Improving heart health with ketogenic nutrition

Research has been building for some years proving the heart-healthy benefits of low-carb/high-fat and ketogenic nutrition. 

A 2017 scientific review found that ketogenic diets significantly reduce total cholesterol, increase HDL (or “good”) cholesterol, lower LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol and lower triglyceride levels (1). 

In 2004, a group of researchers studied the effects of a ketogenic diet in a group of obese patients over a six-month period (2). 

What did they uncover? That the ketogenic diet significantly reduced triglyceride levels, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, but significantly increased levels of good HDL cholesterol. 

The researchers were adding to results they published one year earlier, which also looked at a ketogenic diet in obese participants (3).  

That study showed that the diet lowered excess body weight, improved body composition, dropped total and LDL cholesterol and lowered triglyceride levels. 

Another study set out to see how a low-carbohydrate/high-fat (LCHF) diet fared in healthy adults over a three-month period (4).  

The low-carb/high-fat diet resulted in weight loss, reduced waist size, better good cholesterol and lower triglycerides. 

The role of inflammation 

Inflammation is a very important area connected to heart health (WILLERSON). In fact, science has proven that inflammation is involved in about 80 percent of all sudden cardiac deaths (5). 

A large group of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) were studied over a one-year period (6).  

The researchers wanted to see what effects a carbohydrate-restricted diet ─ one that maintained nutritional ketosis ─ would have on markers of heart health and inflammation. 
The carbohydrate-restricted participants saw many heart-health markers improve, including decreased blood pressure and reduced levels of C-reactive protein (or CRP) (6).  

In fact, CRP is thought to be the best measurement of cardiovascular inflammation (5). 

In a 2017 study of aging mice, researchers wanted to look at the effects of a ketogenic diet in aging mice (7). 

They found that a ketogenic diet improves survival, memory and health in aging mice, partly due to its beneficial effects on how fats are metabolized and how insulin function is improved (7). 

The benefits of ketones 

In addition to the ketogenic diet, as a whole, individual components of the diet are also showing their heart-healthy powers. 

Scientists believe that providing the right levels of ketones helps with many other diseases linked to cardiovascular disease, including obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis and heart failure (8). 

In fact, a Brazilian study looked at BHB (beta hydroxybutyrate) in overweight rats (9).  

BHB boosted good cholesterol by 39%, dropped bad cholesterol by 35% and improved the HDL:LDL ratio by 49% ─ which some scientists say is even more important than HDL or LDL numbers alone. 

And when other BHB-boosting fats (like butyric acid) are added to the mix, they can potentially work together to “improve markers of cardiovascular health” (10).


    1. Klosinski C and Jornayvaz FR. “Effects of ketogenic diets on cardiovascular risk factors: Evidence from animal and human studies.” Nutrients. 2017;9(5). pii: E517. doi: 10.3390/nu9050517
    2. Dashti HM, et al. “Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients.” Exp Clin Cardiol. 2004;9(3):200-205.
    3. Dashti HM, et al. “Ketogenic diet modifies the risk factors of heart disease in obese patients.” Nutrition. 2003;19(10):901-902.
    4. Harvey CJDC, et al. “Low-carbohydrate diets differing in carbohydrate restriction improve cardiometabolic and anthropometric markers in healthy adults: A randomized clinical trial.” PeerJ. 2019;7:e6273.
    5. Willerson JT and Ridker PM. “Inflammation as a cardiovascular risk factor.” Circulation. 2004;109(Suppl II):II2-II
    6. Bhanpuri NH, et al. “Cardiovascular disease risk factor responses to a type 2 diabetes care model including nutritional ketosis induced by sustained carbohydrate restriction at 1 year: an open label, non-randomized, controlled study.” Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2018;17(1):56. doi: 10.1186/s12933-018-0698-8.
    7. Newman JC, et al. “Ketogenic diet reduces midlife mortality and improves memory in aging mice.” Cell Metab. 2017;26(3):547-557.
    8. Cotter DG, et al. “Ketone body metabolism and cardiovascular disease.” Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2013;304(8):H1060-H1076.
    9. Caminhotto RO, et al. “Oral β-hydroxybutyrate increases ketonemia, decreases visceral adipocyte volume and improves serum lipid profile in Wistar rats.” Nutr Metab (Lond). 2017;14:31. doi: 10.1186/s12986-017-0184-4
    10. Cavaleri F and Bashar E. “Potential synergies of β-hydroxybutyrate and butyrate on the modulation of metabolism, inflammation, cognition, and general health.” J Nutr Metab. 2018:7195760. doi: 10.1155/2018/7195760

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