Low “Good” HDL (High-density lipoprotein) Cholesterol

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is part lipid (fat like molecule) and part protein found in the blood. Cholesterol travels through the blood on proteins called lipoproteins.

Why is Some Cholesterol Considered “Good” and Some “Bad”?

Two types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout the body:

LDL (low-density lipoprotein), sometimes called “bad” cholesterol, makes up most of your body’s cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol raise your risk for heart disease and stroke. When your body has too much LDL cholesterol, the LDL cholesterol can build up on the walls of your blood vessels. This buildup is called “plaque.” As your blood vessels build up plaque over time the insides of the vessels narrow. This narrowing blocks blood flow to and from your heart and other organs. When blood flow to the heart is blocked, it can cause angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.

HDL (high-density lipoprotein), or “good” cholesterol, absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver. The liver then flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL cholesterol can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Abnormal cholesterol levels are a factor in Metabolic Syndrome, along with high blood sugar, high blood triglycerides, and excess fat around the waist.

A “good” HDL cholesterol level of 40 mg/dL or less for a male and 50 mg/dL or less for a female is considered abnormal. Because HDL cholesterol can remove extra cholesterol from the blood and from deposits of lipid-containing plaques on the innermost layer of the wall of an artery and transport it back to the liver for excretion or re-utilization, it is important to have your HDL cholesterol in a normal range.

Low “good” HDL cholesterol is a result of a metabolic disorder – your cells are not functioning the way they should.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is part lipid (fat like molecule) and part protein. Cholesterol is essential and helps the body:

  • Build and maintain cell membranes
  • It is essential for determining which molecules can pass into the cell wall and which cannot (called cell membrane permeability)
  • It is used in the production of the sex hormones – estrogen and testosterone.
  • It is essential for the production of hormones released by the adrenal glands – cortisol, corticosterone, aldosterone, etc.
  • It aids in the production of bile which is necessary for digestion of fats.
  • It converts sunshine to Vitamin D in the body.
  • It is important for the metabolism of fat-soluble vitamins, including A, D, E, and K.
  • It insulates the nerves. Cholesterol is used by the body to make the lining of the nerves (called the myelin sheath) which is similar to a protective coating around an electrical wire.
  • The brain contains 20% of the body’s cholesterol.

What Can You Do?

You can do something about your low HDL cholesterol by making lifestyle changes in terms of eating a low-carb diet to reduce the amount of sugar and insulin in your body, doing regular exercise, and providing your cells and body with nutritional support.

Low Carbohydrate Diet


“According to the American Heart Association, substituting carbohydrates for fats may raise triglyceride levels and may decrease HDL (‘good’) cholesterol in some people.

“When the situation is reversed, however – when carbs are cut and replaced with dietary fat and protein – the opposite happens. Blood sugar metabolism normalizes, triglycerides go down, HDL cholesterol goes up, and body fat is lost.”

Excerpted from Atkins Diabetes Solution by Mary C. Vernon, M.D., C.M.D. & Jacqueline A. Eberstein, R.N.

A diet that includes sufficient fiber, protein and vegetables, and doesn’t include processed foods and high amounts of sugar and carbohydrates, will help lower cholesterol.

For diet suggestions see the “Insulin Resistance” page.

Regular Exercise

Regular exercise is very important for keeping your cholesterol levels in the normal range.

According to Patrick McBride, MD, MPH, director of the preventive cardiology program and the cholesterol clinic at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, “Regular exercise affects your cholesterol and triglycerides in two main ways:

  • Exercise helps lower triglycerides, which at high levels are linked to coronary artery disease.
  • Exercise also raises your levels of HDL, or the “good” cholesterol.”

“Consistent regular exercise can lower triglycerides by 30% to 40% and boost HDL by 5 to 8 mg/dL.”

Exercising at least three to four times per week for at least 20 minutes should help increase your HDL levels.

If you aren’t doing any exercise, start slowly and build up to 20 minutes. Aerobic exercise seems to be the best form of exercise to improve HDL cholesterol, so walking is an ideal way of exercising.

Nutritional Support


“Many of you with evidence of insulin/blood sugar problems already have suffered years of nutritional deficits [shortages].”

 “Although it might be possible to overcome this accumulated deficit with diet alone, to regain your health as rapidly as possible means supplements are needed.”

“Vitamins and minerals are crucial for the smooth operation of the thousands of chemical processes that are constantly taking place in your body. You need a constant and adequate supply of them.”

Excerpted from Atkins Diabetes Solution by Mary C. Vernon, M.D., C.M.D. & Jacqueline A. Eberstein, R.N.

HDL cholesterol levels can be improved by taking the correct nutritional supplements to support the cells to change the way they operate and improve your metabolism. That means the correct vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients your cells need.

Supplements should be natural, including plant-based nutrition, with ingredients that are specifically selected to address metabolic disorders. They must provide targeted nutrition at the cellular level and simultaneously support all of the body’s systems.

Natural Help to Raise HDL Cholesterol

Natural ingredients that can help raise HDL cholesterol are:


Rice Bran

Rich bran has been found effective in reducing total plasma cholesterol and triglyceride concentration, while also increasing the HDL cholesterol level. It is one of the richest sources of dietary fiber.


Olive Oil

Olive oil is one of the healthiest fats available. Research has shown that one of olive oil’s heart-healthy effects is an increase in HDL cholesterol. This effect is thought to be caused by antioxidants it contains called polyphenols.


Omega-3 Fatty Acids

A particular type of omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in cold water fish, such as salmon and trout, helps raise HDL cholesterol. Another good source of omega-3 fatty acids is golden flax seed powder.