Geek note: Technically speaking, beta hydroxybutyrate is NOT a legitimate ketone body. Ketone bodies, or ketones are technically molecules with carbonyl carbons which are bonded to two additional carbon atoms. One carbon has four available bonds. When that carbon is double bonded to oxygen and also has two single bonds to carbon, we have a ketone body. If you have a carbon atom that is double bonded to an oxygen (carbonyl group), which is also bound to an -OH group instead of two different carbon atoms, that would be a carboxylic acid, but that really doesn’t matter in this case. For all intents and purposes of the ketogenic diet, betahydroxybutyrate should be considered one of the three ketone bodies and a “ketone” nonetheless. Your body uses BHB pimarily for energy in the state of ketosis, so it’s a ketone, okay?
For example, the popular Raspberry Ketones supplement is far different than what we have been discussing in this article. Raspberry ketones are unrelated to the ketones that are produced in the body and are not the same as the ketone salts that have been covered above. There are some limited studies that indicate raspberry ketones may be helpful for weight loss, but they are inconsistent. Raspberry ketones are the molecules that give raspberries their scent and flavor, and in some cases, aren’t even derived from raspberries at all.
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
Taking MCT oil (medium chain triglyceride) or coconut oil (contains 60% MCT) can help boost ketone production. This is because your body absorbs MCT very quickly as it bypasses the gallbladder and into the liver to be processed into ketone bodies. Make sure you’re getting unprocessed versions of coconut oil that is labelled as ‘organic’ or ‘extra virgin’. This, along with grass-fed butter, is what I add into my ‘bulletproof’ coffees.
Exogenous ketones (also known as ketone supplements) and well-formulated ketogenic diets share at least one thing in common. They both result in increased circulating concentrations of beta-hydroxybutyrate (BOHB), but ultimately are associated with very different patterns of ketosis, as well as differing metabolic and physiologic outcomes. In short, they should not be assumed to have equivalent effects simply because they achieve similar BOHB blood levels. Having said that, there are many reasons we should continue to study the various forms and potential applications of ketone supplements.
Several studies have investigated the safety and efficacy of ketone supplements for disease states such as AD and Parkinson’s disease, and well as for parenteral nutrition [40, 48–50, 100–103]. Our research demonstrates that several forms of dietary ketone supplementation can effectively elevate blood ketone levels and achieve deleted: therapeutic nutritional ketosis without the need for dietary carbohydrate restriction. We also demonstrated that ketosis achieved with exogenous ketone supplementation can reduce blood glucose, and this is inversely associated with the blood ketone levels. Although preliminary results are encouraging, further studies are needed to determine if oral ketone supplementation can produce the same therapeutic benefits as the classic KD in the broad-spectrum of KD-responsive disease states . Additionally, further experiments need to be conducted to see if the exogenous ketone supplementation affects the same physiological features as the KD (i.e. ROS, inflammation, ATP production). Ketone supplementation could be used as an alternative method for inducing ketosis in patients uninterested in attempting the KD or those who have previously had difficulty implementing the KD because of palatability issues, gall bladder removal, liver abnormalities, or intolerance to fat. Additional experiments should be conducted to see if ketone supplementation could be used in conjunction with the KD to assist and ease the transition to nutrition ketosis and enhance the speed of keto-adaptation. In this study we have demonstrated the ability of several ketone supplements to elevate blood ketone levels, providing multiple options to induce therapeutic ketosis based on patient need. Though additional studies are needed to determine the therapeutic potential of ketone supplementation, many patients that previously were unable to benefit from the KD may now have an alternate method of achieving therapeutic ketosis. Ketone supplementation may also represent a means to further augment ketonemia in those responsive to therapeutic ketosis, especially in those individuals where maintaining low glucose is important.
I wrote this post at about the same time Germany won the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro in 2014. There’s been a lot of moving and shaking in the world of exogenous ketones since then, not to mention soccer. Looking back on my post, I still consider it relevant in terms of what exogenous ketones possibly can (and cannot) do for performance. In this case, to see if exogenous ketone esters provide me a “boost” by allowing me to do the same amount of work while expending less energy (and work at a relatively lower VO2) compared to no supplementation.
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