As keto diets get more and more popular, more people are beginning to consider pursuing them for the various health benefits they are said to provide. But one of the participants on the Shark Tank managed to come up with an idea that helps people into ketosis without following the rather strict diet. Now many manufacturers of natural products and supplements have decided to follow suit and sell their own version of keto pills. But as with any supplement, there are a number of things to consider before taking them.
Why Go Keto?
Anecdotal evidence and recent scientific evidence has determined that following a ketogenic lifestyle can have several health benefits. The keto diet was originally designed many decades ago by a medical doctor when she observed that children who have high levels of ketones in their blood are less likely to experience epileptic attacks. William Banting (1) was also a proponent for a diet highly limited in carbohydrates but for different reasons. Before the diet he was obese and under the guidance of his physician, he undertook this diet to gain control of his metabolism and eventually lose weight.
Nowadays, there are several other benefits that keto diet has been shown to produce. These benefits have scientific studies to support them (2):
- Reduction in appetite
- Proven weight loss
- Reduction in circulating triglycerides (fat molecules)
- Increased levels of beneficial cholesterol
- Improvement in type 2 diabetes
- Reduction in blood pressure
So, in essence, the keto diet is not only effective for weight loss but also helps to protect the heart and blood vessels from the effects of triglycerides. When triglycerides are circulating in the blood they can become deposited into blood vessels which narrows them and greatly increases the risk of a heart attack and stroke. Ketones also markedly reduce the release of insulin, which is beneficial for type 2 diabetes patients who are insulin resistant.
Ketosis provides many different health benefits that range from assisting with weight loss to protecting the heart and blood vessels from disease and even playing a role in protecting against type 2 diabetes. The diet that causes a person to become in a state of ketosis has been around for decades, and the history of the concept is quite interesting.
So Which Is The Better Option, The Diet Or The Pill?
The research on ketosis has centered mostly around a ketogenic diet, rather than taking keto pills as a supplement. Essentially, keto pills are supplements that contain very high levels of natural ketones. The most popular one is beta-hydroxybutyrate. The idea behind taking keto pills is that instead of relying on a strict diet to produce these ketones they get delivered straight into the blood by these supplements and their benefits are seen much quicker. The question is, do they work?
Well, a recent scientific study determined that taking beta-hydroxybutyrate pills was an effective means of achieving ketosis (3).
But the question remains if you continue on a carbohydrate-rich diet while taking keto pills, will you really see the same benefit as if you were on the ketogenic diet alone? Studies in this area are very limited but one study did show that nutritional ketosis was still possible in rats that consumed carbohydrates as 63% of the diet. Rats are quite similar to humans physiologically so this result might suggest that the same is true in humans (4).
The best benefit is probably derived from doing both the keto diet along with the supplementation. If this diet is too difficult to follow there definitely is good reason to try the keto pill, as it may be just as effective as a keto diet without the actual dieting.
There is emerging evidence that keto pills are as effective as a ketogenic diet in inducing nutritional ketosis. Keto pills use natural ketones called the beta-hydroxybutyrate to increase levels of ketones in the blood once the supplement has been absorbed.
What The Ketones Actually Do In Your Body
It is the body's natural mechanism to produce ketones when it is low on glucose. Glucose is generally our main source of energy and it comes from carbohydrates. But when glucose is not around the body produces its own by breaking down proteins and fats. It also uses these proteins and fats to conduct different chemical reactions to generate energy in the body which is independent of glucose (5).
One study found that a ketogenic diet was able to cause an increase in a protein called ATP synthase in rat brains. ATP synthase is the protein responsible for producing a molecule called ATP which is essentially the currency of energy in any biological organisms. It's possible, although there are no studies on this yet, that it could cause the general increase in this protein and assist with energy production (6).
Similarly, a study in humans found that higher levels of ketones in the blood cause the body to actually break down more of its fat and produce more ketones. This essentially demonstrates that a state of ketosis is maintained in a positive cycle in the body. The study also found that ketone salts did reduce the ability of certain athletes to conduct high-intensity exercise (7). This might be a problem for professional athletes who are trying to get the best performance in a race or something similar but doesn't really have far-reaching consequences for someone who subjects themselves to regular, standard exercise.
Ketones play an important role in different chemical reactions in the body. They are produced when the body is starved of glucose and are a useful energy source. Ketosis causes the body to break down its fat stores and increase energy production to some degree.
