Cholesterol. Dispelling the myths.


Depression

One of the most common reasons some people negate ketogenic lifestyle is a fear of high cholesterol. High fat diet leads to high cholesterol consumption after all. And cholesterol for decades has been considered “a bad guy “ and blamed for all sorts of health issues mostly atherosclerosis. Righty or not… read this post and judge yourself.

To demystify cholesterol we need to know what it is and how it works.

Cholesterol is a lipid , a fatty substance in our blood and it’s produced in a liver but can be found in almost every cell of our body. Because is not water soluble it needs a “transportation’ , lipoproteins that enable fats and cholesterol to move within the water-based solution of the bloodstream. Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) moves cholesterol from our liver to the tissues and High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) that transports cholesterol from the tissues back to the liver.

Cholesterol plays a very important role in proper functioning of most organs of our our body, for example:

– skin and it’s regeneration

– a bile synthesis

– brain ( myelin sheaths)

Too low cholesterol level can cause hormones disruption , low libido, menstruation disruption, Vit D3 synthesis disruption, low serotonin ( causing depression ) and many more.

So why does cholesterol have such bad reputation ?

It all started in the 1940s, a University of Minnesota researcher, Ancel Keys, postulated that the apparent epidemic of heart attacks in middle-aged American men was related to their mode of life and excessive fat consumption. Than he directed so called “7 countries study “ to prove it. The study received a lot of criticism straight away mostly because it wasn’t 7 but 22 countries study. Only 7 of them fitted the bill. Others, like France or Italy was proving something completely different. Nevertheless… like it always is, the lie repeated 1000 times becomes the truth. And the new era was born. The era of low fat products, a margarine, statins and blaming high cholesterol for all sorts of cardiovascular diseases.

Now, 8 decades later, thousands and thousands of scientific researchers later we know for a fact was NOT a case. Atherosclerosis is not caused by high cholesterol. It’s caused by an inflammation in your body that is an effect of a high glucose and insulin level in your blood stream. And yes… during this inflammation cholesterol can be high too, and it can also be found in the atherosclerotic plaque, but it was there (to cut a long story short ) to “help”. Cholesterol shows strong antioxidant properties. It can help to fight inflammation in your body. But a problem occurs when your body produces too much VLDL ( lipoprotein that carries triglycerides). It’s molecules are smaller , “harder” and stick to the plaque easily. The more carbohydrates rich diet you have,the more triglycerides your liver produces, the more VLDL you need to carry it round your blood stream. And it’s high levels of triglycerides are linked to the buildup of hard deposits in your arteries. This lipoprotein is just the messenger. Looks like we we shooting the messengers all this time.

So what should be your cholesterol level. The answer is anything between 160 mg – 330 mg depending on how much sleep you get, your age, pregnancy, breast feeding (mother’s milk is very cholesterol rich), health condition. In general the ratio LDL to HDL should be 2:1. There was a very interesting research some time ago conducted on elderly people concluding that cholesterol level around 300 mg reduces a risk of mortality by 30 % in this group. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11502313/)

But if you really want to know if you are endangered by arteriosclerosis , apart from cholesterol it’s important to check your homocysteine (should be below 10) and triglycerides (50-100 max). Only this test will give you a full picture.

So in view of these facts, a million dollar question is : CAN KETOGENIC DIET CAUSE ATHEROSCLEROSIS? Depends how is your diet composed. If it’s based on processed foods, trans fats, lucking fibre and macro and micro nutrients, with disturbed Omega 3 and Omega 6 ratio then yes… the risk is quite big.

But on the other hand, well balanced keto is completely different story. BHB (ketons) are very strong antioxidant fighting inflammation in our body. Ketogenic diet significantly reduces levels of glucose and insulin which is a major cause of inflammation.

To conclude, ketogenic diet is proven to be beneficial for stabilising cholesterol level and reducing inflammation in your body. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16652223/

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