Article authored by Readout Health with editorial oversight from Chief Medical Officer, Naomi Parrella, M.D.
If you’re in the know when it comes to the latest, hottest health trends, you’ve no doubt come across the concept of “fat burn.” A state of fat burn is the metabolic process in which the body switches from using glucose, or sugar, as its main fuel source to using fat. When the body senses low levels of available glucose, either from fasting, from carb restricted diets, or by prolonged intense exercise, the liver breaks down fatty acids to produce ketone bodies. Ketone bodies, or simply ketones, are then released into the blood to be transported into tissues to be used for energy. Transitioning into and out of a fat burn state as needed, a capability called metabolic flexibility, has served as a vital survival mechanism for the earliest humans during periods when food wasn’t always readily available.
Burning fat for your fuel may sound ideal if your goal is to shed some extra weight. But scientists have discovered that being in a state of fat burn, commonly known as ketosis, offers metabolic adaptations that may lead to a growing number of other therapeutic benefits, as well.
In fact, intentionally inducing ketosis for the sake of health is nothing new. Ketosis has been successfully used for over 100 years in the management of childhood epilepsy, and more recently, clinicians have used this metabolic process as a complement or as first-line therapy to treat specific conditions.
Which health conditions might ketosis help treat?
As researchers continue to examine the medically therapeutic potential of ketosis, emerging evidence suggests that ketosis may already be a safe and effective modality of treatment for particular conditions.
Having obesity elevates the risk of developing blood sugar conditions like insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. Clinicians have used ketosis, a metabolic state that can manage blood glucose and decrease insulin concentrations, to assist their patients with obesity in losing weight. One study followed the weight outcomes of 45 participants with obesity after following either a regular diet or a ketogenic diet. After two years, the participants who followed the ketogenic diet lost an average 27 lbs and shed more belly fat compared to those who ate a regular diet, who only lost less than 10 lbs. Another recent study saw significant weight loss among participants with overweight or obesity after following a 24-week low carbohydrate, ketosis-inducing diet, where body weight and BMI decreased by 14.6% and waist circumference dropped by 12.4%. Additionally, at the end of the 24 weeks, a third of the participants achieved a normal weight, and the number of participants in the obese category was reduced from 70% to 16.7%.
Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions – high blood sugar, excess belly fat, increased blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels – that occur together that elevate the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. People with metabolic syndrome are insulin resistant, which means their muscle, fat, and liver cells don’t respond appropriately to insulin, which makes it more difficult for them to take up glucose from the blood. insulin sensitivity can be improved through ketosis which improves metabolic syndrome . A study published in 2017 indicated just that, finding that adults with metabolic disease who followed a ketogenic diet for 10 weeks saw a significant positive impact in their weight loss, body fat loss, and blood sugar levels when compared with people who followed a regular diet, with or without exercise. Research from 2018 also found a link between following a ketosis-inducing diet with improved inflammatory and metabolic markers, as well as fasting insulin and glucose levels. The authors attributed the effectiveness of ketones to improve the symptoms of metabolic syndrome to their ability to promote weight loss, increase satiety, and decrease hunger.
Type 2 diabetes
The main contributing factor of type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance. When you eat and drink less carbs, your blood glucose levels may not spike so high, which means less insulin is secreted. When your insulin is low, your body burns more fat for energy rather than glucose. Keeping blood sugars stable may prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. For people who have type 2 diabetes, studies show that following a very low carb diet can be an effective way to manage and treat the condition and even lead to less medications. One such study demonstrated that not only did a ketosis-inducing diet improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes by 16%, decrease the average body weight by 6.6%, and fasting triglycerides lowered by 42% after only 16 weeks, but 7 out of the 20 participants were able to discontinue their diabetes medications entirely, and 10 were able to reduce their medications.
And when compared with a reduced calorie diet, a ketogenic diet appears to win out when it comes to improving type 2 diabetes markers. Forty-two study subjects with obesity and type 2 diabetes were fed either a lower calorie diet or a low carb ketogenic diet over 24 weeks. While improvements were seen in both groups, the low carb ketogenic group saw even more significant, positive changes in their hemoglobin A1c, weight loss, and HDL cholesterol. In fact, 95% of the ketogenic group were able to reduce or eliminate their diabetes medications, while only 62% of the lower calorie group could do so.
Researchers are only beginning to understand the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease, the world’s leading cause of dementia, attributing the neurodegenerative disease to changes in the brain that cause the loss of neurons and the way they’re connected. Emerging evidence suggests that ketosis may have a potential neuroprotective effect on aging brain cells, where ketones may reduce inflammation and strengthen mitochondrial function in the brain. Ketones provide the brain with an alternative, more efficient energy source compared to glucose, and are believed to stabilize the brain’s nerve connections, while glucose weakens them. Ketones may also boost brain health by encouraging nerve cell growth. A 2021 study followed 26 Alzheimer’s patients who followed a 12-week ketogenic diet to observe whether improvements in daily function, cognition, and quality of life were seen when compared to patients who followed a regular diet. After 12 weeks, the ketogenic group reported a higher quality of life, and were able to perform their activities of daily living better.
A word about ketosis as therapy
Clinical evidence for ketogenic therapy is ongoing and increasingly being explored as a treatment option for an array of other health conditions. The “dose” or concentration of ketosis required to treat any one condition will depend on the disease and takes into account a patient’s age, weight, gender, diet, and severity of disease. Before starting a ketosis regimen, consult with your healthcare provider who will advise you on whether doing so will be safe and effective for you.
Ketosis is not the keto diet
Ketosis and the keto diet are often uttered in the same breath, and while it’s true that a low carb ketogenic diet can induce ketosis, it is possible to achieve ketosis without following a keto diet – or any diet at all.
No one way of eating works for everyone. You were born with an inherently unique metabolism that processes nutrients in its own way and is affected by your environment. What is considered “too many carbs” for one person won’t necessarily mean “too many carbs” for another. With a bit of experience, you will quickly determine what works for you, for your own, one-of-a-kind metabolism.
Which foods keep me on track? And which cause me to deviate? When should I eat? And for how long should I fast? What time of day should I work out? How long and how intensely should I be exercising? There are all questions you’ll be asking. And with Biosense, you’ll find the answers.
How Biosense can help
When inducing ketosis in order to achieve any health benefit – whether it be for weight loss, improved sleep, a boost in energy, lower inflammation, or higher cognitive performance – regular and consistent ketone measurement will be key. You’ll want to keep close tabs on your ketones throughout the day to make sure you’re maintaining the level that you need to get the results that you want. By breathing into your Biosense device, you have the ability to measure the depth and duration of your ketosis, also known as your Ketone Dose. Your Ketone Dose is a simple calculation based on your daily measured ACEs that indicates how long and how deeply you’ve remained in ketosis on any given day. For example, let’s say you’ve maintained an ACEs score of 5 for 24 hours. Your Ketone Dose would then be 5 x 24 = 120. Your Ketone Dose gives you critical insight because it lets you know how you’re progressing and that you’re on the right track toward reaching your health goal. It is also used to let you know when you are off track so you can make some adjustments to your lifestyle and see that your efforts are getting you back on track. Because your ACEs score naturally fluctuates throughout the day, it’s most helpful to take at least 3 to 5 Biosense breath measurements daily to identify your personal pattern and target the most accurate Ketone Dose.