You may already have heard about the miraculous ketogenic diet, but you may not know or understand how it works. For that, first you have to know what is a ketone body. The Basics of keto diet basically stand on ketones. So lets tell you what are ketones and how ketones are important for ketogenic diet. 

To talk about a ketogenic lifestyle, the body is energized by fats, which break down into ketone bodies. As we avoid carbs, our metabolism gets changed and fats become the energy source. And thus ketone bodies become the unit of energy in our body. That is why it becomes necessary to know what is a ketone body.

what is a ketone body

We will talk about the basic concepts of what is a ketone body which is related to the ketogenic diet in this article.

A ketogenic diet is characterized by a metabolic state called “ketosis,” in which the body switches life support from carbohydrates to fats. This occurs with a deficiency of glucose in the blood, when fats are used as fuel. This produces a by-product of metabolism – ketone bodies – soluble organic compounds.

Ketosis produces some by-products of metabolism. They are ketone bodies – soluble organic compounds.

According to studies, ketones are a mobile energy source that slows down aging when a balanced, low-carb, non-refined sugar diet is used. The opposite condition, accelerating aging, occurs when you consume high-calorie “fast food”, instant food – “artificial garbage”.

So during a keto diet you cannot go for fast-food or high calorie food which are rich in carbs. Otherwise, all the benefits of ketone bodies will eradicate. This is one of the main reason, you have to know what is a ketone body before starting a keto diet.

Now here is another question: Will ketone bodies appear in your body only when you start keto diet?

Even if you do not start keto diet and do not reach the state of ketosis, ketone bodies are still present in the blood. They are produced in the liver constantly. 

And if you enter ketosis through keto diet, the amount of ketones increases significantly and the body begins to burn fat instead of glucose. In order not to get confused, you need to understand that ketosis is fundamentally different from ketoacidosis, which threatens life with diabetes.

Difference between ketones and ketone bodies

A google search for “what is a ketone body” or simply “ketones” will return several results that relate ketones to ketone bodies. 

In many cases, ketones and ketone bodies are used interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same.

Technically, ketones are organic compounds that contain a carbonyl group (a carbon atom double bonded to an oxygen atom) that is simply connected with two hydrocarbon groups obtained by the oxidation of secondary alcohols. Organic chemistry – I’m sure you understand everything)

Let’s look at ketone examples to help us get a clearer picture:

Acetone is the simplest ketone. During the first 2 weeks on a ketogenic diet, the body can produce some of them and release them with breathing. This is why you may have bad breath during your first couple of weeks on a ketogenic diet. It is one of the symptoms of keto flu.

Does organic chemistry still seem too complicated? Well, the good news is that this is not entirely necessary to understand. All you really need to know is that acetone is both a ketone and a ketone body, and diacetyl is another natural ketone that was a popular artificial aromatic popcorn oil – it’s just ketone. You may also want to know why this is so.

What is a ketone body in real?

All ketone bodies are ketones, but not all ketones are ketone bodies. Incredible, but true.

There are millions of potential ketone compounds that can be formed with various combinations of different hydrocarbon groups, but not all of them are considered ketone bodies. When studies and articles talk about ketone bodies, they refer to the three ketones that the body naturally forms. 

what is a ketone body

Other ketones, such as diacetyl (the ketone we mentioned earlier), are not produced by the body, so they do not fall under the category of “ketone bodies”.

How many types of ketone bodies

To know what is a ketone body it is very important to know about the types of ketone bodies. There are mainly 3 types of ketone bodies. Let’s call the types of ketone bodies:

  1. “Acetoacetate” is the main ketone body, an energy-saturated compound produced during normal metabolism. In the process of its oxidation, a large amount of active oxygen is produced – 45 times more than during the oxidation of glucose, and much less “harmful” oxygen. 

    This means that energy supply during ketosis is more powerful, and inflammatory processes are difficult.
  2. “Beta-hydroxybutyric acid (3HB, 3-β-hydroxybutyrate, BOMK)” is a derivative of acetoacetate formed during its reduction.

    In fact, 3HB during the ketone process is reduced to the hydroxyl group, and, in fact, is not a ketone body, but is positioned as such. According to studies, BOMK helps prevent type 2 diabetes due to the ability to be transported into tissues and participate in cell signaling. 

    When bound to surface receptors, BOMK inhibits histone deacetylase, regulates the balance of nicotinic compounds, and regulates the enzymes of the aging process.
  3. “Acetone” – as a ketone body is produced to a lesser extent than the previous types, but this is enough to measure the ketone level in the body. Acetone, being a metabolite of acetoacetate, gives an anticonvulsant effect, and most of it is excreted in the urine.

