Scientists think they've discovered a fourth type of human fuel beyond carbs, fat, and protein - and it could have key health implications
- Ketones could supercharge the body in a way unlike any other source of fuel.
- The San Francisco-based startup HVMN launched a ketone ester drink that it says can help people harness those performance-boosting qualities.
- A new study of the product's effects on blood sugar - a metric that may be helpful for healthy eating and weight loss - found positive results.
The small plastic bottle contained pure ketone ester, a substance that a team of scientists and entrepreneurs at the San Francisco-based startup HVMN are convinced can supercharge the body in a way that no other performance product has before.Advertisement
One swig of the stuff and I'd had enough. The colorless, odorless liquid tasted like nail polish remover - but I was told it offered unparalleled benefits for my body, so I chugged away, if somewhat skeptically.
"It's not a fat, it's not a protein, it's not a carb, but your body gets fuel from it," Geoffrey Woo, HVMN's co-founder and CEO, told Business Insider in November when the product was first made available to the public.
Unlike caffeine, Ketone is not a stimulant; and unlike a granola bar, it isn't a source of carbohydrates. Instead, it's beta-hydroxybutyrate, one of the substances the body naturally produces when it is fasting or starving. Ingesting the substance directly provides a burst of energy that could have once helped our ancestors survive long periods without food.If ingested before a high-carb meal, Ketone also appears to keep the body's glucose levels from soaring dangerously high.
Ketones may help stabilize blood sugar
This blood-sugar effect is HVMN's latest area of research. In a new paper, some of the researchers working with Woo found that a ketone drink (HVMN simply calls its beverage "Ketone") could actually help reduce one's glucose levels.In people with diabetes, high blood sugar can be dangerous and even deadly. But scientists are learning more about the link between blood sugar control and performance, weight maintenance, and overall well being in non-diabetics, too.For their study, published in February in the Journal of Physiology, the HVMN-affiliated researchers worked with 20 healthy men and women aged 18 to 35 over the course of two mornings to see how drinking Ketone might impact their blood-sugar levels. The participants fasted overnight both days, then half drank the HVMN Ketone liquid and the other half got a control drink that tasted equally bad. Thirty minutes later, the researchers had everyone consume a sugary drink to see how the Ketone intake impacted their blood-sugar levels. On the second morning, the groups swapped - half were given the Ketone while the other half were given the control drink.Advertisement
"It made for interesting mornings seeing how the participants would respond to the taste of their drinks!" Jonathan Little, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia and the lead author on the paper, said in a statement.
The study showed marked differences between the volunteers who drank the Ketone and those who drank the placebo. Instead of spiking as expected, the blood-sugar levels of the Ketone drinkers stayed relatively low."Our study was done in healthy young participants but if the same responses were seen in people with or at risk for type 2 diabetes, then it is possible that a ketone monoester supplement could be used to lower glucose levels and improve metabolic health," Little said. "We are working on these studies at the moment."Advertisement
Blood sugar may be emerging as the next big metric in health
The findings about ketones could also have important implications for people without diabetes who are interested in weight loss or healthy eating.
Scientists are learning more about the importance of keeping blood-sugar levels steady, also known as glycemic control. When we eat a balanced meal that is rich in protein, fat, fiber, and carbs, our blood-sugar levels stay relatively flat. But when we indulge in a carb-heavy food with no protein or other nutrients, like a bagel or muffin, our glucose levels skyrocket then plunge a few hours later. That can lave us hungry, tired, and paradoxically craving more sugar - which can potentially lead to weight gain.may play a key role in overall health, but scientists have only recently begun to study this phenomenon in people without diabetes.Advertisement
In a review of studies published in the journal Obesity Reviews, Ellen Blaak, a professor of fat metabolism and physiology at the Maastricht University in the Netherlands, found links between poorly controlled blood-sugar levels and obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
"Tight glycemic control is necessary to maintain health and to prevent disease," Blaak wrote.
Combined with carbs, ketones give athletes a "stacking effect"
In studies with elite cyclists, researchers at the University of Oxford found that combining HVMN Ketone with a high-carb snack like a granola bar produced what they call a "stacking effect" - a sizable boost in performance that athletes barely notice, even as they are blowing through their speed and distance goals.In a 2016 study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, athletes on Ketone went an average of 400 meters farther than those who'd had a carb- or fat-based drink instead.Kieran Clarke, a professor of physiological biochemistry at Oxford, is leading the charge to translate her research on ketones and human performance into HVMN's Ketone drink. She told Business Insider in November that the athletes who outperformed probably didn't even realize it. Advertisement
"If you're not watching what you're doing, you think, 'Oh, I'm doing all right, everything feels normal,' but then you look down, and all of a sudden you see, 'Oh, wow, I've gone a lot further than usual!'" Clarke said.
- COVID-19: Noida records 2 more deaths, adds 89 cases
- 1,781 fresh COVID-19 cases take Delhi tally to 1,10,921; death toll mounts to 3,334
- Punjabi singer Gurnam Bhullar booked for violating COVID-19 guidelines
- COVID-19: Jharkhand reports one more death, 145 fresh cases
- Relatives of dead COVID-19 patient carry body in own auto in violation of norms in T'gana