What exactly is “Good” and “Bad” cholesterol?
Do you know your HDL and LDL numbers?
- HDL or “high-density lipoproteins” is “Good” and removes cholesterol from your arteries
- LDL or “low-density lipoproteins” is “Bad” and leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries.
- VLDL is another type of cholesterol found in the blood. These contain more triglycerides than cholesterol. However, they are considered “Bad”.
- LDL-p This represents the particle number or ApoB. This number tells you how many LDL particles are floating around in your bloodstream. So, this is important because it differentiates between how much cholesterol your LDL’s molecules are carrying around as opposed to how many are in your bloodstream.
If you have a high LDL level but have a low LDL particle number, you have nothing to worry about.
When you have higher amounts of VLDL’s and LDL’s in your blood you are at a high risk of heart disease and stroke. These can lead to arteriosclerosis, a condition that causes your arteries to harden leading to an increased chance of stroke and heart disease.
How Rapid Weight Loss may Impact your Cholesterol
Sometimes when you first go on a low carb diet, you experience rapid weight loss and your LDL levels may rise. If that is the case when your weight loss stabilizes it would be a good idea to recheck your levels. There is a small group of people that experience an increase in bad cholesterols while on a low carb diet. If that happens to you here are some suggestions for you to follow:
- Make sure you don’t have any medical conditions that may cause an increase in cholesterol. A lower functioning Thyroid can increase Total and LDL cholesterol levels. A genetic condition called Familial Hypercholesterolemia. This is associated with high cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease.
- Remove Bulletproof coffee from your diet. Some people started drinking coffee with coconut oil and butter. This is a good way to increase fats and get your body into a ketosis state. However, if it affects your levels adversely stop drinking it.
- Focus on replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated fats. Cook with olive oil instead of butter or coconut oils. Also, I recommend cooking at a lower temperature. That way the olive oil will not become a long-chain fatty acid. Olive oil protects the LDL molecule from oxidation, reducing inflammation, improves endothelium function and may lower blood pressure. Another way to get better fats is to eat fatty wild-caught fish high in Omega 3 fatty acids at least once a week. Or take a good Omega-3 supplement.
- If the keto plan increases your cholesterol, add more Fiber-rich foods. Dropdown out of ketosis by increasing your carbs to a modest level. 100 to 150 grams a day. You can add 1-2 pieces of fruit or sweet potato at dinner.
- Increase soluble fiber in your diet. Red Rice Yeast is a good supplement to reduce your cholesterol numbers as well as taking a niacin supplement.
OK! So, Do You Even Need Cholesterol?
YES, we do. 75% of cholesterol is produced in the body. It is made by the liver. It is responsible for producing your sex hormones, Vitamin D production, it is a building block for human tissues and assists in bile production in the liver which allows us to emulsify fats and absorb and utilize them in the body.
So what to take away from this:
- You need cholesterol
- Focus on good “HDL” versus bad “LDL” cholesterol
- Can’t blame your age. Even young people may have high cholesterol levels.
- Read food labels carefully.
- Fasting isn’t necessary for a blood test.
What is a Good Cholesterol Number?
Anything below 150 to 180. If it gets lower than 150 people may experience clinical depression, difficulty thinking, and short-term memory loss.
There are many positive effects of a low carb diet. It reduces your appetite and encourages rapid weight loss (most weight loss will come from your abdominal cavity). Furthermore, it lowers triglycerides, increases “good” HDL cholesterol, reduces blood sugar and insulin levels, and may lower blood pressure. Finally, it can is also an effective measure against metabolic syndrome and improves “Bad” LDL levels therapeutic for several brain disorders including epilepsy, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Low-carb diets tend to be high in fat, which leads to an impressive increase in blood levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
When you eat a low-carb diet, the size of your “bad” LDL particles increases, which reduces their harmful effects. Cutting carbs may also reduce the number of total LDL particles in your bloodstream.
The classic effect of a low-carb diet on cholesterol is a slight elevation, partly due to an elevation of the good (HDL) cholesterol, indicating a lower risk of heart disease. This especially as the cholesterol profile also typically improves in two more ways: lower triglycerides and larger, fluffier LDL particles.
The total-to-HDL cholesterol ratio is found by dividing your total cholesterol level by your HDL-C, and it is essentially the same thing as an LDL-to-HDL cholesterol ratio since most non-HDL cholesterol is LDL cholesterol. The researchers of the 2003 meta-analysis used this ratio because it is a better cardiovascular risk predictor than total cholesterol levels.
What does Science have to Say?
Now that we have a superficial understanding of the total-to-HDL cholesterol ratio, let’s look at the results of the meta-analysis. The two findings that the researcher’s highlight most are the effects that lauric acid (found in high quantities in coconut oil) and stearic acid (found in high quantities in animal fats) have on the total-to-HDL cholesterol ratio. Both of these fatty acids improved the total-to-HDL cholesterol ratio more favorably than carbohydrates. (A similar pattern emerges for blood sugar and triglyceride levels when we replace carbs with fat as well.)
The researchers also found that unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, decreased (improved) the ratio. However, lauric acid has a more favorable effect on the total-to-HDL cholesterol ratio than any other fat, saturated or unsaturated.
Because of these findings, we can infer that the low-carb, high-fat diet optimizes cholesterol levels for two main reasons:
- Replacing carbs with the fats that are commonly consumed on the ketogenic diet improve total-to-HDL cholesterol ratio.
- Eating more unsaturated fats and lauric acid help to improve cholesterol levels even further.
In other words, when you restrict carbohydrates and get a majority of your calories from animal fats, coconut oil, and unsaturated fats like fish, nuts, avocado, and olive oil, it is highly likely that you will improve your cholesterol levels. One of the best ways to incorporate all of this into one diet plan is by following the ketogenic diet.
How Does the Keto Plan Accomplish All of This?
Mostly by replacing carbs with fats that reduce the total-to-HDL cholesterol ratio like coconut oil, animal fats, nuts, avocados, olive oil, and fish.
To find out if the ketogenic diet is actually improving your cholesterol levels, check your total-to-HDL cholesterol ratio — researchers suggest that it is one of the best predictors of cardiovascular disease risk. Make sure your total-to-HDL cholesterol ratio is between 3 and 4.
All in all, this is strong information that shows the carbohydrate restriction as emphasized in the ketogenic diet can be a healthy choice for you.