Mainstream media is still fixated on “fat is bad” and “high cholesterol is bad” myths. Let’s face it, for a long time science has shown that these hypotheses were correct. But did you know that these myths were not always accepted wisdom? It wasn’t until the 1950’s that fats were demonized, and carbohydrates were vindicated. Before that, the case against either was hotly debated. But that’s another story (1) So here is what you need to know about cholesterol, the good and the bad and the ugly!
LDL VS HDL
Even today, if you search google for cholesterol and heart disease you might find this:
“When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it builds up in the walls of your arteries, causing a process called atherosclerosis, a form of heart disease … If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by a blockage, the result is a heart attack. (WebMd)
Most people are familiar with or have heard of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. This is what is being referred to in the above excerpt. The other type is called HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.
In your body, only about 20% of your cholesterol comes directly from what you eat. Roughly speaking, your liver and intestines make the other 80% of the cholesterol you need to stay healthy. Here’s a great diagram from Harvard Health, – a bit technical, but some of you like that stuff.
How Cholesterol Works
Here is an easier way to understand how cholesterol works. Imagine that LDL is a happy-go-lucky cholesterol molecule (simplifying, so bear with me). It’s travelling around your blood like a hotdog vendor at a hockey game coming down the aisles yelling, “I got cholesterol, who wants cholesterol …”. A cell sitting in seat H45 yells, “Hell ya, I need a cholesterol” and so the hotdog vendor gives the cell a little cholesterol and the cell does what cells do with cholesterol … (that’s a different article).
Now imagine at the end of the night, there are still a bunch of hotdog vendors with lots of extra hot dogs. In comes the manager (HDL) and he takes all the leftover hot dogs and does what managers do with the extra hot dogs. He recycles them.
“HDL collects cholesterol that is not being used by cells and brings them back to the liver to be recycled or destroyed.” The Ketogenic Diet and Cholesterol (2)
What you want is a good mix of hotdog vendors and managers. In one arena, there might be more hotdog vendors, but there are more managers, and in another arena fewer hotdog vendors but also fewer managers. That’s why the cholesterol number you are given is a ratio: vendors divided by managers. Seems simple, right?
Science Proves Size Matters
In the past, doctors and researches would worry that there was too much LDL (vendors) in the blood and when they looked at narrowing arteries, they found that LDL cholesterol was what was narrowing the arteries and that it could eventually block the artery and cause a heart attack or a stroke. It was right there in black and white (most scanners didn’t show color back then).
Then scientific testing got more precise. It was realized that LDL was not all uniform and that there were big hot dogs and medium-sized hot dogs and small hot dogs (let’s not get into vendor pricing, he charged the same for each one in my story). Further research came up with some startling results. It turns out size matters! And this is how we get to ketones, the ketogenic diet and fat.
The bigger particles, research shows, are good for us. So, the “bad” cholesterol has parts that are good. The medium particles are not good or bad and the small, dense LDL is the ones causing the problems (and clearly if the hot dogs are the same price, who wants the small ones?).
The Good And The Bad And The Ugly
When your body is making 80% of your cholesterol, it is making the bigger particles from fat and it is making the smaller, dense particles from refined carbs and sugars! It’s these smaller LDL particles that are clogging your arteries!
“Smaller, more tightly packed LDL has an easier time getting into arteries.” (Harvard Health) (3)
“The key dietary change for improving LDL size is to cut down on refined carbohydrates — that is, sugary or starchy foods. It isn’t necessary to go on a very-low-carb diet — just moderate your carb intake and choose healthy, high-fiber carbs.” (Berkley Wellness) (4)
“Very low carbohydrate ketogenic diets (<20g Carbs) increase HDL levels substantially ….”
“If your HDL is low and you are eating a high amount of carbohydrates, lowering carbohydrates consumption can increase your HDL cholesterol back to healthy levels. You can accomplish this through a variety of low-carbohydrate diets, including the ketogenic diet.” (The Ketogenic Diet and Cholesterol) (2)
Want to learn more about the role of ketones? Click here to read how This One Thing Has Been Linked To Almost All Diseases.
What Is The Takeaway?
Well, other than making you hungry for hot dogs, your body needs fat to make the good-bad cholesterol (LDL). Also, your body needs fat to make the good-good cholesterol (HDL). So in conclusion, your body NEEDS fat! Even the 20% cholesterol that you eat! Did you know that dietary cholesterol from eggs increases HDL? (5)
All that said, your body DOES NOT NEED refined carbs and sugar. In fact, it needs you to stop eating them or at the very least, substantially reduce them. Otherwise you make bad-bad cholesterol and if you keep doing it, you will have a heart attack and die (sorry no research to back that up conclusively).
And who wants that???
As always, if anything I have written resonates with you, leave a comment. Send me an email at [email protected] if you have any questions or would like more information about drinking ketones, making ketones or healthy eating.
I am here to serve! (I just won’t serve you dessert 😊 )
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Jack Lauzon, B.Sc. Honours Physics, Health Educator
The Study Heard ’Round the World:
Wilson, Jacob. The Ketogenic Bible: The Authoritative Guide to Ketosis (p. 28). Victory Belt Publishing
The Ketogenic Diet and Cholesterol:
Should you seek advanced cholesterol testing?
Dietary cholesterol from eggs increases plasma HDL cholesterol in overweight men consuming a carbohydrate-restricted diet
Mutungi, G., J. Ratliff, M. Puglisi, M. Torres-Gonzalez, U. Vaishnav, J. O. Leite, … and M. L. Fernandez. “Dietary cholesterol from eggs increases plasma HDL cholesterol in overweight men consuming a carbohydrate-restricted diet.” Journal of Nutrition 138, no. 2 (2008): 272–6.