There are three types of ketones produced when you’re on ketogenic diet: acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), and acetone. The kinds that you’ll find in your supplements are BHB because your body can readily use and absorb them. This means that not all ketones are created equal and there are several different types, each with unique properties that are worth considering when shopping.
Blood, breath, and urine ketone kinetics following mole-matched ketone ester (KE) and ketone salt (KS) drinks, at two amounts, in 15 subjects at rest. Values are means ± SEM. (A) Blood d-βHB. (B) Tmax of blood d-βHB. (C) AUC of blood d-βHB. (D) Isotopic abundance (%) of d- and l-chiral centers in pure liquid KE and KS. (E) Blood d-βHB and l-βHB concentrations in subjects (n = 5) consuming 3.2 mmol.kg−1 of βHB in KS drinks. (F) d-βHB and l-βHB concentrations in urine samples from subjects (n = 10) consuming 3.2 mmol.kg−1 of βHB in KS drinks. (G) Blood d- and l-βHB after 4, 8, and 24 h in subjects (n = 5) consuming 3.2 mmol.kg−1 of βHB in KS drinks. (H) Breath acetone over 24 h in subjects (n = 5) consuming 3.2 mmol.kg−1 of βHB in KE and KS drinks (ppm = parts per million). (I) Urine d-βHB excreted over 4 h after KE and KS drinks (n = 15). (J) Urine pH 4 h after drink, dotted line indicates baseline. †p < 0.05 KE vs. equivalent amount of KS, *p < 0.05 difference between 1.6 vs. 3.2 mmol.kg−1 of βHB, §p < 0.05 difference between amounts of d- and l-βHB, p < 0.05 difference between baseline and post-drink level.
Neuroprotection: As humans age, the brain becomes more susceptible to neurodegeneration and subsequent conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Exogenous ketone supplementation appears to ameliorate the typical decline in cognitive function that comes with aging. The likely mechanism for this neuroprotective property is that ketone bodies reduce the inflammation and hyperexcitability that is normally exhibited as glucose metabolism declines in the brain.18, 19
Weight loss benefits ushered the keto diet into the spotlight. That’s how most people have likely heard about ketones, a fuel source created naturally by the body when burning fat. But more and more research points to diverse applications of ketones in the blood outside of just fat loss, from improved endurance performance to the treatment of medical conditions like epilepsy.
One monk, for example, set out to do a 40 day fast with medical supervision while maintaining his daily activities in the monastery. After 36 days, the medical professionals had to step in due to “profound weakness” and low blood pressure when standing. Although the monk fasted for 15 days longer than Ghandi, the medical professionals were able to stop the fast in time so that he could recover.
The ketone supplements were associated with a 5.4% decrease in physical performance while the artificially-sweetened, non-caffeinated beverage I used as a placebo was associated with a 20.3% increase: a big difference in favour of the placebo. Before you go rushing out to buy some, remember that this experiment was not performed under fully-controlled, laboratory conditions, and we were working with too small a group to prove that the placebo caused an increase in physical performance. But what we can say is that we couldn’t find any correlation between ketone supplements and an increase in physical performance in this experiment. According to Brianna Stubbs, some of the work currently being done on new kinds of ketone salts is starting to show more promise in relation to physical performance, so there may be better news on this down the line.
Interestingly, the effects of exogenous ketones on blood substrate concentrations were preserved with the metabolic stimulus of a mixed meal. Following KE drinks, FFA and glucose fell and remained low in both fed and fasted subjects, despite higher insulin throughout the fed arm, suggesting that there was no synergistic effect of insulin and βHB to further lower blood glucose or FFA. In agreement with previous work, the threshold for the effects of βHB on glucose and lipids appears to be low (<1 mM), as there was no significant dose-response relationship between increasing blood βHB and the small changes in plasma FFA, TG or glucose across all of the study drinks (Mikkelsen et al., 2015).
Hi.. I’ve recently started drinking Keto OS Max and have lost about 20 pounds in the past 4 weeks without strictly sticking to the keto diet and have not exercised once. The only issue I have with Keto OS is the price really. I am wondering how the other BHB/MCT products like Ketond and PerfectKeto compare to Keto OS and what product on the market comes closest to the Keto OS recipes beneficial ingredients. TIA
And now, you can take ketone supplements (salts and esters), known as exogenous ketones, without actually restricting anything. According to those promoting this nasty-tasting supplement, that means you can have a brain and body fuelled by ketones, along with all of the supposed health benefits that come with running on fat. Well, don't fall for it.
In Summary, I think it’s important to do your own research and draw your own conclusion about the long term risks of ketosis. For some people, a ketogenic diet may be a necessity given their health situation. For those of us who do not suffer from such health conditions I would present the question ‘why do you want to follow a strict ketogenic diet for an extended period’, and then follow this up with ‘are the potential risks and sacrifices worth the benefits?’
