Low carb diet & high cholesterol

Hello everyone,

So I've recently made the jump into a low-carb diet after tapering down for many many months. I'm trying to knock off some of this weight I've gained over the past year or so. My problem is that I have borderline (~190) high cholesterol. I control with diet and exercise (low fat), but have noticed that a lot of low carb choices are a little higher fat than what I am used to. I am worried that all of this extra dietary fat is going to spike it up further, despite my best efforts to cut fat where I can and exercise.

Right now I am mostly eating chicken and veggies, but there is a lot of fat in the plain greek yogurt I am eating, as well as in nuts and cheese.(I am following Bernstein's guidelines for the most part)

What do you all low-carb eaters do out there? Have any of you had trouble with cholesterol after going low-carb?

Lots of folks find that their cholesterol numbers improve drastically when they go on a low-carb diet. I have the same experience - when my diet consists of ~50% fat, my LDL drops. But when I've had a few too many meals with pasta, bread or anything else that is tasty and spike-producing, my LDL skyrockets.

FYI - I eat eggs, cheese and full-fat greek yogurt everyday and my cholesterol numbers are fantastic.

I think that following low carb requires eating higher levels of fat. And this is the quandry that causes many to pause. The "mantra" is that dietary fat is the source of blood cholesterol. But what I learned is that this is far from the truth. Bernstein argues that your cholesterol will "normalize" after 6 months or so and that his patients generally end up with great cholesterol levels. And generally the argument is that a key source of abnormal cholesterol patterns is excessive carb consumption and higher than normal blood sugar levels. If you read his newest book, he quotes his cholesterol levels, they appear astounding (I mean really really good).

And many of the other low carb experts agree. If you read the "New Atkins for You" (available at your local public library), it makes the same arguement. And for a more detailed discussion of the topic, read "The Art and Science of Low Carb Living" which goes into a great deal of the research with a particular emphasis on lipids (this book is oriented towards healthcare professionals).

And for an entertaining discussion of some of the recent research work on diets, Stephen Gardner has an engaging lecture on weight loss studies and his results with some particularly encouraging results for cholesterol levels under Atkins. Hope that helps.

Ha well..

I have been getting through ~ 35 eggs, loads of cheese and 3 big pots of Greek yogurt per week for the last six months and my cholesterol is great.

These days all I seem to be eating is green veggies, omelettes, meat...

My experience is like the others. I eat 3 eggs with cheese and sometimes meat, every day. I refuse to buy anything that is low or no fat.If you read the nutritional info the low fat version of anything is higher in carbs and sugars than the full fat product. Not exactly ideal for a D diet. My lipids are great and seem to stay very consistent. IMHO low fat is a lie and a scam.

In a high carb diet most of the energy the body needs is provided by carbs. If you lower the carbs the missing energy needs to be replaced. Since about 58% protein can be converted to glucose adding extra protein would seem to be one approach. But it doesn't work too well and in fact is bad for you. The Inuit who traditionally ate a high fat low carb diet had a name for this "Rabbit Starvation" to describe illness brought on by being forced to subsist on very lean arctic hares during hard times. You can Google "Rabbit Starvation" for a more detailed explanation.

So if you want to lower carbs the best replacement is fat. Numerous studies have shown that the dangerous combination is high carb high fat. High carb low fat and low carb high fat produce essentially the same blood lipid results. Some people say that in a low carb high fat scenario saturated fat is actually good for you, Google "Paleo Diet" for more on this.

Here's a link recently posted by FHS about how low carb works. Although the link is mostly about endurance sports on high fat it has an excellent explanation about how the body's metabolism changes when the bodies main fuel source is fat. I would also second bsc's book recommendations especially "The Art and Science of Low Carb Living" A final source would be the Bernstein Group here on tuD, look through the archives as the issue of blood lipids on low carb high fat, as well as the suitability of saturated fats in a low carb regime have been discussed in detail there with plenty of links to relevant studies.

Since this is against the conventional approach to fat in the diet I would suggest reading up on alternate views so you can make an informed decision you are comfortable with.

High cholesterol doesn't come from what you eat. Dietary cholesterol has virtually no affect on the amount of cholesterol in the blood stream, which is produced by your body.

Being hypothyroid will raise LDL. Have your thyroid checked before you try to eliminate cholesterol from your diet. If you do have hypothyroidism, the hormone supplement you will need to take will lower your LDL. The change may take up to six months, though, so give it some time.

My lipids improved on low carb/moderate protein/high fat. The worst they were was when I vegetarian & eating high carb, extremely low fat & no saturated fat. My doctor chalked that up to genetics, which isn't true in my family.

Low carb/low fat is pretty much starvation. Don't cut the fat, except for transfats.

Agree with Ann's recommendation. Hypothyroidism plays havoc with LDL & triglycerides.

