Ketone supplement may control glucose by mimicking aspects of ketogenic diet

Research from UBC’s Okanagan campus suggests that ketone monoester drinks may help people with diabetes and prediabetes who are looking for strategies to help control blood sugar that don’t require taking medications or that are less invasive than injectable insulin. Ketone drinks and supplements have been on the market and available to consumers for a few years. Because they’re so new, there’s very little research on how they can influence metabolism, and this study is among the first to look at their use in nonathletes.

The study’s lead author, Dr Jonathan Little, is an associate professor at UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences. Little suggests that there is mounting evidence that a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet is effective in controlling blood sugar and even reversing type 2 diabetes. Ketone supplements are proving fertile ground for research into type 2 diabetes because, according to Little, ketones are the natural fuel source of the body when it’s in ketosis—the metabolic by-product of consuming a low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet.

Study authors wanted to know what would happen if artificial ketones were given to those with obesity and at risk for type 2 diabetes but who haven’t been dieting. To test the idea, Little and his team asked 15 people to consume a ketone drink after fasting overnight. After 30 minutes, they were then asked to drink a fluid containing 75 grams of sugar while blood samples were taken.

The ketone drink seemed to launch participants into a sort of pseudo-ketogenic state where they were better able to control their blood sugar levels with no changes to their insulin.  

Little is quick to point out that ketone supplements are not a magic bullet in managing the disease, and that there are a number of problems still to be worked out, including the long-term effects of consuming ketones. He suggests that for those who aren’t able to follow a strict ketogenic diet or for those looking for a new way to control blood sugars, this may be another strategy in helping to manage type 2 diabetes.

The study was published in the December 2019 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition with funding from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. It is available at

. Ketone supplement may control glucose by mimicking aspects of ketogenic diet. BCMJ, Vol. 62, No. 1, January, February, 2020, Page(s) 29 - News.

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