What is Beta-Hydroxybutyrate?

Ketones are organic compounds that can be used as energy sources, there are two main types of ketones that can be used.

They are called Acetoacetate and Beta Hydroxybutyrate.

There is also a third ketone known as Acetone but this only makes up 2% of the ketones in your blood. Acetocetate makes up 20% and Beta Hydroxybutyrate makes up 78% [1].

When your body is deprived of carbohydrates it increases production of Acetoacetate which it uses instead of glycogen. The Acetoacetate is turned into Beta Hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and used for fuel. This is great for anyone who is on a low or no-carb diet (where your carb intake is lower than 20g per day).

Technically BHB is not a ketone, it just behaves like one – getting converted into energy just like Acetoacetate and Acetone.

There are two types of ketone, exogenous and endogenous. Endogenous means that the ketone was produced by the body (in the liver to be specific), while Exogenous means that the ketone was produced outside the body and taken as a supplement.

When you take an exogenous Ketone supplement it will immediately provide the body with ketones that can be used for fuel.

Remember to see any benefits you need to be in a ketogenic state, this is where you are consuming almost no carbohydrates whatsoever (~less than 20). If you are consuming carbohydrates and are therefore not ketogenic then taking Exogenous ketones will provide no real benefits.

Benefits of Beta Hydroxybutyrate

BHB has quite a few benefits, though the evidence can be a little mixed. Some studies indicate vast benefits to supplementation while in ketosis, while others find very little.

A lot of people take exogenous ketones such as BHB to help them lose weight.

There does seem to be some evidence that supplementing with exogenous ketones can help to suppress appetite.

A study by Kesl et al (2016) found that exogenous ketones could help reduce weight in rats, possibly due to appetite suppression [2]. Obviously this was not done on humans, so we cannot be certain that the results would be the same.

Another benefit of exogenous ketone supplementation is improved cognition, it may help to improve memory. Quite a few studies have shown exogenous ketones to help people who are suffering from impaired memory, particularly a 2004 study by Reger et al [3]. It may also help Alzheimer’s patients.

There may also be anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits to exogenous ketone use, and protection of the mind/memory from harm. All in all there are quite a few benefits to taking BHB provided that you are following a ketogenic diet.

The Bottom Line

BHB as a supplement has some benefits for anyone who is on a ketogenic diet, but remember that the body will naturally produce ketones in response to entering ketosis. This means that supplementation may not always be necessary, but helpful.

Adding low doses of BHB is completely harmless and could be very beneficial, but try not to get carried away. It is unlikely that you could ingest anything near toxic levels, but it is still prudent to be conservative.

 

References

[1] http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Clinical+and+Interpretive/9251

[2] Kesl, S., Poff, A., Ward, N., Fiorelli, T., Ari, C., Van Putten, A., Sherwood, J., Arnold, P., D’Agostino, D. 2016. Effects of exogenous ketone supplementation on blood ketone, glucose, triglyceride, and lipoprotein levels in Sprague-Dawley rats. Nutrition & Metabolism (Lond). 13:9 (link) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4743170/

[3] Reger, M., Henderson, S., Hale, C., Cholerton, B., Baker, L., Watson, G., Hyde, K., Chapman, D., Craft, S. 2004. Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults. Neurobiology of Aging 25(3): 311-4 (link) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15123336

 

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