Can I Do Intermittent Fasting If I Have High Cholesterol?

Down in my comments, many of you have been discussing health conditions like high cholesterol.

Now, I’m the first one to say that intermittent fasting is pretty much beneficial for everyone, but not absolutely everyone. After all, in my popular Guide to Intermittent Fasting for Women, I said that depending on what medical condition you’re dealing with, IF may not be right for you.

Today I’d like to expand on that a little, talking about cholesterol specifically. If you have any other requests, just let me know! 😉

If you have a preexisting condition, talk to your physician before making any diet changes…

However, because fasting lowers blood sugar, increases Human Growth Hormone (which not only adds muscle but reduces body fat), and repairs cells by removing toxicity (autophagy)…I really want to push it for as many people as possible, as long as it doesn’t endanger your health due to your unique situation.

What I mean is, I don’t want anybody saying, “I have high cholesterol, so IF is 100% not possible for me.”

It’s true, intermittent fasting has been shown to “increase cholesterol.” But that is far from the whole story! Cholesterol is more complicated…

As you probably already know if you’re trying to lower your cholesterol, there’s

  • LDL (bad cholesterol, clogs arteries! Also, very important note: Type A LDL from fats is less dangerous than Type B LDL from sugar. Type B is tiny, so it’s what gets stuck/accumulates.);
  • HDL (good cholesterol, gets rid of LDL!!); and
  • triglycerides (not cholesterol, but another lipid where high = bad)

So, your doctor will consider total cholesterol mainly, because you have to look both at somebody’s LDL and HDL, to get a holistic picture of their health.

With that said, let’s look at a neat example, where Dr. Brian Walsh was happy to see his patient on IF.

Even though IF raised the patient’s LDL, HDL, and triglycerides…Dr. Walsh was looking at the ratios. Doctors will use HDL/total cholesterol to determine health, which makes sense because HDL wipes out the artery-cloggers!

Let’s say you start out with 200 mg/dl total cholesterol, and 50 mg/dl HDL. Your ratio is 4:1, which isn’t too bad but definitely isn’t great. Then, you start IF, and your total cholesterol jumps to 230 mg/dl (generally considered high cholesterol) but your HDL jumps to 70 mg/dl. Now, your ratio is really close to 3:1. Way better! So, even though your cholesterol increased, HDL increased even more proportionally!!

Okay, but there’s another study that shows that IF doesn’t improve HDL.

Gah, right?? Not really, because that same study shows that people who did IF for 70 days reduced their LDL by 25%! (Triglycerides did too. HDL didn’t change much. But overall that means your cholesterol ratio has improved!)

I know you may feel like if one study showed one result, and another showed basically the opposite, it’s a little upsetting how inconclusive it is. I agree, but the awesome thing that made me want to write this article in the first place is because it shows that, no matter what…

Most of the people, and studies, pointing to the idea that “IF is bad if you have high cholesterol, it raises total cholesterol, etc.” only tried IF for a short time!!

Like, okay, if you looked at this study or this one, you’d think, “uh oh, fasting spikes LDL.” But the first study shows the results after one 24-hour fast. The second study shows the results of a total 7-day fast, no food for a week!! Obviously, I don’t recommend that!

So these studies, while awesome and all, don’t prove anything about the long-term effects of IF on cholesterol levels! So it kind of stinks that these are some of the results that pop up when you Google something like “intermittent fasting and high cholesterol.”

And studies show that high-carb diets raise your cholesterol, both because it turns into sticky Type B LDL, and because it causes inflammation due to the effects of insulin resistance (inflammation is your body’s response to something bad, which in this case is too much sugar in the bloodstream). Inflammation is actually what makes high cholesterol dangerous in the first place because it constricts your arteries. Sticky LDL + narrow arteries…you can see how that’s a recipe for disaster!

And you know exactly what recipe I’d recommend instead…a low-carb, high-fat diet! Who knows, you may even be able to get off of your medication altogether, and avoid those side effects. Wouldn’t that be great?


Ditch the Carbs

Dr. Mungli

Dr. Sinatra

IDM Program


Precision Nutrition