Does Keto Give you High Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a type of fat that is imperative to our cells and a building block of our hormones. It has been branded a ‘killer’ but without it, our cells would become frail. There is, however, an important distinction between Good and Bad Cholesterol. Good Cholesterol helps us and our cells to function well, but Bad Cholesterol can lead to plaque building up on artery walls causing heart troubles.

Interestingly, France and other European Countries consume significantly more healthy fats and have higher cholesterol rates, but they also have lower rates of heart disease, heart attacks and longer lifespans.

Previously, it has been difficult to discern what food was causing the bad cholesterol to rise and which would support our good cholesterol. Since it was difficult to isolate the exact cause, the safest answer was to decrease total fat consumption period. This is why low-fat diets are prescribed to patients who have high numbers of bad cholesterol. However decreasing fat altogether has created a host of other medical ailments, so this isn’t really working either.

It is now becoming more clear which fats are good for you and which are not. Studies have shown that bad cholesterol seems to increasingly be linked to consuming unhealthy fats, toxins, and excess sugar. Leading to a rise in the bad cholesterol.

Unhealthy fats, toxins, and excess sugar create inflammation in the body. Toxins can come in many forms – it can be the food additives, traces of pesticides and fertilizers, artificial ingredients, excess sugar intake and any other unnatural additives in our foods. Each body is different and the amount of reaction from toxins can vary however often times we are so unaware of how many additives are in our food, that it can go unnoticed and we are left wondering what is going on.

Good Cholesterol vs. Bad Cholesterol – How do I tell the difference?

We have “Good Cholesterol” & “Bad Cholesterol”. The “Bad Cholesterol”  is most easily affected by free radicals and gets oxidized in the blood. Once it is oxidized it easily sticks to the arteries and creates what we call ‘plaque build-up’.

Cholesterol can be broken down into a couple of different categories. In this post, we are discussing the 3 types that affect your Doctors Cholesterol Test. Your Total Cholesterol number is calculated by three main types: HDL (High-Density Lipoproteins), LDL (Low-Density Lipoproteins), Triglycerides.

Fun Fact: Your Cholesterol Test actually only tests for the Protein Carriers of Fats, not the fats themselves.

HDL [Good Cholesterol] – “The Hero of the Story”

This is considered the Good Cholesterol. It is anti-inflammatory and collects and removes bad cholesterol as it travels through the bloodstream. It also stabilizes antioxidant enzymes and has cell protective properties.

Triglycerides [Mostly Good, Sometimes Bad] – “The Double Agent of the Story”

Triglycerides store the excess calories from your body. Triglycerides are Fats that turn into energy (ketones) or are stored. Whether you are on keto or not, excess calories can cause an increase in the number of triglycerides. High triglycerides are generally increased by excess sugar, carb intake or unhealthy fats. High Triglycerides aren’t something to get too worried about, however, it is important to double check your macros and ensure you are consuming healthy fats instead of unhealthy fats.

LDL [Bad + Good Cholesterol] – “The Villian with a Secret Twin”

A Standard Lipid Panel (Cholesterol Test) report the combined number of LDL-A & LDL-B. It is important to know that although LDL-B is bad, LDL-A is not. In order to test these separately, an NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) Lipoprofile test is what you want. It is available at most labs, however, depending on where you live it may or may not be affordable to do so.

LDL (Pattern B) [The Bad Cholesterol] – “The Villian”

LDL pattern B is the type of cholesterol that is oxidized easily by free radicals, sticks to the sides of arteries and causes plaque buildup. It is elevated by toxins, sugar, and inflammation. It is mostly elevated by consuming unhealthy fats. As a precaution, most doctors have recommended low-fat diets because it was hard to isolate exactly what fats are causing the problems. However, as time goes along it is getting increasingly clear that eliminating fat all together is causing more harm than good. However, thankfully it is also getting easier to identify which fats are healthy and which fats cause inflammation.

LDL (Pattern A) [Neutral Cholesterol ] – “The Good Twin”

LDL pattern A is not a bad cholesterol and originates from saturated fats (from animal fats etc.). If your healthy animal fats increase your LDL pattern A may increase. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just an indicator that you are consuming more saturated fats and since cholesterol is a vital building block for cells it really isn’t too much of a concern. As long as your pattern b stays down you are doing well. Now the tricky thing is, that pattern A is lumped in with pattern B because they look alike. If you want to differentiate them you will need to get an NMR Lipoprofile test completed.

Example Lipid Panel Lab Test Result

What is a Good Test Result?

After going on Keto for 3-6 months ideally, you should see a decrease in bad cholesterol and an increase in good cholesterol. However, depending on your current health and your own body it may be different for you.

What to Do if your Numbers go up?

If your Total Cholesterol Number goes up

Look at what has changed in your three categories: HDL, LDL & Triglycerides.

If your HDL goes up.

Wahoo! That’s Good, keep it up!

If your Triglycerides go up

Ideally, you want these to decrease. You’ll want to check your macros and make sure you are consuming the proper calories, amounts of protein, fat, and carbs in a day. Ensure that you have eliminated all sugar and excess carbs. Also, ensure you aren’t consuming too many toxins and inflammation-inducing foods or trans fats. You may also consider having more unsaturated fats such as fish oil and decreasing (not eliminating) your saturated fats such as coconut oil and butter.

If your LDL goes up

You need to know if it is pattern A or pattern B. If pattern B has gone up, check that you have eliminated sugar, toxins, and inflammation-inducing substances. Do not consume any unhealthy fats (see this post about healthy and unhealthy fats). However, If you are eating healthy fats and have eliminated sugar, it is possible that it is the only pattern A that has elevated and this is not a bad thing. Ideally, you want Pattern A to be 80% and Pattern B to be 20%. Pattern B you want to be less than 600 nmol/l.

Other modifications

If you are struggling considerably with cholesterol, you may consider a few of the following suggestions:

  • reduce saturated fats to 20% of the fats you eat (butter, coconut oil)
  • Increase monounsaturated fats to 80% of the fats you eat (olive oil, avocado oil, almond oil, almond butter, nuts (pecans, almond, macadamia nuts etc.)
  • continue to use MCT oil
  • Suggested additional daily ingredients include: dark cocoa powder, Fibre supplements via chia seeds or psyllium seeds, citrus bergamot (the same as in earl grey tea) has been shown to lower cholesterol in some studies.
  • Most importantly avoid all toxins and inflammation-inducing foods! If you want more information on what foods will increase inflammation in the body.  Take a look at this post about Fats and Inflammation.

If you have more questions about Cholesterol, be sure to ask it in our Questions Forum  or Comment Below.

Resources: Life Expectancy Data Heart Disease Statistics by CountryNY Times Article: Personal Health Paradox Cholesterol in FrancePsychology Today Article: Low Brain Cholesterol | Study: Dietary Fat and Sugar in relation to Heart Disease | Dr. Colbert’s Keto Zone Diet