What Are Ketones: Everything You Need to Know

Health & Nutrition ,

What Are Ketones: Everything You Need to Know

There has been a rapid resurgence of the use of low-carb diets for wellness in the last few years. People are turning into diet plans that can help their bodies produce ketones. Although the term “ketone” is normally used a lot, many people are not aware of what it actually means. Generally, ketones are produced when you use a ketogenic diet.  This article provides an updated overview of ketones, their importance and what happens when they have very high blood ketone levels.

What Are Ketones?

Ketone bodies, simply known as ketones, are the water-soluble molecules which occur when the body breaks down fat and use it as a source of energy. Ketones are normally produced when an individual takes low amounts of carbohydrates to manage their weight or to treat certain types of metabolic issues.

How Ketones Work

It only start to work when the body is deprived of enough carbohydrate supply and the amount of blood glucose is depleted. When the levels of glycogen are insufficient, the level of blood insulin, as well as blood sugar, end up get lowered. The body will, therefore, be forced to look for another source of fuel and in this case, it’s usually fat. Ketosis happens when you have exercised for long, during prolonged fasting or starvation, using a ketogenic diet, and when you consume exogenous ketones.

The effectiveness in the way it work has attracted a large group of users. There are many people who have turned to keto diets and supplements because ketones come with a variety of benefits.

Ketones and Weight Loss

During ketosis, the body ends up burning more fat at a very high rate. The brain functions and all other systems rely on ketones for the production of energy. Ketones are energy molecules which help to regulate the amount of insulin and blood sugar. Combining these three processes it usually leads to weight loss.

Ketones and Diabetes

The direct link between the production of ketones and blood insulin makes it beneficial in treating diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes can use it to reduce high blood sugar. However, diabetics should exercise a lot of extra caution because high blood ketones can easily lead to diabetic ketoacidosis.

Types of Ketones and Their Formation

Ketones are molecules that are water-soluble. Ketone bodies are essential for increasing the rate of metabolism and they are usually produced when there is a restriction of carbohydrate intake. Generally, there are three main types :

  1. Acetone
  2. Acetoacetate and
  3. Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB)

When the body is in ketosis, it ends up breaking down fats which lead to the production of ketones. The first ketone body that is created, is usually acetoacetate which occurs after the fatty acids are broken down.  After that, BHB is formed from the existing acetoacetate. Acetone is the simplest form of ketone body and it’s also the least used. It’s normally formed as acetoacetate’s side product.

Because acetone isn’t often used, it will end up breaking down and thereafter removed from the body through wastes such as urine and breath. The bad breath (halitosis) that occurs during ketosis is a result of the body eliminating ketones. It’s normally characterized by a fruity type of smell that has some similarities with nail polish remover.

Reasons Why Ketones are Important

The body needs ketones for production of energy when there aren’t adequate amounts of glucose in the bloodstream. These molecules are particularly beneficial during extended period of starvation. They help to reduce food cravings and promote a satiating feeling.

People also take low-carb foods and keto supplements because they help to improve physical endurance. During exercises, the body normally depletes the stored glycogen which means that a person may end up feeling fatigued very quickly. Having ketones in the body helps to ensure that you engage in long and intense sessions of workouts. Being great sources of natural fuel, ketones are also essential in improving mental performance. They improve memory function, focus, and other cognitive abilities.

Measuring Levels of Ketones

When ketones aren’t fully utilized by the body, they usually show up in blood, breath, and urine. However, some people may want to know the level of ketones in their bodies hence its vital that they take measurements. Currently, there are three common ways which you can use to test ketones. The tests can be done in a lab or using alternative and cost-effective techniques.

Note that the ketone levels in your body can range from 0 to very high. Measurement is usually taken in millimoles per liter which is mmol/L. The ketones measurement can be termed as negative or very high. If you are going to measure the level of ketones, below are some of the ranges.

  • Negative: 0.6 mmol or less
  • Low or Moderate: 0.6 -1.5 mmol
  • High: 1.6-3.0 mmol
  • Very High: More than 3.0 mmol

Once you have known the various types of ketone ranges, you can proceed to take measurements using these three alternatives.

  1. Urine Testing

Process: Take a sample of your pee and then put a ketone strip in it. The strip contains a special type of chemical and it changes its color depending on the amount of ketone bodies in your urine.

Pros: The urine strips are cheap. You can purchase them conveniently over the counter and they are an easier option for those who are new to the keto diet and ketosis.

Cons: The strips used to test ketones in urine aren’t reliable because it’s impossible for it to indicate the amount of ketones in your body especially if you have had ketosis for long. Additionally, the ketone readings may be easily affected by factors such as electrolytes.

  1. Blood Testing

Process:  A blood ketone meter is used to test the amount of ketones. You need to press your fingertip on the lancet pen and then apply the blood on the test strip. The meter will then give out readings.

Pros: It’s the most accurate method of testing ketones because they are literally no factors that can influence the results.

Cons: Very expensive. A strip that’s used to test the BHB salts in the body costs more than $5.00

  1. Breath Testing

Process: Use a Ketonix meter to test If your breath has acetone.

Pros: Quite cheap and easy to use. Simply breathe on the meter.

Cons: Of the three methods, it’s the most unreliable method of testing the amount of ketones in the body.

What Level of ketones is Ideal for Optimal weight loss?

In order for ketones to be effective, they need to be in high amounts in the bloodstream. But what is the ideal ketones level for weight loss? To get a moderate weight loss effect, the levels of ketones in your bloodstream need to be between 0.5 mmol/L and 1.5. mmol/L. However, this is not the optimal amount. A 1.5 mmol/L to 3.0 mmol/L is what is considered as the optimal ketosis and its ideal for maximum weight loss.

The Risk of High Ketone Levels

A high level of ketone bodies is great especially if you want to lose weight. However, if you suffer from conditions such as type 1 diabetes, then you might be at risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis. People with type 1 diabetes can also be at risk of developing this condition though it’s not very common. Some of the symptoms of high ketone levels include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Dehydration
  • Intense thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • High blood sugar levels which are more than 240 mg/dL.

In case you fail to seek immediate medical attention, these symptoms may quickly progress and lead to:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Breathing problems
  • Vomiting
  • flushed skin
  • Nausea
  • Smelly breath
  • Confusion
  • Stomach pains

If the ketone levels get extremely high, your blood may turn acidic. Highly acid blood is what results in diabetic ketoacidosis which can cause serious health problems such as:

  • Diabetic coma
  • Brain swelling
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Death

It’s therefore important for all keto diet users to exercise caution and constantly measure the level of ketones in their blood.

Treatment Options for High Blood Ketones

If you notice that your ketones levels are extremely high, seek medical assistance. Additionally, discontinue the use of low-carb meals or keto supplements. Some of the best treatment options that your doctor may decide to use include:

  • IV fluid replacement to rehydrate the body.
  • Electrolyte replacement to replace the lost electrolytes
  • Insulin treatment

Always make sure that you constantly measure your ketone levels to avoid the effects of diabetic ketoacidosis.  If you are in ketosis, you also need to have a healthy diet plan.

Final Thoughts

Ketones are vital molecules that can help you deal with a number of health issues. They are responsible for the sustained production of energy which leads to better performance. However, it is important to constantly check your blood ketone levels to avoid serious health issues.



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