My cholesterol improved MARKEDLY after I started low carbs, and increased my SATURATED fat intake. My biggest problem has always been high triglycerides, and after 1 year on low-carb, for the first time ever, I got GOOD tris on my lipid panel -- 77 when the recommendation is <150 if I remember correctly. My HDL had gone up to 65 -- it's NEVER been that high, and my VLDL was 15 (range <40) -- normal for the first time since they started measuring. My cardiologist would like to see my LDL less that 70, and it was 90, BUT the cutoff for glycemically gifted people is 100, so I'm still not in bad shape, considering the rest of my numbers. I think you should read Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories, for an interesting take on the low-fat hysteria, and how it was politically manipulated. Then I think you should give yourself a year to experiment, and if it doesn't work for you, there are other approaches. Some people have found success with vegetarianism, although the danger there is too many carbs and not enough protein. Some people even go so far as veganism, but personally, I wouldn't do it, because you CAN'T get vitamin B-12 on a vegan diet and you HAVE to supplement, and I really think that it's better to get your nutrition from food, not pills, unless there is some overriding reason for supplementation. But the choice is yours. Good luck!

anything over 200 total is considered high, but my doctor likes to see it much lower than that for people with diabetes because of all of the risks for atherosclerosis and heart disease/stroke.

thanks everyone for the great advice. I will definitely be making a trip to my library to check out those books. So far, I've been feeling really great since starting this diet and have noticed that my blood sugar is more stable since starting it. I feel a lot better about having full fat choices now, especially since the low/no fat options are always so processed.

Your cholesterol is low in my opinion. The Statin drug companies are the ones who actually lowered the line from 250 to 200, and not impartial scientists like you might think. If you look at a graph of death from all causes, you find the least mortality right at 200. Lower than 200 goes into higher mortality much faster than higher than 200.

You also cannot determine your cholesterol health from a total count. The two most important factors are hdl over 50 and triglycerides under 150. Your LDL says nothing unless you go farther and find the particle size ratio. People with low triglycerides normally have high LDL type B- the good type. And people with high triglycerides normally have high LDL type A- the bad kind.

I have never seen a person go low carb that did not improve their cholesterol health. Some people increase LDL on low carb diets, but it is normally the type B that increases and that’s what you would want.

If your doctor doesn’t know about this and is going on total cholesterol or total LDL, I’d say you need a better doctor. There are a lot of doctors that I believe are of poor quality. They do what the drug companies suggest, which is always to prescribe drugs that only affect symptoms and do not fix the underlying problem.

I eat meat at every meal along with vegetables. After going low carb, my heart health is terrific. My energy is high and constant all day for the first time in my life. I have no urge to take afternoon naps like before. My Father, my Grandfather and my Uncle all died of heart disease. My Father was eating low fat and low calorie and only got sicker until he died of a heart attack in his 60s. I now believe it was his high carb/low fat diet that was making him sick. It certainly didn’t make him happy. He craved steak and eggs and all those things he denied himself because the doctor said those things would kill him. Thanks doc!!

Sorry for the long post, but his stuff really gets me going.

Great informative post, John. Wish more were aware that doctors get their drug info from pharm reps selling the product. Statins are a multi billion dollar business. Also, some doctors receive lecture fees, honorariums from Pharma & who knows what other perks. Man, what a corrupt system!

When I tell people how much fat I consume they look at me like I have 2 heads. Then they tell me that diet will make me fat. Increasing my fat has allowed me to lose my last 30 pounds that I've been carrying around since my early 30's. So for 30 years I couldn't get rid of it with low fat, exercise, etc. I now weigh 120 and look fairly thin. I find it takes 6 months to a year or until you have stabalized your weight before cholesterol comes down. Many doctors during this period will try to convince you that you need statins. I fell for it and they nearly killed me. So I took myself off of them. The one thing a high fat diet does is increase your good HDL cholesterol. Mine is almost 100. So I really don't care about LDL.

Similar story about my own father. Remember that they were doing their best to follow the advice that they were given by the docs and by the govt. and it wasn't THEIR fault it was bad advice. I remember how hard my mother tried to follow the guidelines in the hope that it would save my father's life. And such a tragedy for her that he died in spite of her conscientious efforts. She outlived him by 15 sad years. :-(

There's still a long way to go in this battle, but I can see progress, inching its way forward, so I have hope for future generations, even it may be too late for the current, non-internet savvy one. Continue to do your best, and may you live long and prosper, LOL!!

I agree Alan (although I don't know about the bird thing). I just want to punch those doctors in the nose! I have talked to several T2's recently. "My levels are good, usually around 100 each week when I test. My A1c is 6.8. / My Dr says my A1c is fine at about 7. But I'm starting to have vision problems and numbness.

I'm surprised when they do not understand or have never heard what their A1c means or how it works. No concept of testing for different foods. On and on and on. To me this is the single biggest tragedy of D.

I went low carb (more Paleo, but same-ish thing) and within the first 6 weeks I lost 20 lbs and my cholesterol dropped from 200 to 155!! I eat all the eggs (plus yolks), cheese, fats, etc that I want. Lots of veggies. Good Luck!