Losing weight is different for each person. It requires steady attention toward how the body responds to any given weight loss technique. So many things can occur during the weight loss process. It’s all a matter of genetics and a combination of biological and environmental factors. Because each person’s body varies in response, it’s important to know the basics of what the body indicates during weight loss.
One aspect that can be confusing is the uncertainty behind rising cholesterol despite having lost weight.
Cholesterol, in a Few Words
Cholesterol is a type of fat present in the blood. The liver is responsible for producing the beneficial kind. The body also absorbs it from certain foods. Cholesterol is necessary for the health of your vital organs, but too much can result in a risk for disease.
Consuming a diet that is high in fat and cholesterol should be avoided. If there is an excess of cholesterol in the blood, it can cause blockage in the cells. Blood vessel walls may become clogged with plaque, narrowing and tightening passageways for blood. This is a condition called atherosclerosis.
Risks associated with high cholesterol are diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.
Types of Cholesterol
Cholesterol is distributed throughout the body on proteins called lipoproteins. There are two classifications of lipoproteins.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): also known as bad cholesterol. The majority of cholesterol is LDL. High levels of it raise the risk of stroke and heart disease.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL): also known as good cholesterol. Absorbs and cleans cholesterol from the body by transferring it to the liver. High levels often lower the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Another type of fat that can cause a buildup of plaque in the arteries is triglycerides.
Understanding Cholesterol Levels and Diet
The weight loss process can be confusing, so paying careful attention to the body’s responses is key to understanding them. It’s important not to jump to conclusions based on data like the number on the scale, and even cholesterol.
As mentioned, high cholesterol is usually an indication of a health concern. However, truly understanding how cholesterol is determined and what it means is more complicated than that. This is especially true when it comes to weight loss.
Losing weight and exercise are common recommendations for fighting the risk of heart disease and lowering cholesterol. The combination of the two typically does just that.
However, there are cases in weight loss where one may encounter an increase in cholesterol.
Don’t Freak Out, but Know the Facts
If you’re going about your weight loss journey like a champ—getting your water in, making it to your workouts, you might be alarmed if your efforts seem to be causing a problem. Worse, if they’re failing to alleviate a problem. The first thing to note is not to jump to conclusions.
Stressing will facilitate the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which then hurts your weight loss in the end. Take a deep breath, and take in the facts.
High cholesterol during weight loss is not always a cause for concern. In some cases, it’s completely normal. This is most common if you are maintaining a low-fat or low-carb diet.
Exceptions with Cholesterol
Cholesterol levels may temporarily rise while losing weight. It’s due to a shrinkage of the fat cells. Fat and cholesterol found in fatty tissue become displaced as the cell shrink. They then become released in the bloodstream, which can lead to the detection of higher cholesterol levels. In this case, levels will decrease again once body weight stabilizes.
If cholesterol levels stay consistently high, there may be alternate factors contributing. Foods consumed in the diet may play a role. For example, if you’re on a low-fat diet but consuming processed, low-fat foods, you may be consuming higher levels of sugar.
If you’re unsure of what your cholesterol levels are reflecting, it is best to consult with a physician. The most accurate way to test cholesterol is by assessing the LDL concentration, rather than the number. It describes beyond how many particles are in the bloodstream (which may be obsolete if they have shrunken and are small).
Instead, it reflects how the amount of concentration in the bloodstream, providing insight on how much space it’s realistically taking up.
Other Reasons for a Spike in Cholesterol
If you’re dieting and seeing results alongside an increase in cholesterol, take a survey of other possible contributions. Chances are, opting to lose weight is often accompanied by general lifestyle changes. However, as everyone is different, it is possible to maintain weight loss with other factors that can raise cholesterol.
Smoking cigarettes: Cigarettes contain a chemical called acrolein, which can stop the transportation of cholesterol to the liver.
Alcohol: Too much alcohol can increase triglyceride levels.
Diabetes: Having diabetes tends to lower the cholesterol that works for your body, and raise the kind that works against it.
High blood pressure (hypertension): High blood pressure and high cholesterol can influence one another. People with blockages in the arteries and abnormally high pressure are at severe risk for heart disease.
Family history: Family history, coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, or arterial disease contribute to a higher risk of high cholesterol.
Age, sex, and race: Specific genetic factors increase the risk of high cholesterol. It increases as you age. It is more common in younger men, and older women following menopause. Certain ethnicities experience high cholesterol more than others.
Hypercholesterolemia: A rare condition that may cause an individual to have high cholesterol despite practicing healthy habits.
If you’re dieting and notice an increase in cholesterol, make sure to consider all of the factors possible. In any case, speaking with a physician and having the proper tests and blood work will provide the most accurate insight.