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BHB is one of three ketones the body produces during states of fasting or through low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets.
In both contexts, the body naturally changes its primary source of energy from glucose (provided by carbohydrates) to stored fat.
Fat is broken down and BHB is formed. It provides an alternate energy source for every part of the body, including the brain.
Beta-hydroxybutyrate is so special because of what it can do when our accessible calories from carbs run low. These calories may run low for a number of different reasons that include exercise, fasting, caloric restriction, or following a special diet plan like the keto diet. But when they do run low, BHB levels increase in the brain, heart, muscles, and other tissue.
Technically speaking, beta hydroxybutyrate is NOT a legitimate ketone body. Ketone bodies, or ketones are technically molecules with carbonyl carbons which are bonded to two additional carbon atoms. One carbon has four available bonds. When that carbon is double bonded to oxygen and also has two single bonds to carbon, we have a ketone body. If you have a carbon atom that is double bonded to an oxygen (carbonyl group), which is also bound to an -OH group instead of two different carbon atoms, that would be a carboxylic acid, but that really doesn’t matter in this case. For all intents and purposes of the ketogenic diet, betahydroxybutyrate should be considered one of the three ketone bodies and a “ketone” nonetheless. Your body uses BHB pimarily for energy in the state of ketosis, so it’s a ketone, okay?
Though research involving ketone supplements is still in the early stages, it seems promising. One study published in February 2018 in Obesity suggests exogenous ketone esters lower hunger hormones and act as appetite suppressors. That can lead to weight loss because “if we don’t feel hungry, gosh, we probably aren’t going to eat like we were,” Griffin says.
Another study published in February 2018 in the Journal of Physiology found drinking a ketone ester supplement may lower blood sugar. The study was done on healthy individuals but could be helpful if similar results were found among people with type 2 diabetes.
When carbs are drastically restricted while fasting or following the keto diet, insulin levels are lowered, allowing for fat to be released from fat (adipose) tissue and steady weight loss to occur.
Ketones can also help improve energy output, physical performance and recovery (once keto flu symptoms subside). And exercise, especially vigorous and endurance types, increases the update of ketone bodies, which further supports fat burning. (3)
Taking exogenous ketones by way of betahydroxybutryate supplementation will rapidly get you into ketosis and force your body to start using a sustained energy source of fat breakdown. This essentially skips the whole “carb flu” and few day period where you have to restrict carbohydrates
Being in ketosis all of the time is great and all, but there are some other times where you want to load your body up with some ketone bodies like betahydroxybutyrate. Some of the times when you would take a supplemental or exogenous ketone supplement would be:
– Before a workout for performance enhancement
– Daily for enhanced levels of ketosis and overall health benefits
– After a carbohydrate laden meal to get back into ketosis
– In the morning for a mental boost
– On an empty stomach to suppress hunger
High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects around a third of adults in the United States and is increasingly affecting younger people, too.
The condition is a potentially dangerous health problem that raises the risk of heart disease and stroke, which are two leading causes of death in the U.S.
For the recent study, the scientists fed rats 1,3-butanediol, which enzymes in the liver convert to beta-hydroxybutyrate, before it travels to the kidneys.
They observed that when it reached the kidneys, the beta-hydroxybutyrate reduced inflammation, which in turn lowered blood pressure significantly.
“By fixing the kidney,” Prof. Joe explains, “it is indirectly contributing to the lowering of blood pressure.”
Studies suggest that BHB benefits when it pertains to cognitive/mental health include improving memory, focus, attention, physical performance and learning; lowering free radical damage; reducing inflammation and risk for cognitive decline in older adults; protecting against and treating epilepsy and neurodegnerative diseases; and reducing risk for mood-related disorders, such as depression. (6, 7, 8, 9)
Ketones can help reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases — such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and Parkinson’s — by reducing oxidative stress in the brain and protecting brain cells (especially the mitochondria), neurons and synapses. Ketones also seem to help reduce accumulation of the molecule called amyloid-β, which has been associated with development of diseases, including Alzheimer’s. When glucose is not available, the brain becomes very receptive and responsive to ketone bodies, especially BHB, which it absorbs readily (roughly at the pace of 0.032 mmol/kg per minute). (10)
The heart’s preferred energy source is long-chain fatty acids. That’s right — your heart burns fat, not ketones, as its primary fuel source.
However, just like the brain, your heart can adapt remarkably well to ketones if needed.
Studies have found that, while burning BHB, heart health will improve in many ways:
- Mechanical efficiency of the heart can increase by up to 30%
- Blood flow can increase by up to 75%.
- Oxidative stress in the heart cells decreases.
Altogether, this means that BHB may be the best fuel for your heart.
A chemical that turns into beta-hydroxybutyrate in the body, called 3-hydroxybutyl-3-hydoxybutyrate, is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken daily for up to 5 days. Some people might have stomach upset, diarrhea, constipation, and stomach pain. These side effects are more likely to happen when very high doses are used.
The appropriate dose of beta-hydroxybutyrate depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for beta-hydroxybutyrate. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.