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Home arrow Nutrition arrow Intermittent Fasting arrow Does Fasting Lower Cholesterol? On Your Way to a Healthy Heart

Does Fasting Lower Cholesterol? On Your Way to a Healthy Heart

Written by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Dr. Donika Vata
Fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
Last update: September 16, 2023
6 min read 730 Views 0 Comments
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Could intermittent fasting be the answer to lower cholesterol levels? Find out if you’re missing a trick in managing your heart health.

does fasting lower cholesterol

Keeping your cholesterol in check is crucial for overall health. If your cholesterol rises and you don’t take action to lower it, you become at greater risk of heart attack, heart disease, stroke, and other serious health conditions.

On the upside, you can decrease high cholesterol levels with some lifestyle changes and healthy habits. And lately, as the popularity of intermittent fasting grows, many people are asking: Does fasting help return blood lipids to healthy levels?

If you’re curious, you’ve come to the right place. Discover the relationship between fasting, cholesterol, and cardiovascular health as we review the science behind the eating pattern.

Does Fasting Lower Cholesterol? Here’s What the Science Says

Research shows that practicing intermittent fasting can improve cholesterol levels by decreasing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels in the bloodstream. This type is known as bad cholesterol, the kind that can build up on the walls of your blood vessels.

At the same time, fasting may increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. Due to these effects, studies propose that intermittent fasting may be adopted as an intervention for preventing, managing, and treating cardiovascular disorders.

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that the liver makes. Cholesterol and other fats are carried in the bloodstream and help the body make cell membranes, hormones, and vitamin D. The liver produces enough on its own, but you can also get cholesterol from foods.

Now, you need cholesterol to carry out important functions to maintain good health, but too much from your diet can increase heart disease risk. When LDL cholesterol levels rise, the fatty substance builds up, forming a plaque that narrows or blocks the arteries over time.

Keeping total cholesterol levels within the healthy range is vital to mitigate the risk of serious health problems. Your doctor or healthcare provider can check your cholesterol levels with a simple blood test called a lipid profile test to determine if they are normal, elevated, or high.

If you’re worried about your cholesterol, consider using a cholesterol-tracking app to monitor what’s going on.

Types of cholesterol

There are two types of cholesterol in the human body: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Let’s look at them in more detail:

  • LDL cholesterol makes up the majority of cholesterol in your body. It’s also known as “bad” cholesterol because elevated levels can increase heart disease and stroke risk.
  • HDL cholesterol is known as “good” cholesterol because it helps remove other cholesterol forms from your bloodstream. It does this by absorbing it and carrying it back to the liver. The liver then converts it into bile and expels it from the body, keeping levels in check.

Triglycerides are other lipids that circulate in the blood and provide energy. High triglycerides can also influence health and contribute to cardiovascular risks.

What Is Fasting?

Fasting is when you abstain from eating, and in some cases drinking, for an extended period. People fast for various reasons, including religious and spiritual purposes, weight loss, autopaghy, protecting the body from chronic disease, and more.

Intermittent fasting is when you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. Weight loss is the main reason people use intermittent fasting because it helps the body tap into fat stores for energy, meaning you’re burning fat. But the practice is linked to countless health improvements.

Fasting benefits include better brain function, cellular repair, reduced inflammation, increased insulin sensitivity, improved blood sugar, and strengthened heart function.

How Does Fasting Impact Cholesterol?

When you fast, your body no longer has access to its usual glucose supply from foods and switches to metabolizing fat for energy instead. You move through 5 stages of fasting, with each offering various health benefits, from fat loss to improving blood sugar control.

According to scientific research, intermittent fasting influences cholesterol by improving the lipid profile and raising HDL cholesterol. But while clinical trials show a significant change in cholesterol levels during periodic fasting, it’s not entirely clear how it works.

Fasting does induce weight loss, and dropping weight is proven to improve cholesterol levels. In one study, patients who lost 5–10% of body weight had notable reductions in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Still, fasting of any kind is not suitable for some people, even if you have higher than normal cholesterol levels. This includes pregnant and breastfeeding women, those underweight, those with a history of eating disorders, and those taking certain medications.

Other Ways to Lower Cholesterol

Intermittent fasting offers cholesterol benefits, but there are other proven strategies that will return your good and bad cholesterol to healthy levels. These are self-care methods you can do yourself without needing medical intervention, like taking prescription medication.

