Keto Diet Linked to High Cholesterol, Heart Disease

If you read our blog regularly, you know we never prescribe to specific diets. We, as a general rule, don’t think diets are healthy. They can be too restrictive, stop you from getting the proper nutrients and lead to unhealthy relationships with food. If a doctor tells a patient to follow a diet, it’s essential as it is medical treatment. But, when planning your own meals, we generally feel that picking healthy, varied foods and eating in moderation is the best option.

In our recipe blogs, we feature a lot of keto options. Keto recipes are low in carbs. They’re also high in fat. It’s important to be aware of that. Everyone has their own needs. Many people who have blood sugar concerns swear by the keto diet. Approximately one in five Americans follow a keto diet to lose weight or aid health. But we have written many blogs questioning the safety of keto. It’s wonderfully low in carbs. But it’s focus on eating high levels of fat doesn’t appear to be as safe as it claims.

Another study is warning people that keto isn’t the wonder diet it claims to be. The new research found that the diet may be linked to higher LDL cholesterol levels and doubles the risk of blocked arteries, heart attacks and strokes. The researchers examined the medical records of 305 people following a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) keto diet and 1,200 people eating a standard diet.  

Our study found that regular consumption of a self-reported diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat was associated with increased levels of LDL cholesterol – or ‘bad’ cholesterol – and a higher risk of heart disease,” lead study author Dr. Iulia Iatan with the Healthy Heart Program Prevention Clinic, St. Paul’s Hospital and the Univ. of British Columbia.

Dr. Iatan’s team decided to conduct the study because they kept seeing people in their clinic with severely high cholesterol levels after following the keto diet. “This led us to wonder about the relationship between these low-carb, high-fat diets, lipid levels and cardiovascular disease. And so, despite this, there’s limited data on this relationship.”

Using the medical information, “After an average of 11.8 years of follow-up – and after adjustment for other risk factors for heart disease, such as [blood sugar concerns], high blood pressure, obesity and smoking – people on an LCHF diet had more than two-times higher risk of having several major cardiovascular events, such as blockages in the arteries that needed to be opened with stenting procedures, heart attack, stroke and peripheral arterial disease,” the researchers said.

Christopher Gardner, a professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center who was not involved in the study, said, “This study provides an important contribution to the scientific literature, and suggests the harms outweigh the benefits. Elevated LDL cholesterol should not be dismissed as simply a negligible side effect of a VLCD (very-low-calorie diet) or ketogenic diet.”

In addition to being high in fat, to achieve ketosis, you have to cut out many foods high in fiber, nutrients, phytochemicals and antioxidants. Beans, legumes, vegetables and fruits aren’t always explicitly banned by keto diets, but if you have to stay below 20 grams of carbs a day, it’s almost impossible to eat enough of them to get enough fiber and plant nutrients. The combination of being so high in fat and so low in many essential components of a healthy diet may be the root of the problem with LCHF diets.

Banner image: Eduardo Roda Lopes via Unsplash

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