How the keto diet can affect cholesterol levels

In a world where obesity is one of the leading causes of mortality, with 2.8 million victims annually, as well as many chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, a balanced diet and maintaining optimal weight are the elements essential for a healthy life. However, if you are planning to lose a few pounds, or simply adopt a healthier lifestyle, it is important to choose the right diet.


Thus, one of the most popular diets of recent years – the ketogenic diet – is being very researched nowadays because several studies indicate possible adverse effects, including increased LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.


What is the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet appeared in the 1920s, being applied, for the first time, by physician Russel Wilder on epileptic patients. At that time, it has enjoyed popularity in treatment schemes for juvenile epilepsy, and has reappeared today, as a quick and easy method of weight loss.


The ketogenic diet involves a high fat intake, moderate protein intake and low carbohydrate intake. Therefore, the macronutrients of this diet are divided as follows: 55% -60% fat, 30% -35% protein, 5% -10% carbohydrates. The caloric plan is 2000Kcal per day, of which carbohydrates represent 20g-50g.



At the base of the mechanism of functioning of the ketogenic diet is the ketosis process, which means the conversion of fats into energy (when the body does not receive enough carbohydrates), which leads to a rapid burning of them.


Adverse effects of the ketogenic diet

Ketosis, in itself, is not harmful to the body, but there are a number of side effects, short and long term, associated with the ketogenic diet to be taken into account. The most common short-term adverse reactions are:


  • Nausea / vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Permanent tiredness / dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation

Short-term symptoms are called keto flu. These adverse reactions usually occur up to 2 weeks after the start of the diet. It is recommended to consume electrolyte-rich liquids during this period, to reduce the intensity of unpleasant reactions.


Long-term adverse reactions are:


  • Liver steatosis (fatty liver)
  • Hypoproteinemia (low protein in the blood)
  • Kidney stones
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiency


Keto diet and LDL cholesterol

Although the clinical studies conducted so far provide contradictory data (in some, the keto regimen has led to an increase in HDL cholesterol, the “good” one, while in other subjects an increase in LDL cholesterol, the “bad” one, has been the latest. The study, from 2016, shows a significant increase in LDL cholesterol and a decrease in HDL cholesterol, recorded over a 3-year ketogenic regime.

There are not enough studies to substantiate either hypothesis, but doctors recommend consulting a specialist before starting a keto diet and maintaining it for a maximum of 12 months.


Moderation and monitoring

Therefore, it is important to remember that the ketogenic diet is not indicated for a period longer than one year, the ideal duration being somewhere between 3 weeks and 12 months. Along with this, monitoring of dietary health (especially liver, kidney, heart, triglyceride and cholesterol levels) is essential. Another important aspect is the conclusion of the diet and the transition to a standardized diet, which, in turn, must be monitored and carried out gradually. Monitoring involves both periodic analysis and observation of any common symptoms and early warning, in order to receive the necessary medical attention.


Once your LDL cholesterol increases, you should stop dieting. People who already have high levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are not encouraged to adopt a ketogenic regimen, as they are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease.


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