Here’s what you can do after receiving a high cholesterol measurement.

#1 Cut down on fatty food

A heart-healthy diet starts with eliminating or cutting down on fatty foods in the diet containing saturated and trans fats – the type of fats that raise bad cholesterol. Dietary guidelines recommend limiting saturated fats to less than 10% of your daily caloric intake.

That means eating fewer cakes, pastries, pies, sausages, and fatty cuts of meat. You can replace them with nutritious foods containing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as avocado, olive oil, mackerel, salmon, sardines, beans, nuts, and seeds.

#2 Become more active

Getting more active by partaking in regular exercise is usually the first-line treatment for managing elevated cholesterol. Studies show that even low to moderate-intensity training can lower total and LDL cholesterol, regardless of the type of exercise.

It also helps you burn calories to encourage weight loss and mitigate weight gain. Plus, it’s beneficial for body composition, as it can help to build muscle mass and decrease fat mass.

If you’re new to exercising, you can introduce gentle workouts, such as walking a mile a day, cycling to and from work, or swimming. You could even combine walking with your intermittent fasting program and try fasted walking (walking while in the fasted state).

#3 Lose weight

Carrying excess body fat can contribute to several metabolic risk factors, including high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, and elevated blood glucose. Losing weight can improve all these factors, reducing your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Altering your diet and getting more active promotes weight loss by allowing you to enter a calorie deficit. You need to burn more calories than you take in to shed stubborn pounds.

Weight loss is one major benefit that occurs during the stages of fasting. Combining all three practices will increase your fat-burning efforts and speed up your return to a healthy weight with healthy cholesterol levels.

#4 Quit smoking

Smoking has multiple risks that can cause significant changes to your heart health. It can lower HDL levels, increase HDL levels, cause narrowing of the blood vessels, and make the blood stickier, making it more prone to clotting.

Talk to your doctor about quitting smoking, as several methods can help you break the habit.

#5 Reduce your alcohol consumption

Alcohol stresses the cardiovascular system, increases heart rate, and temporarily raises blood pressure.

Reducing how much alcohol you drink can significantly improve your blood cholesterol levels and overall heart health. Heavy drinking is tied to higher bad cholesterol and triglycerides, whereas low alcohol intake is associated with higher levels of good cholesterol.


How long should you fast to lower cholesterol?

So far, there isn’t an optimal timeframe for fasting to lower your cholesterol. In one study, improvements were studied after 6 weeks, where the participants fasted for 12 hours three times per week. More research is needed to provide clarity on how long to fast.

Will my cholesterol go down if I eat less?

Your cholesterol levels won’t necessarily drop by eating less, but you can lower your total cholesterol by altering your eating habits. Consuming more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and cutting down on fatty foods can reduce your total cholesterol by 25% or more.

Does fasting help with high cholesterol?

A fasting diet can benefit people with high cholesterol as it may improve cholesterol, blood pressure, and other aspects of overall cardiovascular health. You should still focus on other lifestyle habits that improve cholesterol, however, like healthy eating and exercise.

A Word From a Nutritionist

Intermittent fasting benefits men and women alike, but healthy habits are the best way to take care of your heart. These include eating a nutritious diet with cholesterol-lowering foods, engaging in regular physical activity, losing weight, quitting smoking, and drinking less alcohol.

High cholesterol is dangerous. As it doesn’t usually have symptoms, it often goes unnoticed. Talk to your doctor if you are worried about your cholesterol, and after performing a lipid profile test, they can guide you on making the necessary changes to improve your health.

You can then think about intermittent fasting to reduce risk factors, including elevated cholesterol, high blood glucose, and high blood pressure.


The evidence concludes that fasting is capable of lowering your cholesterol. It’s connected to several heart-health benefits and may provide an alternative intervention plan to normalizing your blood lipids.

Regardless, fasting isn’t usually the first place to start when trying to manage cholesterol. Doctors will always recommend making lifestyle changes to transform your health. However, you might wish to discuss intermittent fasting with them if it’s something you’re happy to try.

Written by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Dr. Rosmy Barrios, MD, is a medical advisor for the Health Reporter, the head of the anti-aging department, and a regenerative medicine specialist in several medical institutions with years of experience in aesthetic medicine and cosmetology.
The article was fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
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Written by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Dr. Donika Vata
Fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
Last update: September 16, 2023
6 min read 730 Views 0 Comments

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