Compared to our other cellular gasoline (carbs), we can store an unlimited supply of energy from ketones in our body within our fat. When you’re reliant on carbohydrates, you’re forced to keep your tank partly full as we can only store just over 2,000 calories of glycogen from carbs. An empty carb tank results in carb-withdrawal symptoms from not being able to switch into a ketone or fat burning metabolism.
Too much cortisol tells the liver that you are in physical danger and need a lot of energy fast. The brain doesn’t understand the difference between physical danger and emotional stress. When emotionally stressed, the brain thinks you’re in a life-and-death situation, so the liver comes to your rescue and gives you the glucose you need to fight off your attacker.
After a few days of fasting, or of drastically reduced carbohydrate consumption (below 50 g/day), glucose reserves become insufficient both for normal fat oxidation via the supply of oxaloacetate in the Krebs cycle (which gave origin to the phrase ‘fat burns in the flame of carbohydrate') and for the supply of glucose to the central nervous system (CNS).4
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).
Our bodies are produce three types of ketone bodies for fuel: beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), acetoacetate (AcAc), and acetone. Each is used by the body differently. Acetone is the least abundant, produced in much smaller amounts, and is usually exhaled through the lungs rather than being used as fuel.3 Acetoacetate is part of the metabolic pathway whereby humans make and use ketones, but it tends to be found in the blood at lower levels than BHB.
As stated above, there appears to be a difference between supplemental and dietary calcium intake, which can be important to keep in mind. One study found aggregate calcium intakes above 1400 mg per day (from dietary and supplemental intake combined) to be associated with higher death rates, cardiovascular disease, and ischemic heart disease in women. A 2014 meta-analysis found an association between dietary calcium intake and cardiovascular mortality. The meta-analysis actually found a u-shaped relationship, where dietary calcium intakes that were both lower and greater than 800 mg/day were gradually associated with increased risk of cardiovascular mortality.
BHB isn’t just an energy source for the brain–it has other effects which promote brain health. BHB can trigger the release of chemicals called neurotrophins, which support neuron function and synapse formation. One of these neurotrophins is called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which is a protein in the brain associated with cognitive enhancement, alleviation of depression and reduction of anxiety.10
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