The production of ketone bodies in the human body

Why you are learning what is a ketone body? Because it gets produed in your body. So to fulfil your knowledge on: what is a ketone body, you have to lso understand its production process in human body.

Our body begins to produce ketones inside the liver cells during a diet with a reduced amount of carbohydrates (up to 20-25 g) and a high fat content. This occurs through a lipose reaction or lipolysis – the release of fatty acids during hydrolysis, and the transfer of acyl-CoA enzymes through mitochondrial membranes.

Through research, several stages characteristic of the formation of ketones were identified: with liposis, fatty acids in adipose tissue are destroyed; plasma fatty acids are transferred and activated; together with oxidation, fatty acids are transferred to cells.

The other three stages are accompanied by the synthesis of ketone bodies:

  • Acetoacetyl-CoA is formed.
  • Acetoacetate is formed.
  • Acetoacetate is restored or destroyed to the 3HB state.

Otherwise, it looks like this: as soon as a person restricts carbohydrate intake and starts a ketogenic diet, the body is deficient in carbohydrates, begins to search and identifies another source of nutrition for energy production. The best that the body can find is body fat. Adapting to a diet and a transitional period can take up to 2 weeks. 

During this time, the body, deprived of new carbohydrates, uses the reserves of accumulated glycogen. He will then switch to fat and direct fatty acids into the liver to break them down to ketones for energy.In order to “start” the use of fat as a fuel in your body, you must clearly follow the food intake schedule from the list of low-carb foods.

The body cannot survive only on ketone bodies

Now we have some basic knowledge over what is a ketone body. But can our body survive only with ketone bodies? No. Lets discuss this as well.

In order for the cell to use the citric acid cycle and oxidative phosphorylation for energy production, it must have mitochondria and various specific enzymes. However, every cell in the body does not have both.

For example, red blood cells do not have mitochondria, and there is no enzyme in the liver cells called CoA transferase. Therefore, these cells need glucose for their energy supply. 

The body cannot survive only on ketone bodies does not mean that we must eat carbohydrates for our liver and red blood cells in order to survive

The liver has another way of making sugar. And in a following section we will discuss how gluconeogenesis works along with ketogenesis. Before that lets know what are the benefits of ketone bodies. It is very important to know as you have gone through what is a ketone body.

What are the benefits of ketone bodies

In addition to the advantages described above, ketone bodies have additional health benefits which is important to know if you are planning to start your keto journey or alreday in your keto journey. You will understand how to use the benefits of ketone bodies:

  • Source of fast and stable energy

Ketones enter the liver directly and are quickly processed in it, unlike “slow” glucose traveling through the entire digestive system. That’s why when you use fat-containing foods, you very quickly – in just a few minutes – “charge your batteries” and you won’t wait for hours for an influx of energy.

ketone bodies are sources of fast and stable energy

Much less often, new meals are required, prolonged fasting (for those who practice it) is easier to tolerate when your body has adapted to processing fat and producing ketones. For this reason, during adaptation to fat, “interval starvation” is well perceived by the body.

This is the concept behind fat fasting which helps a lot to reach ketosis.

  • Such a source of energy makes you slim

This is the key reason you are here to know what is a ketone body.

Ketones do not form “storage rooms” in the body, unlike glucose. With excess, excreted in the urine, they are not stored in the form of fat folds on the sides and waist, which by itself ensures harmony for practitioners with such a diet.

ketone bodies are a source of energy makes you slim

The above applies to ketones of exogenous origin (produced not in one’s own body, but brought in from an external synthetic source). The ketone supplements that make up the ketogenic diet give the body the necessary energy, and the excess is excreted through the urine.

  • Strengthen and improve brain function

Ketones are also a quick source of fuel for the brain, due to the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. They also have a beneficial effect on cognitive processes by increasing the number of cellular mitochondria in the brain.

According to several studies, ketones are involved in the prevention of Alzheimer’s and dementia. They promote energy metabolism and recovery from ischemic stroke by restoring the levels of glutamate and glutamine in the brain due to the carbon they produce.

  • Normalize blood sugar and regulate weight

Due to ketones, the need for insulin decreases – the glycemic reaction improves because carbohydrates are excluded from consumption. Therefore, there is no spasmodic increase in blood sugar, the risk of diabetes is reduced. The restriction in glucose intake eliminates fat accumulation and excess weight.

ketone bodies normalise blood sugar
  • Prevent inflammation

The anti-inflammatory effect observed with a ketogenic diet is explained by a decrease in the production of reactive oxygen species (RFC) in ketosis, as well as the lack of glucose in the diet, since it is sugar that often causes inflammation. According to some studies, ketones act as antioxidants, block free radicals, and prevent inflammatory diseases.

ketone bodies prevent inflammation
  • Heals the heart

Ketones make up for heart failure by supplementing it with energy – studies conducted in 2016 showed this result. It turns out that fatty acids are necessary for the normalisation of cardiac activity.

ketone bodies heal the heart

How to measure ketone bodies

To measure the amount of ketones in the blood and respiration, standard ketone counters are used, and for urine test strips.