Side Effects Of Keto Pills
There are some side effects that come along with being in ketosis:
- Change in the smell of your breath (8)
Ketones have a very distinct smell. Some people describe it as fruity, others as slightly musty. When in ketosis there are ketones circulating in your blood which reach your mouth and can make their way into your breath. This means that your breath will have a fruity or musty smell. It might be unpleasant for some but others are simply unbothered by it. This can easily be corrected by following normal hygiene and chewing sugar-free chewing gum when necessary.
- Acidic urine
Ketones are essentially acidic. When they are excreted in the urine they can cause the urine to become more acidic. This may affect certain medications and some medical tests. Be sure to consult your doctor to make sure that your ketosis and medications will not interfere with one another (9).
- Fatigue in the short term
Fatigue is one of the most commonly reported symptoms early in ketosis. It is simply because the body is changing its metabolic pathways. Fat is a much harder energy source to break down than glucose but when it is essentially broken down the energy that is released is quite high so the fatigue will definitely pass in time.
- Reduced exercise performance
For the same reason that you would experience general fatigue, you might find that it is more difficult to exercise for the first few days or weeks while taking keto pills. This too should pass with time.
Because the supplement is absorbed in the intestine, the ketones can have a local effect there. They may cause a slight change in pH and the movement of water. It is not a very common occurrence but different people react differently to supplements. This is also a side effect that should pass but it can be corrected by eating low-carb vegetables, which contain a bit of dietary fiber that always helps to reduce diarrhea.
- Difficulty falling asleep
Ketones have a number of effects on the chemicals in the brain and this can have an effect on a person's sleep cycle. This is also a side effect that goes away with time, and some people report that they even sleep better with long-term ketosis (10).
There are a few side effects that come with being in ketosis but the majority of these go away with time. There are also some things you can do to combat these side effects like chewing gum or eating low-carb vegetables. Always consult with your doctor to make sure that ketosis is not interfering with any chronic medical conditions he or she may have prescribed or any medications you may be taking.
The Cost Of Keto Pills
Taking dietary supplements always comes with an added cost because you have to buy the supplements in order to use them. The majority of ketone supplements (11) seem to be around $40, but range from $20 over $100. It is obviously important to evaluate the value for money that a product gives you because cheap items may not necessarily be as effective or it may be unnecessary to pay some of the very high costs that certain manufacturers ask. Watch out for free trial products that require your credit card information as these often come with a recurrent bill.
There are quite a few factors that determine whether a product has a good value for money or not and the best way to determine if a product is going to be beneficial for you is to read the customer reviews and some professional reviews on the product as well.
The price of keto diet pills varies from manufacturer to manufacturer but the majority of them are around $40. When purchasing keto supplements it is important to consider the value you are getting for your money. This is possible by looking at how respected the product is by its existing customers and professional reviewers.
What Happens If You Stop The Keto Pills
Maintaining ketosis through keto diet pills requires them to be taken indefinitely if the maintenance of ketosis is the goal. Some people might consider stopping ketone pills once they've lost the weight that they were hoping for. One might consider switching to a keto diet to maintain the state of ketosis after they've taken the pills for a period of time.
In any case, if you stop taking the pills and still consume significant amounts of glucose, your body will eventually reverse the ketosis. Whether this has an effect on your weight or health depends on your diet. If you go back to the diet that leads you to feel overweight in the first place chances are you end up back there. If weight loss was your only goal when considering ketone pills and you lose the weight you were expecting to, it is important to switch to a diet that does not cause weight gain.
You can expect to have to make some lifestyle changes if you are going to stop using keto diet pills. Your body does naturally reverse ketosis when you need high levels of glucose without taking any more ketones in. There is nothing wrong with stopping ketone pills especially if you've reached your goal weight, just make sure to watch your diet if you don't want to end up back where you started.
So What's The Deal With Keto Pills?
The evidence into the short term and long term effects of a ketogenic diet is still very much underway. Even more lacking at the moment are large randomized controlled trials for keto supplements. Some of the evidence for the health benefits of ketosis are extrapolated from animal models, but there are still many studies in humans. Some recent studies that looked at keto pills have definitively concluded that they are a viable route for ketosis in humans.
Ketones are vastly active molecules in the human body and they work in different ways. At the moment there is limited evidence to prove the exact mechanism as to how they cause all of their health benefits but the evidence we do have supports the health benefits reported in other scientific studies.
In any case, the current evidence looks quite good to support the use of keto pills. The best way to determine if they work for you is to try them. They really don't cause any harm and can actually produce great benefits. There is nothing to lose from trying keto pills.