Hi Acadia, just want to clear up a few things you noted in your post: The manufacture of BHB salts involves ionic bonding of an anion (beta-hydroxybutyrate) with a cation (Na+, K+, Ca+, Mg+). At least one of the exogenous ketone products you listed does in fact contain potassium ions. People taking potassium-sparing drugs need to know this and that raises concerns about leaving it off your chart. Some people are genuinely sodium sensitive even to small amounts of salt added to otherwise healthy foods. This can hold true even for those following ketogenic diets. The term you’re looking for… Read more »
At day 29 of the study, animals were euthanized and brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, spleen and heart were harvested and weighed. Organ weights were normalized to body weight. Ketone supplementation did not significantly change brain, lung, kidney, or heart weights compared to controls (Fig. 5a, b, d, f). MCT supplemented animals had significantly larger livers compared to their body weight (p < 0.05) (Fig. 5c). Ketone supplements BMS + MCT, MCT and BD caused a significant reduction in spleen size (BMS + MCT p < 0.05, MCT p < 0.001, BD p < 0.05) (Fig. 5e). Rats administered KE gained significantly less weight over the entire study compared to controls. BMS + MCT, BMS, and BD supplemented rats gained significantly less weight than controls during weeks 2 – 4, and MCT animals gained less weight than controls at weeks 3 – 4 (Fig. 6). Increased gastric motility (increased bowel evacuation and changes to fecal consistency) was visually observed in rats supplemented with 10 g/kg MCT, most notably at the 8 and 12-h time points. All animals remained in healthy weight range for their age even though the rate of weight gain changed with ketone supplementation [53–54]. Food intake was not measured in this study. However, there was not a significant change in basal blood glucose or basal blood ketone levels over the 4 week study in any of the rats supplemented with ketones (Fig. 7).
And zero-carb, followed by fasting for two meals, and then followed up by a second zero-carb meal is almost always all you need to get into ketosis fast. By Sunday or Monday morning, after a second night of no carbs, you’ll be in a deep enough ketosis that hunger will crash and your energy will surge to help you transition into your low-carb diet of choice.
Elliot received his BS in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota and has been a freelance writer specializing in nutritional and health sciences for the past 5 years. He is thoroughly passionate about exercise, nutrition, and dietary supplementation, especially how they play a role in human health, longevity, and performance. In his free time you can most likely find him lifting weights at the gym or out hiking through the mountains of Colorado. He will also host the upcoming BioKeto podcast. You can connect with him on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/elliot.reimers) and Instagram (@eazy_ell)
Exercising is undoubtedly important when it comes to losing weight. An added bonus of being in a state of ketosis is the ability to improve your exercise performance, but you should also remember that entering ketosis for the first time can be a bit of a challenge for a lot of people. The body is still adjusting to such a dramatic diet change, so exercising may prove to be difficult at first. The key here is to keep going.
More tolerable than MCT oil: MCT oil has been known to cause gastrointestinal distress in users, especially when taken in higher amounts. Exogenous ketones in the form of ketone salts, in comparison, are well-tolerated. Thus they enable one to avoid adverse GI events while providing the body with similar types of benefits. Figure 2 shows Ketone esters can be effective at reducing appetite. A combination of MCT oil and exogenous ketones may aid weight loss and allow a lower loading of ketone supplements, without the GI distress seen with MCT oil.
Proper sleep is important for hormone function and repair of the body. Not getting enough sleep is tough on the adrenals and blood sugar regulation. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep per night. If you struggle with quality sleep, create an environment that is conducive for rest. This could be keeping your room cooler, turning off all electronic devices one to two hours before bedtime or using a sleep mask.
Participants consumed 13.2 mmol.kg−1 of βHB (6.6 mmol.kg−1 or 1,161 mg/kg of KE) over 9 h, either as 3 drinks of 4.4 mmol.kg−1 of βHB at 3 h intervals (n = 12), or as an initial bolus of 4.4 mmol.kg−1 of βHB given through a nasogastric tube, followed by an infusion of 1.1 mmol.kg.h−1, beginning 60 min after the initial bolus, for 8 h (n = 4). Two participants completed both conditions (total n = 14). In both conditions, the KE was diluted to 1.5 L using the same citrus water as used in Study 2.
In conclusion, drinks containing exogenous ketones, in either ester or salt form, can raise concentrations of blood βHB in humans, although elevation of l-βHB lasts longer after racemic KS consumption. Both KE and KS drinks mildly altered acid-base balance. Exogenous ketones lowered blood glucose and lipids without inhibiting endogenous insulin secretion. The KE delivered highly repeatable blood concentrations of d-βHB, although ketosis was decreased by a meal. Uptake and elimination of d-βHB were similar when several drinks were consumed in succession. The dietary KE could maintain ketosis using drinks taken regularly around a normal meal pattern, or using a continuous infusion via a nasogastric tube. Therefore, ketone drinks are a viable and practical alternative to dietary strategies to achieve ketosis.
But going keto takes work. You have to overhaul your diet, restrict certain classes of foods, and pay close attention to what you eat. People prefer to avoid work if they can. They like shortcuts. Exogenous ketone supplements promise a shortcut—swallow this pill or mix this powder into your water and see your ketones skyrocket without changing the rest of your diet.
Since beta hydroxybutyrate is transported throughout the body via the blood, the best way to check your true BHB levels is through a blood test. The good news is that you can just use a simple finger prick and an at home method that is very similar to how diabetics check their glucose. The bad news is that it can be pretty expensive. Each strip and time you test can be around $4-6.
As seen in this exercise, glucose tends to fall quite precipitously following exogenous ketone ingestions. Without exception, every time I ingested these compounds (which I’ve probably done a total of 25 to 30 times), my glucose would fall, sometimes as low as 3 mM (just below 60 mg/dL). Despite this, I never felt symptomatic from hypoglycemia. Richard Veech (NIH) one of the pioneers of exogenous ketones, has suggested this phenomenon is the result of the ketones activating pyruvate dehydogenase (PDH), which enhances insulin-mediated glucose uptake. (At some point I will also write a post on Alzheimer’s disease, which almost always involves sluggish PDH activity —in animal models acute bolus of insulin transiently improves symptoms and administration of exogenous ketones does the same, even without glucose.)
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