Everywhere that keto is talked about on the internet, I always see the same points being made when it comes to cholesterol.
“Low-carb diets are great, except for how it raises your cholesterol.”
“I used to eat a high-fat diet, but then my doctor I told me I would get a heart attack if I continued.”
“I love the carnivore diet, but I’m scared of my high cholesterol numbers.”
It turns out that many low-carb dieters are either misinformed or ignorant about the true function and purpose of cholesterol. Can you blame them? We already know that the education system has failed the general public when it comes to diet and health advice, and anti-cholesterol propaganda marketing has infected every school of thought when it comes to nutrition. I always remember Cheerios bragging right on the box that they lower your cholesterol, or Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny complaining about the country’s ongoing “cholesterol problem”.
In order to properly address the potential dangers of cholesterol, we should probably enlighten our readers about what cholesterol actually is and how it functions.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a lipid and a naturally occurring organic molecule. It is bio-synthesized by ALL animals cells and is essential to the construction of the animal cell membrane.
So what does it do in our bodies? In addition to building and maintaining cell membranes, cholesterol also functions in cell signaling and intracellular transport. Cholesterol generation is also required for the synthesis of steroid hormones and vitamin D, and it facilitates the speed of electrical impulses along nerve tissue. Cholesterol is essential for all animal life, and it can be synthesized by every cell.
Because cholesterol is an isolated molecule, it can dissolve in the bloodstream in small concentrations. Therefore, in order to effectively transport cholesterol, our body packages our cholesterol in what are called lipoproteins.
There are several different types of lipoproteins. A very-low density lipoprotein (VLDL), a low-density lipoprotein (LDL), an intermediate-density lipoprotein (IDL) and a high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
Sound familiar? The non-technical term for LDL cholesterol is “bad cholesterol”. Conversely, the commonly used term for HDL cholesterol is “good cholesterol”. You may have gotten a cholesterol reading from your doctor in the past. Nothing like getting some good ‘ole blood work done!
After around three months of a strict keto diet and two months of the zero-carb carnivore diet, my curiosity got the better of me. I thought that I had better get my cholesterol levels checked, just to see where I stacked up against what doctors recommend as “normal” levels.
I am happy to share that information with you:
This was taken in December 2018. My reaction was immediately one of terror.
“Oh my! What if all the things they say about cholesterol is true? I’m gonna get a heart attack and die!”
However, my gut reaction did not at all sit well with my logical mind. I thought to myself, there is no freaking way that I feel this good on a daily basis to be unhealthy. I had lost 25 pounds, I had way more energy, I constantly in a better mood, I slept better, my vision was more vivid, and my discipline and work ethic somehow came more naturally to me every day.
I honestly felt like that if my cholesterol was going to give me cardiovascular disease, so be it! There was no way in hell I was going to go back to gorging myself with sugar and seed oils on the standard American diet.
Anyone who has transitioned to the carnivore lifestyle and has had their lives transformed by it, they also know damn well that the increased “feeling” of being healthy means a lot more than what a couple of cholesterol readings say.
Still though, I was utterly confused. How is it that I can feel so healthy, but be the exact opposite? Because I am an open-minded individual, I had to look more into the function of cholesterol to understand what changes were happening to my body. It during these hours of research when I discovered the TRUTH about cholesterol.
Why the cholesterol scare is BULLSHIT
Enter Dave Feldman from CholesterolCode.com. Dave is a prominent member of the low-carb community for his dedication to cholesterol research. I found out about his work through the /r/KetoScience subreddit, a forum dedicated to revealing the science behind the healthiness of low-carb dieting.
First thing’s first. If you are currently on the keto or carnivore diet and are potentially concerned about high cholesterol numbers, I recommend you watch this video:
In this short video Dave goes over what he thinks are the acceptable ranges for cholesterol for people on a low-carb diet. If you compare my numbers to Dave’s opinion, I am not nearly as far off from having “good cholesterol” as I would be if comparing my numbers to what those in conventional medicine think.
My HDL could be a bit higher, but my trigs were low enough, my LDL cholesterol is definitely lower than 200 mg/dl, and I for sure have low inflammation.
So why is a “healthy” cholesterol range different for people on a low-carb diet? It is all because of the way your body is using its sources of energy when it comes to fats vs. carbohydrates.
On a carb-filled diet, your body converts carbs into glucose in order to fuel your cells. This glucose gets transported through your blood in order to reach all the cells that are requiring energy.
On a high-fat diet, your body’s main source of fuel for your cells are fatty acids. These fatty acids also travel through your bloodstream in order to reach your cells. So what is different about these sources of fuel?
Glucose can swim in the bloodstream easily. Remember what I said about your body “packaging” cholesterol in lipoproteins? Fatty acids do not mix well with blood on their own.
Your body packages three molecules of cholesterol together in what is called a triglyceride, and these triglycerides are delivered in another package, the lipoprotein!
Your body NEEDS to traffic around more cholesterol in your body while getting the majority of your energy from fat. Does this make this diet more dangerous?
This is because your body is not using this cholesterol to FIX anything wrong with you. It’s simply supplying you with energy. It doesn’t matter how much cholesterol is in your blood. What matters is how much cholesterol is leaving your bloodstream and causing a build-up of plaque in your arteries.
Mr. Feldman uses this brilliant metaphor: Cholesterol is like the life rafts on the LDL ships. Even if it travels with your triglycerides, it is a much smaller passenger (in quantity) and mostly recycled back at the liver. Is it a life raft for damage to the blood vessels? Or is the sheer presence of it risk alone?
I personally think it’s good to have a life raft.
Dr. Shawn Baker, the world’s most famous carnivore diet advocate, has been on a high-fat diet for the last five years and recently took a CACS (Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring) test. This is a test that determines the amount of plaque build-up in your arteries. After years of eating 25x the amount of red meat as the average American, his CAC score was a perfect ZERO. His arteries are squeaky clean. No damage to his arteries AND a metric shitload of life rafts.
At age 52, he is at the lowest category for cardiovascular disease risk. Extremely good insulin sensitivity and extremely low markers of inflammation, too.
We have been fed lies upon lies about what is healthy, why at this point would we believe what the so-called “experts” have to say anymore?
Some institutions are finally admitting they are wrong, though. The Dietary Guidelines and Advisory Committee has changed their guidelines to say: “Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”
Ignore the ignoramuses who parade around the idea that low-carb eating carries certain coronary disease risks. Eat meat and thrive!
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