Ketones, for those unfamiliar, are a fuel source of the body and brain, alternative to glucose. The brain is more efficient utilizing ketones compared to glucose and certain bodily functions are also better off when ketone bodies are used compared to glucose. Ketone bodies can be produced within the body (endogenous ketones), which I mention here. It is also possible to supplement with exogenous ketones, ketone bodies originating outside of the body.
There are 3 different ketone bodies:
- Acetoacetic Acid
- Beta-Hydroxybutyric Acid (BHB) Technically, BHB is not a true ketone body, but it functions the same as acetone and acetoacetic acid.
Exogenous ketones come in two basic forms: ketone salts and ketone esters. Ketone esters are synthetically created chemicals that bind alcohol to ketone bodies. Until fairly recently, ketone esters were not available for purchase, as they were used for research purposes. There are now at least a few different products on the market. Very expensive, but available. Ketone salts are the more common form of exogenous ketone supplementation. Most exogenous ketone products are ketone salts and work by binding BHB to sodium, potassium, or calcium, or a combination of these.
Effects of Exogenous Ketones
There is a growing body of research regarding the efficacy of ketone supplementation in regards to all kinds of aspects. Some positive effects that have been observed are:
- Appetite Suppression: Levels of hormones associated with hunger (insulin, ghrelin, glucagon-like peptide 1, and peptide tyrosine tyrosine) are decreased
- Excess ketones (up to a certain point) are not stored as adipose tissue: Meaning little risk of gaining fat with ketone supplementation
- Gastrointestinally more gentle than MCT oil: In other words, less likelihood of disaster pants.
- Enhanced performance: The research here tends to go both directions, but for the most part stamina, oxygen requirements, and VO2 seem to be enhanced with exogenous ketones.
- Improved Cognition: The brain runs more efficiently on ketones, one observed benefit is enhanced myelination
- Many benefits of BHB: neuroprotective, anti aging, anti inflammatory/reduces and protects against oxidative damage, inhibits HDAC
Some negative effects that commonly occur are: bad breath caused by acetone breakdown and electrolyte imbalance induced by fluid loss.
To Ketone or Not to Ketone
There are many possible benefits of ketone supplementation and thus far it is seen to be safe and effective. The take away, though, is that supplementation is not necessary. It is possible to almost constantly have a supply of endogenous ketones fueling your body and brain. By implementing a ketogenic diet and/or intermittent fasting your body will naturally produce and use ketone bodies. Supplementing has its uses and advantages in certain situations, but the many amazing benefits of BHB and other ketone bodies are available to you, and for free.