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What is Ketosis?

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Ketones in the Blood

Ketosis is the presence in the blood of abnormally high levels of acidic substances called ketones. Ketones (also called "ketone bodies") are chemicals with a carbonyl unit (a carbon doubly bonded to an oxygen) that has two alkyl or aromatic (hydrocarbon) substituents bonded to the carbon atom. They include acetoacetic acid, 3-hydroxybutyric acid, and acetone.

What Causes Ketosis?

Ketosis is caused when the body metabolizes body fat for energy purposes, instead of the usual glucose-from-carbohydrates. The ketones are actually produced by the liver from fatty acids, Gluconeogenesis, which result from the breakdown of body fat. As stated, the body doesn't usually metabolize fat for energy: it usually burns glucose which it obtains from carbohydrates. But if there isn’t enough glucose in the bloodstream, (or, in the case of diabetics, if the glucose can't be utilized), the body draws on its alternate energy system, fat stores, for fuel, which causes the appearance of ketones in the blood.

Ketogenic Diet Plans

Ketosis is a typical effect of a low carb diet - a "ketogenic diet" - and is sometimes referred to as dietary ketosis, or physiologic ketosis.

In a ketogenic diet, such as Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution, or Dr Agatston's South Beach Diet, the small amounts of glucose required for some select functions can be met by consuming a minimum amount of carbs - or can be manufactured in the liver from protein.

Is Ketosis Dangerous?

Normally, No. Ketosis is simply the body's normal reaction to an emergency situation where food is short. And a healthy body is perfectly efficient at removing ketones.

Dietary Ketosis Confused with Ketoacidosis

Dietary ketosis is often confused with Ketoacidosis - a life-threatening condition most often associated with uncontrolled insulin-deficient Type 1 diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes, a lack of insulin leads to a toxic build-up of blood glucose and an excessive break-down of fat and muscle tissue. Ketoacidosis doesn't occur in individuals who have even a small amount of insulin, whether from natural production or (if diabetic) artificially administered.

Studies show that ketone bodies are carefully regulated in the body and do not increase beyond the normal range in healthy individuals. (Only uncontrolled diabetics, alcoholics and people who have been on prolonged fasts may see an abnormal rise in ketone levels.) A person in ketosis has no more ketones after three months of carb-restriction than he/she does after three days.

In fact, far from causing health problems, dietary ketosis for intentional weight loss may be beneficial for health, as it can produce a range of benefits, such as: rapid weight loss, decreased hunger and fewer food-cravings, improved mood, increased energy and, providing protein-intake is adequate, protection of lean muscle tissue.

How are Ketones Removed?

When we burn a larger amount of fat than is immediately needed for energy, the excess ketones are discarded in the urine. Volatile ketones (like, acetone) can be expelled through the lungs. Diabetics are sometimes mistaken for being drunk by the odor on their breath.

How to Diagnose the Presence of Ketones

Ketosis is diagnosed by a simple urine test, using ketone-testing strips (Ketone-Sticks), and can be confirmed with a blood test, which can also measure the blood acidity. For more information about testing kits for checking ketone levels in urine, see Ketone-Test Strips

Symptoms of Ketosis

Ketones give the breath a sickly, fruity odour like nail-varnish remover or pear-drops.

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