Ketogenic Diet and Cholesterol Levels: What my blood test revealed?

I have been advised by my well wishers that being on a high fat diet is not healthy in a long run. Therefore, I decided to have my lipid panels done (cholestrol levels mainly).

In this post, I will show my blood cholesterol and triglyceride data. We will also discuss how high fat low carb diet change amount of cholesterol that flow in your blood. I got my blood tested-

1. When I was on a normal high carb diet (Nov 14, 2017)

2. Six months on Ketogenic diet (Dec 1, 2018)

3. One year on Keto diet (June 24, 2019). Let’s get some basics first before we look at the data.

One of the major concern when someone starts a ketogenic diet is the level of cholesterol that they anticipate will rise.

Whenever someone hear “high cholesterol”, they starts thinking about heart disease. High level of cholesterol is related to increased risk of heart attack. Although there have been multiple studies where they prove that total cholesterol is not the main cause of heart diseases.

It may be the bad cholesterol that should stay in the normal range. Bad cholesterol? Yes, that’s how they define cholesterol, good and bad!

So what’s a difference between good and bad?

  1. High Density Lipoprotein (HDL)-Good Cholesterol: If your level of HDL is less than 40mg/mL then you have high risk of heart diseases. If one has more than 60 mg/mL, they have reduced risk of heart diseases. So having higher HDL is good for you.
  2. Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL)-Bad Cholesterol: The normal range of this type of cholesterol is 0-100 mg/mL, If one has higher than that, they have higher risk of heart diseases. If that level is more than 160 mg/mL, it is considered high

The idea was to know what happens to my blood cholestrol when my diet consist of mainly healthy fats like coconut oil, ghee, olive oils and nuts.

Alright, as we can see in the chart below that my total cholestrol on Nov 14, 2017 was 184 with LDL being 113 mg/mL and HDL being 61. This means that I have a reduced risk of heart attack to begin with.

My triglycedire level was also 49 mg/mL which is within the normal range of triglycerides levels. Triglycerides are fat molecules flowing in the blood.

My LDL was slightly higher but total cholesterol was below 200 mg/mL. So there was nothing to worry about.

November 2017: Total Cholesterol, HDL and triglycerides level
November 2017: My LDL was within the normal range

I started my keto journey on June 2018 and stayed religiously on that for six months. I saw significant change in my lipid profile. This time my HDL has gone slighlty down and LDL has gone up. Higher LDL increase your risk of heart diseases.

My total cholesterol, triglyceride and HDL after I was 6 months of High Fat Low Carb Diet

I discussed this with my doctor and he said that considering my family history and age I am still at lower risk of heart issues. Even after doctor’s conclusion, the high number of total cholestrol strated to bother me.

My LDL after 6 months on high fat diet

I called my coach and expressed my concerns and he seemed to be ok with all the numbers and send me this video.

I watched this video and had some relief. Cholesterol has indeed got a bad name whereas this biochemical is an absolute must for human survival.

I did a bit research on this and found that increase in LDL when someone starts a keto diet might be related to the weight loss. I have indeed have lost more than 15 pounds in six months and the high LDL level might very well be because of weight loss. Here is the research paper where authors describe the rise in the LDL due to weight loss.

I got it checked again last week and to my surprise, numbers looked great.

My LDL came down and HDL improved slightly after one year on keto diet

My HDL increased a little bit to 59 mg/mL.

I am not in the reduced risk of heart disease but very close to 60mg/mL. I would have been happier to see my HDL higher than 60 but it is what it is!

Great news is that my LDL now is 89 mg/mL which used to be 134 when I got my lipid profile checked in Dec 2018. That was probably the side effect of excess weight loss and my weight has stabilized since then.

The total cholesterol is also 166 mg/mL, lowest it has ever been since I started documenting my cholesterol data.

My total cholesterol and triglycerides levels after one year on keto diet

So what have really changed in one year?

I changed my food habits a little bit. I have added more olive oil to my diet. Additionally I have been including more avocados and now taking fish oil regularly.

I am also running more miles than before. So a combination of good fat and more running may be the main reason of having great levels of cholesterol.

But what about carbs?

I am consumimng more carbs now. However, my carb intake is still very low. It may be less than 100 g per day.

In ideal world, I should have higher cholesterol because I eat tons of fat but the results tell a different story.

Though my cholesterol level is just one data point and is more relevant to endurance athletes. Can we apply this to people who are in weight loss program? Possibly!

I can confidently say that higher fat intake does not increase your cholesterol level. If your aim is to lose weight, this diet is just wonderful.

In case, you get your cholesterol levels checked within first 6 months. Don’t freak out. Higher cholesterol values may be due to weight loss and not because of high fat intake from a keto diet. Try to get your lipid profile again in one year and see what is going on.

My friend Kevin who is a great ultra runner has also been on high fat low carb diet for several years. He had also observed similar improvement in the cholesterol levels. Therefore I have two data points applicable to endurance athletes.

If you want to know more about his lipid profile, you can find that in his blog here.

Disclaimer: My opinions are not medical advice. See your doctor if you have any medical condition.

Feel free to comment if you have any question or have observed the similar data.

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