What is Ketogenesis?

Summer Banks

Ketogenesis is the release of ketones into the body when fat is broken down for energy. When carbohydrate stores are exhausted, cells turn to fat cells for fuel. These fat cells break down and release energy, and ketones are the by-product of that breakdown. Acetoacetate and acetone are usually also released.

Ketogenesis may occur as a result of a diabetic diet.
Ketogenesis may occur as a result of a diabetic diet.

Breaking down fat as a source of energy is generally not a normal energy production process. Carbohydrate stores in cells are replenished when carbohydrates are eaten. Eliminating carbohydrate intake for dietary or health reasons may significantly reduce these stores, leading to ketogenesis. Low carbohydrate diets and diabetic diets are two common forms of ketogenic diet.

Ketones tend to have a sweet smell on the breath.
Ketones tend to have a sweet smell on the breath.

Low carbohydrate diets are used as a form of weight loss for some dieters. Popular versions will often reduce intake of simple and complex carbohydrates to the point where cells quickly use up all energy stores. When the body starts to break down fat for energy, ketones are released as a result of ketogenesis. As long as carbohydrate levels remain low, fat stores will continue to be used for energy needs in excess of carbohydrate intake.

Urine testing can reveal whether a patient has high levels of ketones.
Urine testing can reveal whether a patient has high levels of ketones.

Diabetic diets may also result in ketogenesis. Another name for carbohydrate energy is glucose. Glucose can be regulated with a controlled carbohydrate diet. Reaction to lower carbohydrate levels in a diabetic diet is often the same as a low carbohydrate diet used for weight loss. Patients trying to regulate blood glucose levels may choose a ketogenic diet.

Not to be confused with ketogenesis, ketoacidosis is often caused by alcohol abuse.
Not to be confused with ketogenesis, ketoacidosis is often caused by alcohol abuse.

Ketones may be released either through exhaling acetone or during urination. Ketones tend to have a sweet smell on the breath. Passing ketones out of the body through urination or exhaling is not known to cause health problems. Increased water intake is often needed to flush acetone from the body.

Ketogenesis is not the same as ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is typically associated with alcoholism and diabetes. This condition can result in kidney failure and death if left untreated. Ketoacidosis is a severe form of ketosis that can cause blood pH levels to drop below 7.2. There are no known cases of ketogenesis causing a drop in blood pH levels.

Debate over effects of ketogenesis on the body has resulted in several medical research teams evaluating effects of ketosis on cholesterol levels, overall health, and weight loss. As of 2010, ketogenesis has been found to be a healthy reaction in the body. No negative health-related side effects have been associated with cells using fat for energy in place of carbohydrate stores.

A ketogenic diet is typically rich in protein and low in carbohydrates.
A ketogenic diet is typically rich in protein and low in carbohydrates.

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Discussion Comments

anon999564

I have been on the ketogenic diet for 5 months and lost 35lbs. I do daily intermittent fasting as well. It has been life changing. I feel 40 again (I’m currently 55). I feel more energetic, have more clarity of thought, sleep better, and have generally a more positive attitude. My productivity at work has improved because I have more joy in my life in general. It has been written that excess carbs in our western diet speeds cognitive decline. There are discussions now that a ketogenic diet can prevent cancer. It is used as an adjunct to cancer treatment/chemotherapy.

anon962905

I would disagree with the statement "Breaking down fat as a source of energy is generally not a normal energy production process." That would be true if you define "normal" as being the standard American diet that has caused rampant obesity.

I also disagree with one of the statements that weight returns while on the keto/Atkins/LCHF diet. Weight returns after losing weight on the low carb diet and then reverting to the aforementioned high carbohydrate SAD.

SkyWhisperer

@NathanG - I tried it myself for awhile and did lose some weight. However, I couldn’t stand the bloated feeling from eating entirely high protein and fatty foods. It allows for salads so I took advantage of that but by nature I’m not a big meat eater. Maybe I’ll try a modified version of the diet using beans and complex carbohydrates and see how that goes.

NathanG

@miriam98 - Atkins is probably the biggest ketogenic diet on the market, and it does work, although the medical profession has been slow to acknowledge this.

They did eventually come out with a series of studies validating the effectiveness of the diet. I think, however, the jury’s out on the long term effects of the diet, with some people saying that the weight eventually comes back on.

miriam98

Some people recommend the ketogenic diet for people with epilepsy. They say that a high fat diet reduces seizures in these patients although I am not clear as to the medical explanation. And from what I recall, I believe this is recommended for children and not adults.

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