Ketogenesis and gluconeogenesis work together

While fatty acid is converted from fat to ketones, glycerol is converted to glucose during gluconeogenesis. This is a normal metabolic process that creates glucose from amino acids in a protein, lactate from muscles and glycerin from fatty acids.

During fasting or carbohydrate restriction, gluconeogenesis keeps blood sugar levels healthy and provides energy for the liver and red blood cells, while ketogenesis (burning ketones for fuel) is used to provide energy to the brain, heart, kidneys, muscles, and other aerobic cells.

The link between ketogenesis and gluconeogenesis is essential for understanding ketogenic diets, but why?

Because if you do not eat enough protein, your muscle tissue will burn to make glucose necessary for your body. On the other hand, if you eat too much protein, your body will never get into deep ketosis.

However, even if you get your entire macronutrient rate, your body will not immediately increase the production of ketones. In fact, it takes up to three days for your body to get into ketosis (without the help of exogenous ketone bodies).

Exogenous ketones – what is it? Are they worth it?

The whole article we are talking about what is a ketone body which is endogenous ketone bodies that are made by the body. However, you can also use exogenous ketones to send your body into ketosis, without waiting for your liver to make ketones.

The only true exogenous ketones on the market today are natural ketone salts that combine acetoacetate or BHB with sodium, potassium and / or calcium. KetoForce, KetoCaNa and Keto OS are the most popular ketones on the market, but do they work?

Studies of ketone salts are rare, but they appear to actually increase the level of ketone. In studies conducted during fasting, the ketone salt of sodium acetoacetate was administered via a dropper. This led to an increase in the overall level of ketones by 47% -92%. However, endogenous ketone production decreased to 67% -90% of the normal fasting rate.

What does this mean for you?

The use of ketone salts is likely to increase the level of ketones, but this may not be very useful with long-term ketogenic diets. This is due to the fact that the absorption of ketones leads to an increase in the level of ketones, which in turn leads to the fact that the liver stops the production of ketones. In other words, taking ketone supplements will inhibit your body’s own production of ketones.

If your goal is to be in long-term ketosis, then exogenous ketones are not the best choice. However, there is another supplement that can help increase the production of endogenous ketones – MCT. With this supplement, your liver will naturally begin to burn more ketones to produce fuel immediately (and much cheaper than exogenous ketones).

How to increase the production of ketone bodies without negative consequences?

As you are here to learn what is a ketone body, you also have to know how to increase the production of ketone bodies in your body without negative consequences.

Although they are not ketones, medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) can be broken down into ketone bodies in the liver, it does not matter if you are in ketosis or not.

MCT is saturated fat that is different from any other saturated fat. Most of the saturated fats we consume pass through the lymph in the heart and muscles, leaving residues in your liver that can be converted to ketone bodies.

These ketone boosting fats are found in coconut, coconut milk and coconut oil, but the most effective way to consume MCT is to use MCT as an oil.

what is a ketone body

How to choose MCT oil?  As you have understood what is a ketone body, you can choose the best MCT oil to produce ketone bodies. The best MCT oil to choose is that contains exclusively medium chain triglyceride called caprylic acid (C-8 medium chain triglyceride). Caprylic acid is known to process into ketones faster and easier than other types of medium chain triglycerides.

However, if you cannot afford the more expensive caprylic acid, any other MCT oil will do.

The correct dosage of MCT oil is required. If you drink too much and too fast, you are likely to experience digestive problems. That is why it is important to choose a dosage that increases your energy level without any side effects. Then you can either stick to this dose or increase it slowly.

An important warning is that MCT supplementation cannot help diabetics. Studies in rats have shown that supplementation with MCT oil can be detrimental to the health of rats that have problems regulating blood sugar. These data may indicate that supplementation with MCT oil may increase the likelihood of ketoacidosis in people with diabetes.

To summarize

We hope now you have a clear idea on what is a ketone body. Due to the rapid metabolism, ketone bodies quickly supply the body with energy. They are better than carbohydrates and a more efficient source of heat. 

Ketone bodies heal internal organs, improve brain activity, give clarity of mind and a surge of strength. If you do not have contraindications, it is worth trying a ketogenic diet in order to first-hand experience its advantages for you.

Have questions? Ask in the comments 🙂

See you soon


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