You have probably heard about the ketogenic diet. It consists of a low carbohydrate intake, and many healthy fats. By complying with this regimen, the body enters a state called ketosis that increases ketones in the blood, chemical compounds that use stored fat as an energy source , which facilitates weight loss.
Although the diet is quite effective, it can be difficult to maintain and that is why we talk about exogenous ketone supplements , which produce a state of ketosis in the body without a change in diet, but do they work to lose weight? Let’s find out
How does the ketosis process work?
When you do not follow a diet, your carbohydrate intake is high and your main source of energy is glucose. However, when you are under a ketogenic diet, your body must look for other fuels, such as fat, generating a change in metabolism and producing the state of ketosis .
Fasting and intense exercise cause mild ketosis. During these lapses, ketones are produced in the body such as beta-hydroxybutyrate, acetoacetate and acetone (in smaller quantities, McPherson and McEneny, 2012).
The ketone bodies are responsible for replacing glucose as an energy source and serve as fuel for the heart, brain and muscles. They are also linked to the decrease in weight when doing the ketogenic diet .
How to get the body to obtain ketones?
There are two ways by which the body gets ketones:
- Endogenous, which consists of the natural production of ketone.
- Exogenous, based on the acquisition of ketones through an external provider.
In that sense, the ketones contained in the dietary supplements are exogenous ketones and, unlike the endogenous ones, only have the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate.
Types of exogenous ketone supplements
There are two classes of exogenous ketones : the ketone salts and the ketone esters.
The former are ketones linked to a salt , usually sodium, potassium, calcium or magnesium. They tend to appear more regularly in powder and mixed with liquid. On the other hand, ketonic esters are ketones bound to a compound called an ester and often present in liquid form. This type of supplements is more difficult to acquire than salts, since it is used mainly for research purposes.
Different studies have shown that both forms of supplements increase ketones in the blood as would follow the ketogenic diet (Hashim and Vanltallie, 2014). Similarly, a test showed that consumption of approximately 12 g of ketone salts increased blood ketone levels by 300% (James and Kjerulf Greer, 2018). This increase certifies that exogenous ketones work to enter ketosis and lose weight.
There are people who use both diet and supplements to reach the state of ketosis faster, reducing the unpleasant effects of the diet: constipation, headache, muscle cramps, diarrhea and bad breath.
Benefits of exogenous ketones
The exogenous ketones could be linked to decreased appetite , helping you lose weight. A study conducted in 15 people, under an overnight fast, showed that after drinking a drink containing ketone esters, their appetite was reduced by 50% (Stubbs et al., 2017).
The appetite reduction was attributed to the low levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone , that the participants had by fasting and the ketone ester drink. On the other hand, the research showed that supplements may be less effective if the person is not fasting, since blood ketone levels are higher in those who take supplements without having eaten in advance (Stubbs et al., 2017)
In that sense, taking ketone supplements in the morning before eating will be more effective in increasing blood ketones compared to when ingested after a meal with carbohydrates.
Are exogenous ketones recommended for weight loss?
Although exogenous ketones are related to decreased appetite, it is still unknown if they are really effective for weight loss. Therefore, they can not currently recommend weight loss, since, on the contrary, there is evidence that they could interfere in the process.
Do ketones have calories?
Each gram of ketone contains four calories, and one serving has less than 100 calories. For this reason, several portions of exogenous ketones should be consumed daily so that your body can use them as an energy source and prolong the state of ketosis.
Side effects of exogenous ketones
Although ketone supplements serve to increase the amounts of ketone in the body, long-term contraindications are still unknown. On the other hand, there are a number of side effects of which there is evidence:
- They produce a bad taste in the mouth and bad breath.
- They can cause vomiting, diarrhea and upset stomach.
- They can provide high amounts of non-recommended minerals.
Different studies certify that exogenous ketones lead the body to a state of ketosis as a ketogenic diet would, and may also contribute to a reduction in appetite. However, its consumption is not advised for weight loss, since more research is needed to determine its true effectiveness and side effects in the long term.