohydrate diets provide little glucose, so the ketones that come from the metabolism of fats take center stage. Insulin regulates and transports ketones to organs and cells.

The principle of the ketogenic diet is to modify the metabolism to use ketone bodies instead of glucose.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance similar to fat. which is part of the cells of the body. There are several functions:

  • Helps produce hormones.
  • Transports vitamin D.
  • forms cell membranes.

There are several types of cholesterol and fats that participate in different ways in the health of the heart. Let’s review the most relevant ones.

Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol or LDL

The cholesterol in LDL lipoproteins is known as cholesterol. badgiven that facilitates the accumulation of fat in the arteries and, in this way, contributes to heart disease.

This accumulation of cholesterol and other fats occurs in the form of plaques that obstruct circulation, in what is known as atherosclerosis. This condition is known to increase the risk of stroke and myocardial infarction.

High-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol

Unlike the previous cholesterol, HDL is known as cholesterol Okay. This lipoprotein helps remove some of the cholesterol bad.


Triglycerides represent the most common fat in the body and so they are found in food. In its structure there are 3 fatty acids attached to the molecule of an alcohol called glycerol. When ingesting them, fatty acids are released to be metabolized and thus obtain energy.

A high value of triglycerides in the blood, together with high cholesterol, increase the risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases. Total cholesterol represents the sum of LDL and HDL cholesterol, plus 20% of triglycerides.

How is the ketogenic diet related to cholesterol levels?

The conclusions of several authors indicate that the ketogenic diet helps lower total and LDL cholesterol levels, while raising HDL cholesterol. Although when starting the diet it could happen the other way around.

However, other researchers say that this increase is temporary, while the body adjusts to nutritional ketosis. In the long term, the values ​​decrease, while HDL rises.

Those with a history of elevated cholesterol should adjust the structure of the ketogenic diet to prevent a further increase. For example, trans fats, fried foods or meat derivatives should be avoided.

When saturated fats are replaced by monounsaturated fats, like that in olive oil, nuts, peanut butter, and avocado, They help lower high cholesterol levels.

On the other hand, it is suggested that polyunsaturated fats of the omega 3 type be included in the ketogenic diet. The favorable effect of this fat in reducing triglycerides is well described. Omega 3 improve cardiovascular risk factors.

It is also recommended that the few carbohydrates in the diet be high in fiber, such as vegetables, berries, nuts and seeds, among others. A group of experts published that fiber helps lower cholesterol levelsespecially if it is soluble.

Recommendations and care with the keto diet

Before starting the ketogenic diet, a series of recommendations should be reviewed and care so that there is no alteration during the application of this dietary plan. Ketosis is safe for most people, as long as it is supervised and directed by a health professional.

Not only are there benefits for weight loss, as some experts in the field point out, but it can also have therapeutic effects. For example, diet keto It is used in children with epilepsy, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity.
Another study also reported that a well-formulated ketogenic diet can be considered safe for the treatment of obesity and diabetes. But more clinical trials are required to assess the long-term effects and its potential in clinical medicine.

Side effects

During the application of the ketogenic diet, a series of symptoms and signs may occur that require medical assistance. With the onset of ketosis, the keto flu, whose symptoms are the following:

  • Fatigue.
  • Sickness.
  • Insomnia.
  • Headache.
  • Increased appetite.

These side effects are typical of the adaptation stage, when they start burning fat and ketones are released. There are also leg cramps, digestive disorders and bad breath.

On the other hand, some studies have suggested that the ketogenic diet may cause changes in embryonic growth in mice, so further investigation of its safety during pregnancy is required.

There is still no safety about the ketogenic diet for pregnant women, so it is not recommended for them.

When to consult a professional?

At the beginning and during the ketogenic diet, a health professional is required to monitor nutritional ketosis and avoid ketoacidosis. This can be dangerous.

In case of type 1 diabetes or gallbladder disorders, consultation with the nutritionist is mandatory. On the other hand, in people with kidney disease, hereditary increased cholesterol, or liver disease, the diet should be avoided. keto.

To reduce side effects It is recommended to drink at least 2 liters of water a day. It is also suggested to increase your mineral intake, avoid intense exercise, and eat low-carbohydrate vegetables and fiber sources, such as nuts and berries.

How to control cholesterol on the ketogenic diet?

It is clear that the quality of the fats consumed in a ketogenic diet will determine the type of cholesterol predominant in the blood. Polyunsaturated fats, such as those in seed oils, and monounsaturated fats in olive oil, benefit from increasing HDL cholesterol.

A high consumption of saturated or trans fats uncontrol the lipid profile in the blood. This condition becomes a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.

Consultation with a health professional represents the green light to start on the right foot a ketogenic diet and maintain cholesterol controls before and during the application of the plan.

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