Human's ability to produce and oxidize ketone bodies arguably evolved to enhance survival during starvation by providing an energy source for the brain and slowing the breakdown of carbohydrate and protein stores (Owen et al., 1967; Sato et al., 1995; Marshall, 2010). The brain is normally reliant on carbohydrate as a substrate, being less able to metabolize lipids, despite adipose tissue representing a far larger energy store than muscle and liver glycogen. Therefore, during starvation, lipids are used for hepatic ketogenesis and, via ketone bodies, lipids sustain the brain. Endogenous production of the ketone bodies, d-β-hydroxybutyrate (βHB) and acetoacetate (AcAc), increases slowly, driven by interactions between macronutrient availability (i.e., low glucose and high free fatty acids) and hormonal signaling (i.e., low insulin, high glucagon and cortisol). Produced continuously under physiological conditions, blood ketone concentrations increase during starvation (Cahill, 1970), when consuming a “ketogenic” (low carbohydrate, high-fat) diet (Gilbert et al., 2000) or following prolonged exercise (Koeslag et al., 1980).
There are many different variations of intermittent fasting as well. Dr. Dom D’Agostino, the well-known ketogenic diet researcher, suggests doing a longer intermittent fast for 3 days, 3 times a year. This means not eating for 3 days, and eating normally until the next fast. Daily intermittent fasts are recommended as well. He says that it is ideal to have one to two meals after fasting for most of the day to reap the benefits of intermittent fasting every day.
Another source of the D-BOHB isomer is an evolutionarily ancient energy source for micro-organisms. Poly-BOHB is a long chain of D-BOHB molecules strung end-to-end. It functions in many single-cell organisms as a concentrated energy source similar to glycogen in mammals, but whereas glycogen breakdown releases individual glucose molecules, poly-BOHB hydrolysis releases single D-BOHB molecules.
Anti-cancer potential: Recent research suggests that ketogenic diets can blunt malignant tumor growth. This is due to the fact cancer cells can’t metabolize ketones effectively to nourish their growth and replication. Astonishingly, one study found that supplementing with BHB salts increases odds of survival in mice with systemic cancer by up to 70% in comparison to mice who didn’t receive exogenous ketones.
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The Zenwise Keto Life BHB Salt uses a custom calcium, magnesium and sodium ketone complex to help access ketones for fuel without the low carb diet or fasting. This product is another all-natural option that goes as far as using turmeric for its added coloring. It is a proven product with hundreds of happy customers. They seem to have a strong grasp on the lemonade side of the exogenous market with their Raspberry Lemonade and Wild Limeade flavor choices.
Long-Term Effects of a Ketogenic Diet in Obese Patients – The present study shows the beneficial effects of a long-term ketogenic diet. It significantly reduced the body weight and body mass index of the patients. Furthermore, it decreased the level of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and blood glucose, and increased the level of HDL cholesterol. Administering a ketogenic diet for a relatively longer period of time did not produce any significant side effects in the patients. Therefore, the present study confirms that it is safe to use a ketogenic diet for a longer period of time than previously demonstrated.(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/)
Neuroprotective benefits: A natural part of the aging process is neurodegeneration, which is largely responsible for cognitive defects like Alzheimer’s disease. Recent research suggests that exogenous ketone supplementation can drastically slow neurodegeneration and the resulting decrease in mental function. However, the mechanism behind this finding remains to be elucidated; though, researchers suggest exogenous ketones act to reduce brain inflammation. Glucose, on the contrary, may actually accelerate inflammatory response in the brain.
However, we will not be commenting on ketone esters since there are big differences between them and ketone salts, and the ketone salts are the ones that have been heavily commercialized and marketed to the public over recent years. Ketone esters may be more difficult to market due to their having an unpleasant taste. We may look more deeply into the esters in the future.
I had heard horror stories about how bad ketone esters tasted (like “rocket fuel”!) so was prepared for the worst. I followed their instructions and drank the contents of the bottle in one gulp, then chased it with a sip of sparkling mineral water. While not the most pleasant aftertaste, the flavor wasn’t any worse than after a shot of well tequila. Within 15 minutes I was already well into therapeutic ketosis, and after 30 minutes my ketone meter displayed a “HI” error message (meaning my level was greater than 8.0 mmol/L)!
The blood levels of BOHB that can be achieved with the salts or ester formulations are in the 1-3 mM range, similar to what can be achieved with a well-formulated ketogenic diet in insulin sensitive humans, but well below levels achieved after a 4-7 days of total fasting (Owen 1969). In more insulin resistant humans, the ester formulation may deliver higher blood levels than a sustainable diet (as opposed to short term fasting). For example, in the Virta IUH Study of over 200 patients with type 2 diabetes, blood ketone mean levels were 0.6 mM at 10 weeks and 0.4 mM after 1 year.
Athletic performance benefits: The use of exogenous ketone supplements for bettering physical/athletic performance is promising for several reasons. Firstly, taking exogenous ketones (particularly BHB salts) induces acute nutritional ketosis for upwards of eight hours, mimicking fasting physiology (e.g. increases fat burning, insulin sensitivity, etc.).
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Besides cutting carbs, it's important to increase your fat intake, and be moderate with protein. The fat you eat will keep you feeling energized and support ketone production. Protein is also important but if you go overboard with it, your body could enter into a process called gluconeogenesis. In gluconeogenesis, your body makes glucose from protein, and you want to avoid that.
Firstly, in a randomized four-arm cross-over study, blood βHB concentrations were compared following ingestion of equal amounts of βHB as a KE or a KS at two doses by healthy volunteers at rest (Study 1; n = 15). Secondly, in a randomized five-arm cross-over study, inter- and intra-participant repeatability of ketosis was examined following ingestion of identical KE drinks, twice whilst fed and twice whilst fasted. As a control, participants also consumed one isocaloric (1.9 kCal.kg−1) dextrose drink (Study 2; n = 16). Finally, blood d-βHB was measured after equal amounts of KE were given as three drinks (n = 12) or a constant nasogastric (NG) infusion (n = 4) (Study 3; total n = 14) over 9 h.
Interestingly, poly-BOHB has recently been reported to have important roles in mammalian mitochondrial membranes, cell membrane calcium channels, and in exotic functions like protein folding (Dedkova 2014). It exists in a variety of chain lengths, ranging from short to very long. It is not clear if humans can digest and use poly-BOHB consumed in the diet, but in animals, poly-BOHB appears to have probiotic and bowel protective functions. This is a rapidly evolving topic that we will be watching closely.
The ‘carb-sparing’ effect from BHB suppresses the break down of muscle glycogen. This leads to lower lactate levels. When increasing exercise intensity, fat oxidation (burning) reaches a limit. At that point the muscle burns carbohydrates as fuel. But when consuming Ketone esters, the body does not make this switch. This suggests Ketones are being used instead. 11
Ketone Esters: Synthetically-made compounds that link an alcohol to a ketone body, which is metabolised in the liver to a ketone. Ketone esters are used primarily in research for testing their efficacy in elevating ketone body levels (below is a generic structure of a BHB ester). Yet, the first commercial Ketone ester drink will be available in 2018 by HVMN. Research esters are reportedly very unpleasant tasting which HVMN hopes to change.
I have tried the following preparations of exogenous ketones: BHB monoester, AcAc di-ester, BHB mineral salt (BHB combined with Na+, K+, and Ca2+). I have consumed these at different concentrations and in combination with different mixing agents, including MCT oil, pure caprylic acid (C8), branch-chained amino acids, and lemon juice (to lower the pH). I won’t go into the details of each, though, for the sake of time.
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