Ketoacidosis is driven by a lack of insulin in the body. Without insulin, blood sugar rises to high levels and stored fat streams from fat cells. This excess amount of fat metabolism results in the production of abnormal quantities of ketones. The combination of high blood sugar and high ketone levels can upset the normal acid/base balance in the blood and become dangerous. In order to reach a state of ketoacidosis, insulin levels must be so low that the regulation of blood sugar and fatty acid flow is impaired.
Second, there are inherent metabolic differences between boosting ketones via diet and boosting ketones via supplements. On a ketogenic diet, ketones go up because you’re converting body and dietary fat into ketone bodies. A rise in endogenous ketones means you’re burning fat and building the requisite machinery to metabolize the new energy source. On exogenous ketones, ketones go up because you ate some ketones; conversion of body and dietary fat into ketone bodies goes down if anything.
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.
Humans in the hunter-gatherer era survived thanks to metabolic flexibility — the body’s ability to use different fuels for energy depending on the nutrients available. This adaptation was vital during a time when the source, quantity, and frequency of food was uncertain[*]. Most of the time, people were fasting, so their bodies ran on ketones, not glucose.
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