Low-carb diets are considered the cornerstone for a weight loss and fat-loss journey. They provide limited energy and burn away quickly, which facilitates the body to turn to the fat stored in the form of triglycerides in your body to obtain energy for functioning of the body.
During this process your body enters into a metabolic condition known as ketosis which is responsible for regulating your lipid levels like cholesterol levels that in fact improves heart health.
Your body’s cells contain a waxy substance called cholesterol, and is produced in the liver and also derived from certain foods such as meat and dairy products.
Cholesterol assists the body to produce hormones, synthesize vitamin D, and cell membrane formation. However, high cholesterol can cause fatty deposits in the blood arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease.
According to the National Library of Medicine, adults should have total cholesterol levels under 200 mg/dl, and readings between 200 and 239 mg/dl are considered borderline while 240 and above are high.
Types of Cholesterol
There are various kinds of cholesterol, and each one has a specific impact on heart health.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): Termed as “bad” cholesterol which contributes majorly to the body’s cholesterol. Saturated fat, salt, and cholesterol in your diet are some of the factors that affect LDL in your blood. However, the elevated levels of LDL contribute to fatty accumulation in the arteries, which in turn causes heart disease.
The condition known as atherosclerosis causes the arteries to narrow. Therefore, it will increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. High LDL levels can result from diets like fatty meats, processed meals, dairy products, and foods deficient in healthy proteins (fish, nuts, and other sources).
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, on a standard scale, LDL should be less than 100, which is optimal. LDL between 100 to 129 mg/dL is close to or just above optimal, borderline high is between 130 and 159 mg/dL, and a high is between 160 and 189 mg/dL, depending on all of your risk factors.
The overall health risk increases when the LDL-HDL ratio rises. According to the data given by the University of Rochester Medical Centre, a cholesterol ratio of less than 5:1 is normal, and a ratio of less than 3.5:1 is considered extremely good.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL): The “good” cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), is recognised for assisting in removing other types of cholesterol from the bloodstream. Eliminating a small amount of LDL cholesterol from the arteries can help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
There are many ways to raise HDL levels, including exercise, weight loss, choosing healthier fats, and giving up alcohol and smoking. However, extremely high cholesterol levels may also be detrimental to the heart. Generally, medical research shows blood to have an HDL concentration of 60 mg/dL or greater. Normal HDL is between 40 and 59 mg/dL, though it may be higher. You risk developing heart disease if your HDL level is below 40 mg/dL.
Effects on Cholesterol Levels
As previously mentioned, high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins are two significant categories of cholesterol (LDL). HDL is a necessary lipid as research has proven that it helps promote estrogen, progesterone, and vitamin D levels and also consists of some protein.
In contrast, LDL is not a harmful lipoprotein. Still, it readily converts into small dense (sdLDL) and oxidised LDL (oxLDL), which are very dangerous as they can block your arteries which may lead to inflammation that gradually leads to atherosclerosis.
A study also found that HDL cholesterol rises and triglycerides fall on a low-carb diet, while total and LDL cholesterol levels remain nearly constant. Nevertheless, there is a reduction in LDL particles which further results in LDL reduction as a whole.
The body’s most prevalent fat, or lipid, are triglycerides, which are not a type of cholesterol. A diet high in saturated fats, added sugars, excessive alcohol, refined carbohydrates leads to an increase in a person’s triglyceride levels. Having high cholesterol and triglyceride levels raises your risk of heart disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, triglyceride concentration should be less than 150 mg/dL. Triglyceride levels exceeding 500 mg/dL in individuals aged 40 to 75 suggest moderate to severe hypertriglyceridemia, a disorder that develops when excessive amounts of triglycerides are in the blood.
According to National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute data, triglycerides over 150 mg/dL result in unfavourable circumstances, such as atherosclerosis, pancreatitis, heart attack, and stroke.
Effects on Triglycerides
Research has found that triglycerides can promote the risk of cardiovascular diseases significantly. The excess calories consumed are not burned down hence stored in the body in the form of triglycerides.
The low-carb diet is one of the best combatants to reduce triglycerides. Low-carb diets provide less amounts of glucose and glycogens, pushing your body to opt for different sources of energy. That is where your fat reserves come into action.
The body slowly uses up its fat cells for its energy requirements. When this happens for a particular time, your body fat percentage drops significantly. It also results in a reduced risk of heart attack and cardiovascular diseases.
The HealthifyMe Note
Low-carb diets when followed under guidance of a nutritionist have more benefits than weight reduction; they also help your body burn fat and control blood sugar levels.
A low-carb diet forces your body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates for energy which can positively affect your blood’s triglyceride and cholesterol levels (LDL and HDL).In addition, LDL, HDL and 20% of your triglycerides make up your total cholesterol level, which experts use to assess heart health.
Low-Carb vs Low-Fat Diet
Low-carb diets limit your consumption of carbohydrates ranging from less than 10% to less than 45-50% in; where baked, sugar- sweetened, refined, high fructose foods are prescribed.
Instead, you must consume healthy forms of rice, pasta, legumes, whole grains, high-fibre, low-carb fruits, vegetables, etc., for your daily dose of simple and complex carbohydrates. A low-carb diet also includes healthy protein and fat intake.
A low-fat diet restricts foods that constitute more than 30% fat. It encourages fat from healthy sources like salmon, avocados, low-fat dairy, etc. According to most studies, low-carb diets are more effective than low-fat diets for weight loss in the short term. Other research suggests low-carb and low-fat diets may be equally effective over a long time.
It is safe to say that for fat-loss, low-carb diets take the cake. The reason is the process of ketosis where the body uses up all the limited carbs available and further utilizes the fat reserves for basic energy requirements.
