Are you looking to become more metabolically flexible or achieve a state of ketosis? Studies show that ketones are beneficial for improving focus, enhancing energy, aiding in the management of a healthy weight, and improving mood. It can do this by increasing metabolic health in your cells to be able to burn fat more efficiently to fuel your body and lower the production of harmful free radicals. Urine ketone measurements may also be a good indicator of how well you are following an intermittent fasting diet. Let’s dive a little deeper into the benefits of ketones.
What are Ketones?
Typically, the body utilizes glucose as energy, since this is the body’s primary energy source. However, if you do not have enough readily available or stored glucose (a.k.a glycogen), the body will utilize ketones for energy instead. The body will shift from glucose to fat being its primary fuel source and will produce ketones. This is known as being in a state of ketosis. Ketosis can occur if you consume a ketogenic or very low carbohydrate diet. Ketones are produced when carbohydrate intake is very low, typically 20-50g/day, healthy fat intake is high, about 70% of caloric intake, and moderate protein intake.
There are three types of ketone bodies that the liver makes. The two main ketone bodies are acetoacetate (AcAc) and 3-beta-hydroxybutyrate (3HB). Acetone is the third and least abundant ketone found in the body. Acetoacetate is the main ketone produced by the body and can be used for energy. 3HB is another ketone fuel source used by the body and brain as acetone is often excreted from the body.
You can produce your own ketones during a process called ketogenesis, which uses fats for fuel. Supplementation or drinks, also known as exogenous ketones can help you reach a state of ketosis. A simple method to raise ketone levels in the blood is to take oral 3HB supplements.
Health Benefits of Ketones
The ketogenic diet was first introduced to help treat children with epilepsy. Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes recurring seizures. Most people with epilepsy are able to manage their condition through antiepileptic medications. However, about 30% of patients do not respond to these pharmacological interventions and need an alternative treatment. Cue the ketogenic diet! The ketogenic diet is an eating pattern that alters metabolism and mimics a fasting state. The mechanisms as to why the keto diet works for those with epilepsy are unclear, however, it is thought that the low intake of sugar (glucose), and high intake of fat can decrease the excitability of the brain, thus reducing the ability to generate seizures. Many people with this condition are able to better control their seizures or even go into remission by following a ketogenic diet.
The ketogenic diet has recently emerged as a diet to promote weight loss with its popularity increasing dramatically. This is because being in a state of ketosis shifts the body into fat-burning mode, therefore may enhance fat loss. Furthermore, burning fat for fuel requires the body to work harder than it does when burning carbs, so it may slightly increase metabolism.
Studies have also shown the ketogenic diet suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin. Ghrelin signals the brain that it's time to eat from production and releasing in the stomach. It tells your brain that your stomach is empty and increases your appetite. Therefore, a ketogenic diet can suppress appetite and increase satiety which may lead to weight loss.
May Support Brain Health
Being in a state of nutritional ketosis may lead to improved brain function. Ketones are able to provide the brain with 70% of its energy and the brain is able to use this energy more efficiently than glucose. Additionally, as mentioned before, ketones serve as an alternate energy source to the body and brain. If your body is unable to properly use glucose for energy then we need an alternate source. Due to Americans high carbohydrate diets, the demand for insulin is high and overtime can lead to something called insulin sensitivity. This is when the body cannot efficiently use glucose (carbs) for energy and can lead to other chronic diseases. Since ketones do not require insulin, your brain will have efficient energy to operate.
Ketones have also been studied to prevent neurodegenerative disorders such as the prevention in Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The production of ketones may reduce the accumulation of amyloid plaque, which is seen in those with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as alleviate the effects of impaired glucose metabolism.
May Support Endurance Training
Following a ketogenic diet can have some positive effects to support endurance athletes. Nutritional strategies are crucial to support athletes' performance. Endurance athletes use carbs as their primary source of energy to fuel their workouts. Endurance training for a long period of time will deplete glycogen stores at a faster rate. Since muscle and liver glycogen stores are limited, it is beneficial to provide fuel from alternate sources such as fat.
Downsides and Risks of Keto Diet
While a ketogenic diet, to produce ketones, may have some potential health benefits, it is important to note some risks associated with following this diet as it may not be suitable for everyone. Severely elelvated ketones can be a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis, which can be life threatening. Those who struggle with disordered eating, have Type 1 diabetes, or other chronic health conditions may find that the keto diet is not right for them as this diet is highly restrictive.
The ketogenic diet is not for everyone and it is important to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider before starting any new diet.
How to Boost Ketones Around the Holidays
Halloween is approaching and that means candy! Well, maybe not if you are following a ketogenic diet or trying to achieve a state of ketosis. You may want to rethink those carb-heavy, sweet treats and opt for something more ketone friendly. Here are some festive food alternatives to enjoy on the holiday.
- Keto mummy dogs (https://www.dietdoctor.com/recipes/keto-mummy-dogs)
- Mozzarella eyeballs (https://www.dietdoctor.com/recipes/mozzarella-eyeballs)
- Keto chocolate monster cupcakes (https://www.dietdoctor.com/recipes/keto-chocolate-monster-cupcakes)
- Bell peppers and hummus
- Cottage cheese and pomegranate
You can test to see if you are producing ketones with Vessel’s wellness test cards. In order to achieve a high ketone reading on your Vessel Wellness card requires increased attention to your diet. If you have any questions about ketones, chat in with your friendly nutritionist on chat!
Sara Chille See all the author’s articles