What is a Ketone Body
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What is a Ketone Body? How is it Produced?

If you’ve heard of the keto diet, you should be more or less familiar with the ketone body. So, what exactly is a ketone body? How does it come about? Today let’s talk about the ketogenic trivia you didn’t know.

Whether you’re on a ketogenic diet, a low-carb diet, a high-carb diet, a vegetarian diet, or intermittent fasting ……., everyone has ketone bodies in their body. Ketone bodies are special intermediates produced by the normal breakdown of fatty acids in the liver and consist mainly of

  • Acetoacetic Acid: detectable in urine
  • β-hydroxybutyric Acid: present in large amounts in the blood
  • Small Amounts of Acetone: excreted from breath, sweat, and urine

Exclusively breastfed newborns enter the ketogenic state within 12 hours after birth when ketone bodies provide about 25% of the energy requirements.

In addition to this, 10% of the fat in full-term breast milk consists of medium-chain fatty acids (MCTs), which are converted directly into ketone bodies in the liver. This suggests that ketone bodies play an important role from the time we are born, if not before!

On top of that, our ancestors spent most of their lives in a ketogenic state. If our early ancestors had not evolved the ability to utilize ketone bodies, then we humans would have been eliminated from evolutionary history long ago

If your diet is predominantly carbohydrate based, that is, if you typically eat grains (rice, noodles, buns, etc.), then the starch in the grains is hydrolyzed in your body into glucose, which is burned off into your cells with the help of insulin as a source of energy for your daily activities. As a result, your blood sugar levels will naturally fluctuate, being highest after a meal and lowest before the next meal.

Even so, because your diet must contain some fat, you will have a small amount of free fatty acids in your blood, which are broken down by your liver into ketone bodies.

  • Blood ketone bodies are typically below 0.2 mmol/L in people on a normal diet.
  • After an overnight fast, blood ketone bodies will reach 0.5 mmol/L in the morning on an empty stomach.
  • After prolonged aerobic exercise, blood ketones will reach 2.5 to 3.5 mmol/L.
  • After prolonged starvation, blood ketone bodies will reach between 3.0 and 6.0 mmol/L.
How is Ketone Body Produced

How is Ketone Body Produced?

In a normal diet or a diet high in carbohydrates, the body uses glucose as the body’s primary source of energy.

However, when the diet is low in carbohydrates (the main source of blood sugar) and moderate amounts of protein (too much protein is converted to blood sugar), ketone bodies are produced and fat is used as the main source of energy.

This process may occur at night, during dieting, or fasting. In these cases, insulin levels are low, but both glucagon and adrenaline levels are relatively normal. This synergistic presence of low insulin and relatively normal glucagon and epinephrine levels results in the release of fat from fat cells.

In this case, the fat does not enter the cells directly but is first broken down by the liver into smaller molecules of ketone bodies, which then enter the bloodstream and act like glucose as a source of energy for the body. This is for the same reason that the body cannot use starch directly as fuel; it must first be broken down into glucose.

Since the brain cannot use fat directly as a source of energy, ketone bodies can cross the blood-brain barrier and be used by the brain to treat brain disorders. This state of ketone body production is known as “ketosis”. Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the liver converts moderate amounts of fat into ketone bodies, which are released into the bloodstream when the body is extremely hungry or has a very low carbohydrate intake.

The body is considered to be in a state of ketosis when it produces enough ketone bodies to detect significant levels in the blood (usually above 0.5 mM). The fastest way to enter a state of ketosis is too fast, but this is not a permanently viable method.

The most viable method is to use a keto diet, which puts the body into a “nutritional ketogenic state” for the purpose of treating the disease or losing weight.