It isn’t easy to declare a winner among these two diets as both are helpful in their way. Both regulate cholesterol, blood sugar, and insulin levels and help reduce fat and weight by creating their unique calorie deficit.
The HealthifyMe Note
A low-carb diet is subjective because how much carbs to eat differs from person to person. The diet is designed accordingly, and it is not advisable to continue for more extended periods.
Once you reach your target weight and body-fat percentage, you can slowly start to abort the diet and start it again when you feel that you are gaining weight.
The ketogenic diet is a low-carb diet that comprises high fat and moderate protein consumption. It entails substantially lowering carbohydrate intake and substituting it with fat.
Study shows this carb diet causes your body to modify its metabolic state to ketosis. Its primary purpose is to reduce blood sugar and insulin levels while shifting the body’s metabolism away from carbohydrates and toward fats and ketones. The diet is very beneficial for treating epilepsy(especially for children), diabetes, cancer, obesity, risks of heart diseases, etc.
Many ketogenic diets include high-protein, cyclical, and standard keto diets. Keto diets have their share of demerits like low protein in the blood, development of kidney stones, loss of muscle, micronutrient deficiency like potassium, sodium, etc, and increased amounts of triglycerides. The reasons include hypothyroidism, low amounts of bile juice production, and hidden carbs and fats in the diet.
Keto diets are low-carb diets that prioritise high fat and moderate protein consumption, one of the methods followed for
weight-loss diets. It provides enough energy for workouts to build muscle and burn calories simultaneously. However, it has its repercussions too. People on keto diets are currently losing a lot of muscle while maintaining their body fat proportion. However, in some cases, if not used, high-fat foods from healthy sources can increase body fat levels.
The ketogenic diet is a vital component of weight-loss plans. It is only advised for people who are obese, have diabetes, and are eager to improve under the supervision of a professional nutritionist. It is not advisable for somebody who is building muscle or generally working out regularly as there will be very few calories and nutrients in your system, which might not be enough.
Low-carb diets are good for weight and fat loss as they create the calorie deficit necessary for many purposes. They favour ketosis due to changes in metabolism as the body tends to rely on fat and other energy sources.
It burns most fat cells naturally, without rigorously working out through strength and resistance training. It will burn fat even when you perform light cardio but at a lower rate.
Its effects on triglycerides and cholesterol are notable. Compared to a low-fat diet, it reduces fat and triglyceride levels to some extent. It is observed that low-carb diets significantly boost HDL levels but maintain LDL and total cholesterol levels.
In some cases, it may reduce LDL levels slightly. Low-carb diets improve heart health as cholesterol levels are regulated, and triglycerides drastically decrease.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Does a low-carb diet affect triglycerides?
A. Yes, a low-carb diet reduces triglycerides and overall body-fat percentage. It enables your body to access fat reserves for energy production as glucose and glycogen levels are down due to fewer carbs. Triglycerides account for most fat; hence their levels are significantly decreasing.
Q. Do low-carb diets cause high cholesterol?
A. Low-carb diets stabilise cholesterol levels by raising HDL levels while slowly lowering LDL levels. It does not harm the body as HDL is considered healthy cholesterol, and LDL is the opposite. However, one must consume foods that have good source of fats like fish, avocado etc instead of fatty meat, processed foods,
Q. Can a keto diet cause high triglycerides?
A.Yes, a keto diet can increase your body’s triglyceride levels. The reasons include hypothyroidism, low amounts of bile juice production and hidden carbs and fats in the diet. Change your dietary pattern to lower triglycerides to cope with the keto diet by eating a low-carb, limited sugar, refined carbohydrates and low-fat diet with high fibre.
Q. Is keto good for high cholesterol and triglycerides?
A. Most of the research findings convey that the keto diet lowers total cholesterol and LDL levels while raising HDL levels, but there is an equal chance of it happening otherwise. Moreover, the keto diet has increased the body’s triglyceride levels.
Q. Can a high-carb diet cause high cholesterol?
A. A high-carb diet is bound to cause an increase in total cholesterol levels as the unused calories are converted into fat leading to increased weight, which is directly related to high cholesterol levels. Although carbs are an excellent energy source, eating more than 60% of your daily calories from them can raise cholesterol levels.
Q. Does a low-carb diet help cholesterol?
A low-carb diet helps in producing increased amounts of HDL and indirectly lower LDL levels. However, the total cholesterol levels may remain constant for a while, but continuing the diet can bring a gradual change.
Q. Why are triglycerides still high in a low-carb diet?
One of the reasons could be the quality of carbohydrates consumed in the low-carb diet is not up to the mark and can be why the amount of triglycerides is still high. Hence one must be careful in choosing the foods for low-carb diet as hidden carbs and fats in the diet could also be a hindrance.
Q. Why did my cholesterol go up after losing weight?
A. Our fat stores reduce when we lose weight. Because fat and cholesterol ordinarily stored in fatty tissue have nowhere else to go but the bloodstream, so the cholesterol levels rise. But changing your dietary pattern and including regular exercise can help lower cholesterol.
Q. What are the worst foods for high cholesterol?
A. Some of the worst foods for high cholesterol include processed foods, processed meats, dairy products with saturated fats, deep-fried foods, red meat, baked foods, desserts, frozen foods, etc. Avoiding these foods together with regular exercise will assist in keeping it normal (between 40 and 59 mg/dL) by reducing bad cholesterol buildup in the arteries.
Q. Why is my cholesterol high on a keto diet?
A. The keto diet involves consuming high-fat, moderate amounts of protein and meagre amounts of carbohydrates. Unfortunately, this diet specification always has a high chance of cholesterol spikes because of several reasons like low amounts of bile juice production, hidden carbs, and fats.