Cholesterol and Low Carb Diet – My commitment as the author of this site is to write content that answers the most common questions of those starting in Low Carb Diet, so I can not escape a controversial subject: low carb diet and cholesterol .
First, a very important warning: I’m not a health professional, so nothing I’m going to treat here replaces your doctor’s guidance, okay?
In spite of this I am curious, passionate about the subject and I bring in this article all the scientific researches available on the subject.
The internet is this marvel: while there is a lot of bad information, scientific research that was once accessible only to people in the area is now available to anyone who is willing to be inside and can read in English, straight from the source, without intermediaries.
So come on. The two questions I get most often are these:
• I have high cholesterol, can I do this diet?
• This diet releases consumption of saturated fat, will not it increase my cholesterol?
But before answering these and other frequently asked questions, I need to ask some questions that help to establish a historical background on the subject cholesterol:
Cholesterol and Low Carb Diet | Fact number 1:
The origin of the generalized phobia of cholesterol is a scientific research of dubious character,
whose findings have never been proven
I already told this story in another article, I’ll put it here:
The fat phobia that exists today began here in the United States, from a biased study by scientist Ancel Keys in 1953.
In summary, Mr. Keys conducted a correlation study between saturated fat intake versus heart disease incidence in 22 countries.
At the time of publishing his findings Mr Keys, very cleverly, left in the study only a few countries that could corroborate the theory that he had: that fat was responsible for the increased incidence of heart disease.
Ancel Keys in the early 1960s became part of the American Heart Association (AHA) that strongly influenced US government guidelines.
From there, the AHA eventually recommended a drastic reduction in the consumption of foods rich in saturated fat, leading to an intellectual confusion, a dogma that not only helped nothing but did a great disservice to the population.
As American science and culture exert a lot of influence in the rest of the world (especially in Brazil), this dogma has spread all over the world and has become a pearl of conventional wisdom, one of those things that everyone thinks, but it does not have the slightest idea of why.
After the study of Ancel Keys, two other very complete studies were conducted for many years following the diet of more than 61 thousand people.
“MRFIT: Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial was a 1972 study of 12,866 men at great risk for cardiovascular problems and lasted seven years.
In it, the hypothesis of reducing mortality was analyzed by changing the risk factors, such as a diet low in fat.
The study group was divided in two: one control and the other that stopped smoking, treated hypertension and maintained a diet with low saturated fat.
WHI: Women’s Health Initiative was a women-only study (48,835 of them) to analyze the effects of a low-fat diet on the occurrence of breast cancer and cardiovascular problems. It lasted about eight years. ”
In none of these studies has it been possible to prove that a low fat diet prevents heart disease or that the consumption of saturated fat is harmful to the heart.
On the contrary, consumption of saturated fat increases the High Density Lipoproteins (HDL), which are called good cholesterol.
Cholesterol and the Low Carb Diet | Fact number 2:
High cholesterol is not a reliable marker for heart disease risk
It is important to clarify here that cholesterol is a rate, not a disease. Therefore, there is no sense in treating the cholesterol rate itself, but rather the risk factors that lead a person to have heart disease.
It will always be easier to try to find an effect for a cause, but the problem is that there are many other variables linked to the risk of heart disease that do not boil down to a cholesterol ratio.
Complete analysis of the lipid profile may help prevent a heart problem, but in conjunction with other information that indicates the risk. Oh, and there are already studies proving that there is no association between consumption of saturated fat and cardiovascular disease, see?
Cholesterol and the Low Carb Diet | Fact number 3:
Obesity yes is a major risk factor for heart disease (among other diseases)
and low carb is the most effective way to treat obesity
Analyzing risk factors that lead a person to a heart problem is of extreme importance, and one of these big factors is obesity. I am not only giving my opinion, but several scientific studies talking about it, like these here: 1, 2.
And to treat this risk factor, nothing more effective than cutting loaves, pasta, cakes and extremely processed foods rich in starch and sugars.
Focusing on a true diet, rich in natural fats (olive oil, butter, coconut oil and the like), moderate in protein and low in carbohydrates, breaking the eternal cycle of hunger.
Now, we can answer the questions!
I have high cholesterol, can I do this diet?
Yes you can! For those who have numbers considered to be bad, especially triglycerides, which are caused by excessive consumption of carbohydrates and not of fats, the numbers should improve in most cases.
This diet releases consumption of saturated fat, will not it increase my cholesterol?
A minority of people experience increased rates because of saturated fat intake.
This does not mean that the person can not decrease the consumption of carbohydrates. For these cases the ideal is to continue low carb prioritizing monounsaturated fats like olive oil, avocado and nuts.
To stay clear about cholesterol, take a test. If the result is normal, eat real food without fear of being happy! No health condition justifies a diet rich in sugar and flour. Cutting down these two items only you will already have very important benefits.
As I have explained before, high LDL is not a good marker for heart disease and 75% of people who actually have heart disease do not have high LDL.
I take cholesterol-lowering pills, how do I do it?
Again, I think it is important to stress: I am not a doctor. But that does not stop me from talking to you about something important about statins, the prescription drugs for those who have the numbers that are not considered normal by the tests.
Statins slightly reduce the risk of death for those who do not have heart disease. See this article on NNT, or Number Needed to be Treated, regarding the effectiveness of this type of medication in the prevention of heart problems.
The most interesting is that studies point to a growth of the statin market (in 2011 it was valued at MEROS 20.5 billion dollars) and predict that this market will be valued at 12.2 billion dollars by 2018.
Then you think: but, Mariana, then this is a good thing, since it will reduce the market for statins! Well then … no. This fall is expected due to the widespread competition of generic drugs with the same goal as statins!
Now I leave you to conclude on your own: Why would the statin and generic market report that only a small group is benefited by their drugs?
Eating More Fat Influences Cholesterol Levels?
I answer this and other questions about eating the natural fat of food in a super complete guide on the subject here.
I take cholesterol-lowering pills, should I stop?
I could never tell you what to do about your medication, however there are doctors like Dr. Souto himself who have already explained about statins and indicated good contents that clarify about this subject, like linkei up there.
Using a little-known statistical term, called Numbers Needed to Be Treated (NNT), one can see that the drugs used to treat cholesterol only work for a limited number of patients with pre-existing disease.
Of course, pharmaceutical companies focus on the sales numbers of these products and not on the individual effectiveness of these treatments. And that serves not only for cholesterol remedies, but for drug effectiveness in general.
Ultimately, lifestyle changes are far more shocking than using medications. People prefer to ignore this fact by insisting on the belief that taking drugs and feeding themselves anyway will solve the problem.
And I say more: this is the same as the people who believe that they will lose weight by drinking a certain tea (pure trap, my people).
There is a fixation on the number of cholesterol, but deep down the vast majority of people who use the medications to lower that rate have very low chances of benefiting from the medication.
No health condition justifies a diet rich in sugar and flour. Cutting off these two items alone will already have visible benefits, as you can tell from the conversation I had with dr. José Carlos Souto here.
And have you, already measured your cholesterol, have numbers within the considered normal?