Exogenous Ketone Supplements – Benefits And Side Effects
Exogenous Ketone Supplements – A keto diet or ketogenic, is a diet that is very low in carbohydrates and high in fat.
Dieting for several days puts your body into ketosis, a nutritional state characterized by increased blood ketones and weight loss.
While diets can be beneficial, following them consistently can be challenging. Some suggest that ketone supplements can mimic ketosis and increase blood ketone levels without changing diet.
However, this is not how your body interprets it. This article explores whether exogenous ketone supplementation can help you shed those extra pounds.
What happens in the body during ketosis?
If you eat a standard high-carb diet, your body’s cells often rely on glucose for fuel. Glucose comes from carbohydrates in your diet, including sugar and starchy foods such as bread, pasta and some vegetables.
If you limit these foods, like a ketogenic diet, you will force your body to find alternative fuel sources. Your body then turns fat into fuel, which produces ketone bodies when it breaks down too much.
This shift in metabolism puts your body into a state of ketosis. Most of the people naturally face a mild state of ketosis during periods of fasting or strenuous exercise.
The two main ketone bodies formed during ketosis are acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate. Acetone is a third less common ketone body.
These ketone bodies replace glucose as fuel and provide energy for the brain, heart and muscles. It is believed that the ketone bodies themselves may be responsible for the weight loss associated with the ketogenic diet.
Ketosis is a process where your body produces large amounts of ketones and uses them for energy instead of glucose from carbohydrates.
What are exogenous ketone supplements?
Ketone bodies can be produced in your body (endogenously) or come from a synthetic source outside your body (exogenously). Therefore, the ketones found in the supplement are exogenous ketones.
This supplement only contains beta-hydroxybutyrate ketone. The other major ketone body, acetoacetate, is chemically unstable as an additive.
There are two main kinds of ketone supplements:
- Ketone salts: These are ketones attached to salts, usually sodium, potassium, calcium, or magnesium. They are most often found in powder form and mixed with liquids.
- Ketone Esters: These are ketones bound to other compounds called esters and packaged in liquid form. Ketone esters are used primarily in research and are not as readily available for purchase as ketone salts.
Both forms of ketone supplementation have been shown to increase blood ketone levels, mimicking what happens in ketosis when following a ketogenic diet.
In one study, supplementing with approximately 12 grams (12,000 mg) of ketone salts increased participants’ blood ketone levels by more than 300%. For reference, most ketone supplements available contain 8 to 12 grams of ketones per serving.
The increase in blood ketone levels after this supplement is beneficial for people who want to transition into ketosis without having to diet.
However, ketone supplements are thought to have the same health benefits as the ketogenic diet, including weight loss. People also take ketone supplements along with the ketogenic diet, especially at the beginning of the diet.
This shortens the time it takes to reach ketosis and reduces the unpleasant side effects that can occur when switching from a standard high-carb diet to keto.
Symptoms that often accompany the transition to a ketogenic diet, better known as the “keto flu,” include constipation, headaches, bad breath, muscle cramps and diarrhea.
There is limited research to suggest that ketone supplements can reduce these symptoms.
Taking exogenous ketone supplements increases ketone levels in the body, mimicking the state of ketosis achieved with a ketogenic diet.
Exogenous Ketones May Reduce Appetite
Exogenous Ketone supplements have been shown to reduce your appetite, which can help you lose weight if you eat less.
In a study of 15 normal-weight people, those who drank a beverage containing ketone esters experienced 50% less hunger after an overnight fast than those who drank a sugar-sweetened beverage.
This appetite-suppressing effect is associated with lower levels of the hormone ghrelin two to four hours after drinking a ketone ester drink. However, ketone supplements may not affect appetite in people who have already eaten.
Studies have shown higher blood ketone levels in those who did not eat before taking ketone supplements compared to those who did.
And because high ketone levels are associated with decreased appetite and lower ghrelin levels, taking ketones may only be beneficial while fasting, such as upon waking, and not after a carbohydrate-containing meal.
In other words, taking a ketone supplement after a carbohydrate-containing meal will still raise blood ketone levels, but not as high as if you were fasting, indicating that your body is using fewer ketones for fuel because there are more available glucose than carbohydrates.
One small study found that exogenous ketone supplementation reduced appetite for more than four hours, which may hold promise for weight loss.
However, more research is needed before ketone supplements can be recommended for appetite control.
Exogenous Ketone Supplements Work For Weight Loss
Despite the appetite-suppressing potential of ketone supplements, their potential benefits for weight loss are unknown.
Therefore, ketone supplementation for weight loss cannot currently be recommended. In fact, some evidence suggests that they can prevent it.
Ketones interfere with the breakdown of fats
The purpose of the ketogenic diet for weight loss is to produce ketones from stored fat as an alternative source of fuel.
But if your blood ketone levels get too high, your blood can become dangerously acidic. To prevent this, healthy people have a feedback mechanism that decreases ketone production if they get too high.
In other words, the higher your blood ketone levels, the less your body will produce. As a result, taking ketone supplements can prevent you from using fat for fuel, at least in the short term.
Ketones contain calories
Your body can use ketones as a fuel source, which means they contain calories. It contains about four calories per gram, the same number of calories as carbohydrates or protein.
A serving of exogenous ketone salts typically contains less than 100 calories, but several servings per day are necessary to maintain a state of ketosis.
This is because the effects of ketone supplements only last a few hours and therefore require repeated doses throughout the day to maintain a state of ketosis. Not to mention that at more than $3 a serving, it can also be pricey.
Exogenous Ketone supplements by themselves are not ketogenic because they prevent the body from producing its own ketones.
They are also a source of calories which, depending on how many servings you take, may be useless for weight loss.
Side Effects Exogenous Side Effects
Exogenous ketone supplementation is generally considered a safe and effective way to increase the body’s ketone concentration, but the long-term effects are unknown.
Reported side effects are more common with ketone salts than with ketone esters and include nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain.
Ketone supplements also have an unpleasant taste. Also, achieving ketosis with ketone salts is not recommended due to the high amount of minerals you are taking.
One serving of ketone salts provides:
- 680 mg sodium (27% DV)
- 320 mg magnesium (85% DV)
- 590 mg calcium (57% DV)
However, to maintain ketosis, you need to take a dose every two to three hours, doubling or doubling that number. Manufacturers of ketone supplements recommend taking up to three servings a day.
But while ketone supplements can help you stay in ketosis even after eating, the increase in blood ketones will be much lower than if you fast or don’t eat foods that contain carbohydrates.
Side effects associated with ketone supplements range from indigestion to diarrhea. Since this supplement is also associated with salt, it is not recommended to take too much of it.
The Bottom Line
Exogenous Ketone supplements are claimed to put your body in a state of ketosis without the need for a ketogenic diet.
One study has shown that exogenous ketone supplements can reduce appetite for more than four hours when taken on an empty stomach, but other studies have shown that they may interfere with weight loss efforts.
Until more research is available, there is no real support for using ketone supplements as a weight loss aid.