When you are in a state of ketosis, the body turns fatty acids into ketones - these appear as beta-hydroxybutyrate in the blood. Measuring blood ketones is regarded as the gold standard and most accurate way to track ketone levels. Testing this way can be expensive, its can cost up to $3 a strip, so if you're testing multiple times a day it can get pricey.
I also concluded that post by discussing the possibility of testing this (theoretical) idea in a real person, with the help of exogenous (i.e., synthetic) ketones. I have seen this effect in (unpublished) data in world class athletes not on a ketogenic diet who have supplemented with exogenous ketones (more on that, below). Case after case showed a small, but significant increase in sub-threshold performance (as an example, efforts longer than about 4 minutes all-out).
If given all as a single salt, 50 grams per day of BOHB would mandate daily intakes of 5.8 g Mg++, 9.6 g Ca++, 11.0 g Na+, or 18.8 g K+. Even if divided up carefully as a mixture of these various salts, it would be problematic getting past 30 grams per day of BOHB intake. And again, most of the currently marketed ketone salt formulations are made with a mix of the D- and L-isomers of BOHB, so the actual delivered dose of the more desirable D-isomer is considerably less. The other concern with the salt formulations is that, as the salts of weak acids, they have an alkalinizing metabolic effect that might have a modest but cumulative effect on blood pH and renal function.
I (Kim) researched the topic and planned and ran the experiment under the guidance and supervision of Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, who touched base with me every step of the way to check the experiment design and execution for scientific rigor (to the greatest degree possible) and who has edited this writeup for quality and trustworthiness reasons. I also consulted with other keto experts and researchers to gather feedback both on the experiment design and the results data. They are referenced in the text when this was the case.
The metabolic phenotype of endogenous ketosis is characterized by lowered blood glucose and elevated FFA concentrations, whereas both blood glucose and FFA are lowered in exogenous ketosis. During endogenous ketosis, low insulin and elevated cortisol increase adipose tissue lipolysis, with hepatic FFA supply being a key determinant of ketogenesis. Ketone bodies exert negative feedback on their own production by reducing hepatic FFA supply through βHB-mediated agonism of the PUMA-G receptor in adipose tissue, which suppresses lipolysis (Taggart et al., 2005). Exogenous ketones from either intravenous infusions (Balasse and Ooms, 1968; Mikkelsen et al., 2015) or ketone drinks, as studied here, inhibit adipose tissue lipolysis by the same mechanism, making the co-existence of low FFA and high βHB unique to exogenous ketosis.
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.
Appetite suppression: Appetite was measured in 10 males and 5 females after consuming a ketone ester (KE) or a dextrose (DEXT) drink . Desire to eat and perception of hunger dropped after both drinks, but the KE was 50% more effective for 1.5-4hrs. Insulin levels rose for both drinks but were 3x less with the KE drink after 30mins (Fig 2). The hunger hormone, ghrelin, was significantly lower between 2 to 4 hours after drinking the KE (Fig 2). In conclusion Ketone esters delay the onset of hunger and lower the desire to eat. 8
An alternative to the ketogenic diet is consumption of drinks containing exogenous dietary ketones, such as ketone esters (KE) and ketone salts (KS). The metabolic effects of KS ingestion have been reported in rats (Ari et al., 2016; Kesl et al., 2016; Caminhotto et al., 2017), in three extremely ill pediatric patients (Plecko et al., 2002; Van Hove et al., 2003; Valayannopoulos et al., 2011) and in cyclists (O'Malley et al., 2017; Rodger et al., 2017). However, the concentrations of blood βHB reached were low (<1 mM) and a high amount of salt, consumed as sodium, potassium and/or calcium βHB, was required to achieve ketosis. Furthermore, dietary KS are often racemic mixtures of the two optical isoforms of βHB, d-βHB, and l-βHB, despite the metabolism of l-βHB being poorly understood (Webber and Edmond, 1977; Scofield et al., 1982; Lincoln et al., 1987; Desrochers et al., 1992). The pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of KS ingestion in healthy humans at rest have not been reported.
Satiety decreased in both cases, slightly less with the supplements than with the placebo: participants reported feeling less hungry after taking the supplements than after taking the placebo. However, we are doubtful whether this would be enough of a difference to impact food intake and therefore induce weight loss indirectly, compared to not taking a supplement at all. Especially since, as noted before, BHB switches off lipolysis.
Before the Nobel Prize was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi, other researchers were making groundbreaking discoveries about autophagy. In 2009, an article was published in Cell Metabolism entitled Autophagy Is Required to Maintain Muscle Mass. In this article, researchers described how deactivating an important autophagy gene resulted in a profound loss in muscle mass and strength.
If you stop eating carbs, your body first uses up glucose reserves stored in the liver and muscles. After it burns all that's left of glucose, it has no other options but to start burning fat. It can burn either your body's fat stores or the fat you eat. However, not all cells in your body can use fat to make energy and this is where ketones come into play.
Consuming exogenous ketones isn't the same as following a ketogenic diet–the ketones in the blood haven't been naturally produced by the breakdown of fat stores. However, scientists believe many of the health benefits of the keto diet and fasting (aside from weight loss) are triggered by ketones. Therefore, raising ketone levels through either endogenous or exogenous ketosis could help to improve health and performance by:
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.
Recent studies suggest that many of the benefits of the KD are due to the effects of ketone body metabolism. Interestingly, in studies on T2D patients, improved glycemic control, improved lipid markers, and retraction of insulin and other medications occurred before weight loss became significant. Both βHB and AcAc have been shown to decrease mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) production [36–39]. Veech et al. have summarized the potential therapeutic uses for ketone bodies [28, 40]. They have demonstrated that exogenous ketones favorably alter mitochondrial bioenergetics to reduce the mitochondrial NAD couple, oxidize the co-enzyme Q, and increase the ΔG’ (free enthalpy) of ATP hydrolysis . Ketone bodies have been shown to increase the hydraulic efficiency of the heart by 28 %, simultaneously decreasing oxygen consumption while increasing ATP production . Thus, elevated ketone bodies increase metabolic efficiency and as a consequence, reduce superoxide production and increase reduced glutathione . Sullivan et al. demonstrated that mice fed a KD for 10–12 days showed increased hippocampal uncoupling proteins, indicative of decreased mitochondrial-produced ROS . Bough et al. showed an increase of mitochondrial biogenesis in rats maintained on a KD for 4–6 weeks [44, 45]. Recently, Shimazu et al. reported that βHB is an exogenous and specific inhibitor of class I histone deacetylases (HDACs), which confers protection against oxidative stress . Ketone bodies have also been shown to suppress inflammation by decreasing the inflammatory markers TNF-a, IL-6, IL-8, MCP-1, E-selectin, I-CAM, and PAI-1 [8, 46, 47]. Therefore, it is thought that ketone bodies themselves confer many of the benefits associated with the KD.
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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