A growing number of people are giving it a try, thanks to exogenous ketone supplements that claim to launch your body into a state of ketosis within two and a half days—even if you’ve been living on pasta and cookies instead of following a low-carb diet. How can that be, though? And can that kind of rapid transformation actually be safe? Here’s what you should know.
It's important to listen to your body when going through the ketogenic process. This means that you should only eat when you're hungry and not every single time you get a craving. It's our obsession with food that causes us to stuff ourselves whenever we feel like it, and you should know by now that it's not healthy to do that. When you make it a point to eat only when you're hungry, you're diminishing any food intake that your body doesn't really need.
Most of the ketone supplements out there are either underdosed or overpriced - some don't even bother to disclose how much BHB (ie ketones) is used in their product. And why would they? BHB is EXTREMELY expensive. So by not disclosing the amount the can get away with putting in as little as they want and still claim it's a ketone supplement while keeping their costs as low as possible.
For the ketone esters, on the other hand, repeated doses of 20-30 grams in any one day may be possible. Thus these products may be able to maintain a modest level of ketonemia without dietary carbohydrate restriction. Thus some of the cardiac and brain fueling benefits may follow, not to mention the epigenetic effects limiting oxidative stress and inflammation. But given the recent observation that administered ketone esters markedly reduce circulating free fatty acids (Myette-Cote 2018) — possibly due to an insulin-tropic effect or direct suppression of lipolysis (Taggart 2005) — their sustained use in people with underlying insulin resistance may compromise their long-term benefits by promoting weight gain unless combined with carbohydrate restriction.
It is important to define what it means to be “in ketosis”. If being “in ketosis” means having ketones in your blood, then of course ketone supplements get you into ketosis. But that is different from being in an endogenous ketogenic, fat-burning state as a result of following a ketogenic diet. Getting this distinction right will go a long way towards stopping ketone salts companies from using misleading marketing about the issue. We need to reach a consensus about what being “in ketosis” means and then force companies to use that definition.
Dominic D’Agostino has two in-depth interviews on The Tim Ferriss Show (Part 1, Part 2). Discussion includes exogenous ketones for mitigating the onset of neurodegenerative diseases, using ketones in place of fasting for chemo-protection, benefits of ketone supplementation when consuming carbohydrates, the risks and potential toxicities of ketones.
Personally, I think it is wise to include a regular carb meal in your diet if you are going to follow a ketogenic diet. Long term ketogenic diets do seem to downregulate your thyroid and metabolism, and a weekly carb meal (or carb day) can help avoid this. The Carb Nite diet by J. Kiefer is a good example of this. And BJJCaveman posted his labs showing how a weekly carb meal helped his thyroid HERE.
There are many places where you can buy ketone supplements especially online. You have Amazon, Craigslist, and eBay to name a few but the thing with that is, they are often over-priced compared to the actual costs from the direct manufacturer. If you buy ketones directly from the official website of the product or brand, you are likely to get a way better deal than buying from any third-party seller that you might bump into on the internet.
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?
Your brain has a very tight barrier so not everything in the blood can get through. This is called the blood brain barrier. Because your brain uses 25% of the energy that your entire body uses throughout the day, you need to make sure it is fueled appropriately. Glucose can’t directly cross the blood brain barrier. When you eat carbs, you get swings in energy that is available to cross the blood brain barrier which leads to mental fog.
Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults. – Glucose is the brain’s principal energy substrate. In Alzheimer’s disease (AD), there appears to be a pathological decrease in the brain’s ability to use glucose. Neurobiological evidence suggests that ketone bodies are an effective alternative energy substrate for the brain. Elevation of plasma ketone body levels through an oral dose of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) may improve cognitive functioning in older adults with memory disorders. On separate days, 20 subjects with AD or mild cognitive impairment consumed a drink containing emulsified MCTs or placebo. Significant increases in levels of the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate (beta-OHB) were observed 90 min after treatment (P=0.007) when cognitive tests were administered. beta-OHB elevations were moderated by apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype (P=0.036). For 4+ subjects, beta-OHB levels continued to rise between the 90 and 120 min blood draws in the treatment condition, while the beta-OHB levels of 4- subjects held constant (P<0.009). On cognitive testing, MCT treatment facilitated performance on the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale (ADAS-cog) for 4- subjects, but not for 4+ subjects (P=0.04). Higher ketone values were associated with greater improvement in paragraph recall with MCT treatment relative to placebo across all subjects (P=0.02). Additional research is warranted to determine the therapeutic benefits of MCTs for patients with AD and how APOE-4 status may mediate beta-OHB efficacy. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15123336)
The human studies aren’t quite there yet, but it seems likely that they’d help. A recent human case study found that ketone esters added to the regular diet improved Alzheimer’s symptoms. Animal studies indicate that adding exogenous ketones to a regular lab (read: not ketogenic) diet can reduce seizure activity and improve overall symptoms in epilepsy animal models, reverse early neuronal hyperactivity in Alzheimer’s animal models, and reduce anxiety in rats.
In the second of these posts I discuss the Delta G implications of the body using ketones (specifically, beta-hydroxybutyrate, or BHB, and acetoacetate, or AcAc) for ATP generation, instead of glucose and free fatty acid (FFA). At the time I wrote that post I was particularly (read: personally) interested in the Delta G arbitrage. Stated simply, per unit of carbon, utilization of BHB offers more ATP for the same amount of oxygen consumption (as corollary, generation of the same amount of ATP requires less oxygen consumption, when compared to glucose or FFA).
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