Ketone Bodies: Low-Grade Gasoline or Super-Fuel?
A great deal of controversy and mis-conceptions surround ketone, ketone bodies and ketosis . . . this post attempts to clarify these mis-conceptions.
Here is a recent “Women’s Health” article which calls ketones “low-grade gasoline” (link)
Here is what is posted on the American Diabetes Website (link):
Jane Brody has said ketones are toxic.
Stuart Berger bashed them in How To Be Your Own Nutritionist.
Ann Louise Gittleman writes in Your Body Knows Best: “Without some carbohydrates to maintain blood sugar levels and fuel the system, ketone bodies - fatty substances generated from the breakdown of stored fats or triglycerides - are soon formed in the blood. Ketone bodies mask your appetite even though your brain demands glucose. The result is ketosis: headaches, light-headedness, and mental fatigue. Eventually, [on a low fat diet] your body will begin to convert protein from your muscles into blood sugar. You lose weight, but it is from muscle mass, not from fat.” (Pocket Books, 1997)
(This is what the public is reading)
Compare this with what recent studies and reviews by researchers are suggesting (link):
In the above review George Cahill, Jr. writes: “Recent studies have shown that D-f3-hydroxybutyrate, the principal "ketone", is not just a fuel, but a "superfuel" more efficiently producing ATP energy than glucose or fatty acid.” (link & link)
The title, “Ketonuria after Fasting may be Related to the Metabolic Superiority” pretty much sums up the take home message of this study (link) (note Prof. Clarke states ketones yield 28% more energy upon combustion than glucose).
Don’t know about you, but I’ll place my bet (i.e. my health & athletic prowess) on what the research shows.
Ketones, and Ketosis are still largely associated with starvation and any diet which induces ketosis is regarded as fringe, fad, extreme and even dangerous due to mistaking ketosis for keto-acidosis. However, the VESPA/OFM athlete is not in a starvation state, hardly so….what many “experts” fail to recognize is ketosis is easily induced by a diet low or practically devoid of the macronutrient carbohydrate.
Many indigenous “primitive” cultures and the vast majority of pre-agricultural humans existed in a state of ketosis (most of the time) yet were hardly in a state of starvation nor did they lack athletic prowess (link & link).
Additionally, it was a diet high in fat, moderate in protein and low in carbohydrates which led to human development of large brains (link).
So a logical conclusion would be that KETOSIS IS A NATURAL METABOLIC STATE not a state of starvation etc.
In conjunction with inter-muscular oxidation of fatty acids, ketosis not only produces more sustainable energy substrates, but cleaner burning ones as well. Not only is the energy more sustainable but oxidative stress is dramatically reduced, thus reducing muscle breakdown and catabolism for improved recovery from repeated bouts of strenuous exercise. Ketosis stabilizes blood sugar (glucose) levels and spares glycogen to yield sustainable high intensity exercise levels. This allows the brain and nervous system to function optimally resulting in greater mental clarity/focus and optimal motor skills/coordination.
What about Glucose?
In a well fed state of ketosis glucose is NOT created via gluconeogenesis using amino acids from the breakdown of muscle protein but from fatty acids. This is often cited in textbooks as not possible but here is a great explanation of the pathway in which glucose is supplied during a well fed state of ketosis (link).
VESPA helps drive Ketosis:
In a Japanese study using VAAM, a supplement composed of an industrially synthesized amino acid profile found in the naturally-occurring VESPA peptide, serum non-essential fatty acid levels (fatty acids which are used for energy) increased over 2 times their resting levels, ketone body production increased 60.3% and serum lactate levels were significantly reduced. In this study when mice were administered this supplement they demonstrated significantly greater time to exhaustion than the control or mice using glucose or casein supplementation (link).
In a separate study where the Wasp Extract found in VESPA was also compared along with VAAM and other formulations two adjoining sentences were written mentioning the wasp extract saying: “The effects of hornet larval saliva were stronger than those of VAAM. VAAM therefore showed the major effect of the -saliva.” Figure 7 of the same study also referenced the wasp extract being superior to VAAM in maintaining glucose levels (link).
Note: Both of the above studies were funded by Meiji Dairies, a Japanese Pharmaceutical Company and the manufacturer of VAAM so it is understandable why there is scant reference to the naturally occurring peptide found in VESPA which demonstrated superior results.