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Ketogenic Diet and the Heart

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You can eat anything you want and as much as you feel like – there’s no calorie counting required in a ketogenic diet, ever. Just real food. Are you looking at losing weight effortlessly? Or to reverse type 2 diabetes and some other health benefits? Then a low-carb ketogenic diet could be right for you. Ketogenic diet has been successfully used for over 150 years and there are tons of success stories. Dozens of scientific studies prove that compared to other diets, low carb is more effective. In this series, I am going to discuss everything you need to know about ketogenic diet – what to eat, what to avoid, and exactly how to do it.

A recent study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine confirms that a low carb, higher fat diet is not detrimental to vascular health and results in faster weight loss. The authors confirmed that the dieters in the low carb group had no harmful changes in vascular health and dropped more weight over a shorter period of time than the higher carb group. In contrast, there are also many studies showing that a high carbohydrate diet and elevated blood sugar and insulin are highly associated with inflammatory heart disease.

A low-carb diet restricts sugary foods, and starches like pasta or bread. Instead you’ll eat delicious real foods, including protein, natural fats and vegetables. It is a common belief that ketogenic diet will clog your arteries and give you heart disease. This, I think is the biggest myth associated with low carb, ketogenic diets. It's based on another myth that saturated fat and cholesterol cause arteriosclerosis and heart disease. My first point is what I have repeatedly stated before – ketogenic diet is not a high-fat diet, instead it is a low-carb diet. The next point is that there has never been any scientific study published or unpublished which links cholesterol and saturated fat to heart disease. Shocking but true. In fact, a 2010 meta-analysis distinctly destroys any link between heart disease and saturated fat. It showed that low carb diets actually improve heart disease markers over other types of diets. Another study looks directly at how a ketogenic diet favorably affects blood test results for heart disease.

We already have many trials of ketogenic diets that measured known CVD risk factors, especially cholesterol profiles. It turns out that these trials show a powerful heart disease risk reduction in those following a ketogenic diet. It is powerful both in absolute terms, and in comparison with low-fat diets, which tend to improve some weakly predictive factors while worsening stronger predictors. In the EPIC study, the authors looked at the relationship between the risk of heart attack and haemoglobin A1c test results. The results clearly stated that the higher a person's HbA1c levels, i.e., the higher the average blood sugars, the higher the risk of heart attack.

There is a wide range of total cholesterol levels that are perfectly healthy, so long as the proportions of the subtypes are healthy ones, because different subtypes of cholesterol work together in an intricately balanced system. By the same token, a given level of total cholesterol, even if it is perfectly normal, could be pathological when examined by subtype. The connection between blood cholesterol levels and the development of heart disease began to be explored in the last century. Over the last several decades, our ability to measure finer and finer detail about the power of various blood lipids has advanced as our understanding of their function in our body has gone through many refinements. In the early years, it appeared that high levels of total cholesterol carried some risk of heart disease in many cases. However, it is now well established that total cholesterol by itself is a weak predictor. The reason is quite simple, as discussed.


To sum it up, while low carb diets have only been proven to better heart condition in many ways, it would be right to say that if a low carb ketogenic diet is accompanied with a healthy fat diet, there is absolutely no reason why a ketogenic diet would have any bad effect on heart and arteries health.