Research on ketone supplementation dates back to the early 1940s when scientists showed that beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and acetoacetate (AcAc), two of the three types of ketone bodies, improved oxygen efficiency and sperm motility in animals. The 1950s and ‘60s saw an explosion of research investigating the effects of ketone infusions on blood glucose and insulin in animals and humans. Currently, there are multiple, pilot and full-scale studies being conducted on exogenous ketones, and the numerous benefits produced by elevating ketone bodies via supplementation.
Here is a summary of the key scientific facts:
- Ketones are the most energy-efficient fuel, yielding more ATP than glycolysis. For instance, pyruvate (end-glycolytic substrate) produces 10 ATP while BHB yields 13 ATP. In other words, ketones yield 30% more cellular energy with less oxidative stress.[2,3]
- Ketones, as the most energy-efficient fuel, may be beneficial for the brain and muscles in times of stress, such as during exercise.[4,5]
- Elevation of ketone bodies increases the redox span between complex I and complex II of the mitochondrial electron transport chain (by reducing the mitochondrial NAD couple and oxidizing the coenzyme Q couple).
- Supplemental ketones may mimic the benefits experienced with elevated levels of endogenous ketones produced with reduced carbohydrate intake (i.e., ketogenic dieting) or prolonged fasting by:
- Increasing satiety, thus to improve body composition.
- Increasing brown adipose tissue (BAT), which increases energy expenditure and may provide a “metabolic advantage”.
- Improving cognitive performance (e.g., better clarity, focus, energy).