For whatever reason, many patients won’t attempt a ketogenic diet—even if the evidence is clear that it could help. Doctors are often hesitant to recommend dramatic dietary shifts—even if they believe in their efficacy—to patients who are already dealing with difficult health issues. If you’ve got a picky kid with epilepsy, a pickier adult with Alzheimer’s, or a cancer patient who refuses to give up the familiar-yet-non-ketogenic foods that give him some small manner of comfort in this trying ordeal, exogenous ketones could make a big difference.
d-βHB was measured immediately on whole blood using a handheld monitor and enzyme-based reagent strips (Precision Xtra, Abbott Diabetes Care, UK). Samples were stored on ice, centrifuged and duplicate plasma aliquots stored at −80°C. All urine passed during the visit was collected, the total volume recorded, and 1 ml aliquots taken, frozen and retained for analysis.
How BHB turns into energy is a fairly simple process. As we’ve mentioned, beta hydroxybutryate eventually leads to energy production after you consume it or after your body breaks stored body fat down. It does this by going into the cell, entering the mitochondria (energy factories) at which stage it cleaves the carboxyl acid group and becomes acetoacetate (another “ketone body”). Acetoacetate turns into acetoacetyl-CoA, which then is cleaved to acetone (another “ketone body”) and acetyl-CoA. Acetyl-CoA is the whole reason we want BHB in the first place. This jumps into what is called the Kreb’s cycle (don’t you remember any of your biochemistry classes?) and is churned into ATP — the energy currency of your cells!
This is another point that Brianna Stubbs put me onto: often, ketone-salt companies use terms such as “technology developed by Dominic D’Agostino” as a tool to market their products. Dom D’Agostino holds the patent for the technology being used but is not associated with the products and does not necessarily promote them. In many cases, this feels like a marketing strategy that name-drops a famous keto expert in order to make a product sound more legitimate. There is an example of this on Real Ketones’ website.
Until there is more definitive information on the necessary blood levels and the differing proportions of BOHB an AcAc to optimize cellular and organ functions, it will be difficult to specify the dosing and duration of supplemental ketones. However for fuel use, and very likely for exercise performance as well, sustained blood levels of BOHB in the range of 0.5 mM to 1.0 mM are likely to be required. This is achieved physiologically by an estimated ketone production of 50-100 grams per day in a keto-adapted human.
As ketone drinks can deliver nutritional ketosis without fasting, we investigated the effect of food on KE uptake and metabolism. It is well documented that food in the gut can slow, or prevent, the uptake of small hydrophilic hydrocarbons, such as βHB (Melander, 1978; Toothaker and Welling, 1980; Horowitz et al., 1989; Fraser et al., 1995), so decreased gut βHB uptake is probably the cause of lower blood βHB following the meal. Despite higher blood βHB concentrations in the fasted state, the meal did not alter plasma AcAc. This suggests that the rate of conversion of βHB to AcAc may not match the rate of appearance of βHB following KE consumption. Alternatively, meal-induced changes in the hepatic ratio of NAD+:NADH may have altered the conversion of βHB to AcAc (Himwich et al., 1937; Desrochers et al., 1992).
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.
I’m getting an increasing number of questions about exogenous ketones. Are they good? Do they work for performance? Is there a dose-response curve? If I’m fasting, can I consume them without “breaking” the fast? Am I in ketosis if my liver isn’t producing ketones, but my BOHB is 1.5 mmol/L after ingesting ketones? Can they “ramp-up” ketogenesis? Are they a “smart drug?” What happens if someone has high levels of both glucose and ketones? Are some products better than others? Salts vs esters? BHB vs AcAc? Can taking exogenous ketones reduce endogenous production on a ketogenic diet? What’s the difference between racemic mixtures, D-form, and L-form? What’s your experience with MCTs and C8?
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