What are ketones?
Ketones are produced as byproducts of fat metabolism in the body. This occurs when carbohydrate intake is low, and the body uses fat as a source of energy. This condition is also referred to as ketosis. Ketosis has many benefits including reduced cravings, improved energy levels, and regulation of blood pressure.
How does the body produce ketones?
Ketones are produced when the body enters a metabolic state of ketosis. This means that the main source of energy is fat instead of carbohydrates. During ketosis, fatty acids are released from the fat stores and transferred to the liver, where they are broken down into ketones. Ketones are capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier, and are therefore a source of energy to the brain in the absence of glucose.
What are the effective ways to get into ketosis?
- Ketogenic diet
- Increasing physical activity
- Consumption of MCT oil that converts directly to ketones
- Exogenous ketones
Ketogenic diet is a diet that is very low in carbs and high in fat. In this kind of diet, the body is conditioned to become efficient at using fat as an energy source instead of carbohydrates. A ketogenic diet is one way of attaining the favorable state of ketosis. One of the important aspects of ketosis is the production of ketones (ketone bodies). Ketones are capable of providing instant energy to the brain cells and reducing blood sugar levels. Ketogenic diet has gained prominence due to its immense health benefits and as a way to lose weight
During fasting, the body depends on the fat stores for energy. This can help an individual attain ketosis. An alternative form of fasting, called fat fasting, involves switching to a diet comprised entirely of fats for a short period of time. Fat fasting is difficult to sustain, though some research indicates this promotes weight loss. Either way, fasting as a method to achieve ketosis, should not be done without supervision by a doctor or a dietitian.
Increasing physical activity
Increased physical activity depletes the body’s carb stores. These stores are renewed when an individual consumes more carbs through their diet. However, if the diet consists of low levels of carbohydrates, the body is forced to use fat as an energy source, leading to ketosis. A common side-effect to this approach is fatigue.
Consumption of MCT oil
MCT oil consists of C8 oil among other fractions such as C10 and C12. However, C8 is the most favored of the four types of MCTs since it is readily converted into ketones. Unlike traditional coconut oil, that has all the four types of MCTs; C8 oil is composed of nearly 100% C8 type of MCT.C8 moves directly to the liver where it is converted into ketones. MCT oil is odourless and tasteless; hence blends easily with salad dressing, smoothies, and bulletproof coffee. This makes consuming MCT oil, an easy and healthy way to attain ketosis.
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Exogenous ketones are a ketone supplements. As opposed to being produced inside the body by break-down of fatty acids, exogenous ketones are synthetic in origin. Exogenous ketones contain only one type of ketone- beta-hydroxybutyrate. The primary form of ketone, acetoacetate, is chemically unstable to be present in a supplement. According to a study, 12 grams of ketone supplements increased blood ketone levels of the study subjects by 300%. This is beneficial to people who are aiming to achieve ketosis without having to follow a ketogenic diet. However excessive intake of exogenous ketones may inhibit the body’s ability to break-down fats. This is due to a feedback mechanism that inhibits production of more ketones (by fat metabolism) when the blood ketone levels are already sufficient. This may have an adverse effect on weight loss.
What are the overall benefits of ketones to human health?
Some of the benefits of ketones to human health are listed below:
- Weight loss
- Improved cognition
- Improved blood sugar levels
How do ketones help in weight loss?
Ketones or ketone bodies contribute to weight loss in many ways. For starters, a person in ketosis has a reduced appetite for food. Moreover, a randomized clinical trial on 120 participants showed that individuals on a keto diet showed greater weight loss as compared to those who were on a low-fat diet. This is attributed to the fact that ketosis makes the body highly efficient in breaking-down fats.
Ketones and brain health
Several studies have shown the positive effects of ketones on brain health. One particular research conducted on individuals with Alzheimer’s disease showed improved cognition when put on exogenous ketones. Ketogenic diet has also shown to improve cognition in individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
Improved blood sugar levels
Research has shown that ketone bodies reduce the dependancy of cells on glucose; improving glycemic control. When ketones are used as an energy source, blood sugar levels stabilize, especially in obese indiviuals. This prevents complications arising from erratic blood sugar levels.
Recent studies have linked ketones to reduced aging. B-Hydroxybutyrate, a type of ketone released by break-down of fatty acids, has shown to promote cell division in senescent cells. Scientists are optimistic about the anti-aging effects of this link, since these effects may be extrapolated to treat age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.
Ketones are released by the body when fat is used as an energy source instead of carbohydrates. Ketones are capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier to boost the energy supply to the brain. The state of ketosis has many health benefits: weight loss, regulation of blood sugar, brain health, and anti-aging effects. Some of the common ways to achieve ketosis is by increased physical activity, ketogenic diet, intake of C8 MCT oil, exogenous ketones, and intermittent fasting.