What is Ketosis?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ketosis is a state where the body is burning fat for energy and generating high levels of ketone bodies in the blood as a result. These compounds are the result of the breakdown of fatty acids, and while they are always present in the body, their levels are elevated in people who have reached this state. Substantial research has been done on how people reach this point and what happens metabolically. There is some debate about whether or not ketosis is potentially dangerous or even beneficial for some people.

When fatty acids are broken down in the body, ketones are formed.
When fatty acids are broken down in the body, ketones are formed.

The body's metabolism works to balance the energy needs of the body by using stored energy from food. One of the preferred forms of energy is glucose. In people who eat a low carbohydrate diet with limited glucose sources, the body starts to burn fat for energy instead. In this process, ketone bodies are produced as a byproduct, and if the diet persists, the person will enter ketosis. People in this state usually have slightly fruity breath and dark urine, a reflection of the ketone bodies being expressed in their breath and urine.

Someone with ketosis commonly has fruity breath.
Someone with ketosis commonly has fruity breath.

The conversion of fat for energy means that once people enter this state and maintain it for several days, their reserves of fat begin to be burned away. In people who are trying to lose weight, this is a very desirable outcome. People interested in losing weight should consult a medical professional about diet and exercise options to develop a plan, including permanent lifestyle changes, that will be effective for them.

Research on historic humans suggests that ketosis was probably a common state for many early human societies. Hunter-gatherer societies would have eaten a meat-heavy diet with fewer sources of carbohydrates than the modern diet. The body adapted the ability to use fat for energy for a reason, and some researchers feel that this state is not necessarily harmful, even though it mimics starvation metabolically. As long as people are receiving all the nutrients they need and monitoring their health, this state can be created and maintained to lose weight or to control epilepsy, two common reasons people eat a ketogenic diet.

In certain people, this state can turn into ketoacidosis. This is dangerous, as it means that the blood is becoming acidic and the person could be exposed to the risk of serious complications. Generally, people with a history of alcoholism or diabetes are at risk for this condition. These individuals are not good candidates for ketogenic diets and they must monitor themselves for the early warning signs of ketosis so that they can avoid becoming ill.

Excessive alcohol consumption can cause ketoacidosis.
Excessive alcohol consumption can cause ketoacidosis.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Starjo: Just do a 6 or 7 day fast drinking water and a good beef bullion and maybe a glass of mango juice every eight hours and you will lose your 10 pounds. After about 36 hours,you will lose the hunger enzyme and not feel hungry. I recently went days and lost 22 pounds. It sounds hard but is not really. Just research fasting and check it out.


@StarJo – I fell in love with the ketosis diet plan, and now, I use the recipes every night. I am a big fan of the grilled chicken and asparagus meal.

If you have a grill, all you do is coat the chicken in vegetable oil and grill it until it's done. You can grill the asparagus the same way. I put it all on a bed of spinach and sundried tomatoes when it's done.

It's a very light way to eat, and though it may seem like not enough food at first, you will be surprised by how filling it really is. Your body is getting what it needs, and that is all it really takes to make you feel satiated.


@StarJo – A lot of ketosis food dishes use chicken and turkey, along with vegetables. I hope you are a fan of one of these meats.

My favorite ketosis recipe is Cajun turkey and vegetables. It's really easy to make.

The vegetables are served raw. Chop up an avocado, some celery, and a cucumber and serve them as a side dish.

Get a turkey steak and smother it with Cajun seasoning. Cook it until you see clear liquid when you stab it with a knife.


Does anyone know of any special ketosis recipes I could try? I've really been struggling to lose ten pounds for the past year, and I haven't had much luck. I got stuck after I lost four pounds, and I just need to get those last six off of my body.


Some people who are striving to reach ketosis for weight loss try using raspberry ketone. This pill contains a compound found in raspberries that somehow helps you break down your own fat faster.

When I first heard this, I wondered why people didn't just eat raspberries instead of paying for the expensive pills. Then I learned that a person would have to consume a ridiculous and impossible amount of raspberries per day to get the same effect.

My dad is fifty pounds overweight, and he has just started taking raspberry ketone. If it works for him, I might give it a shot.

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