We live in a world where daily choices directly impact our mental and physical health. Yet, even though many people are making daily attempts to be healthier, lifestyle disease is on the rise. Every year, an alarming number of individuals are diagnosed with cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. These often could be avoided with healthy habits. This is why understanding the connection between ketones and cardio-metabolic health is so important.
A group of related conditions known as “metabolic syndrome” can make you more susceptible to disease. These include high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and triglycerides, low levels of “good” cholesterol, and increased fatty tissue around the waist. All of these conditions can occur from poor diet or lack of exercise.
The cure for these problems is simple at first glance but may be difficult to put into practice. Anyone physically able should exercise regularly as the simplest and most accessible form of “medicine.” Exercise will help control cardio-metabolic disease onset and progression.
Finding A Cure for Cardio-Metabolic Health Conditions
A diet of natural and “clean” foods in smaller portions can also keep these health issues at bay. One particularly popular diet is the low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet. Studies have consistently shown positive outcomes.
However, the extreme discipline required for long-term compliance can be a roadblock for many. Considering this, many people have used exogenous ketones successfully. These health aids appear safe for oral ingestion when used regularly and at relatively high dosages, as reported recently for the Tecton ketone product, which is glycerol-bound.
Keep reading to better understand the connection between ketones and cardio-metabolic health.
Introduction to Ketones and Cardio-Metabolic Health
Since the turn of the century, there has been a rise in lifestyle diseases. Poor diet and exercise habits are often the culprits behind these diseases, which can be deadly. And the worst part is a lot of these diseases are entirely preventable.
The term for this area of health is “Cardio-metabolic health.” Cardio-metabolic health is a relatively new term for the combination of cardiovascular and metabolic health and disease. This includes conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
While most people are familiar with obesity (body mass index [BMI] ≥30 kg/m2) and type 2 diabetes (fasting blood glucose ≥126 mg/dL), you may not have heard of metabolic syndrome.
In short, metabolic syndrome is a global epidemic of conditions that increase the risk of disease. These include
- elevated blood pressure (≥130/80 mm Hg)
- elevated blood sugar (≥ 100 mg/dL)
- excess body fat around the waist (waist circumference ≥ 40 inches for men and ≥ 35 inches for women)
- elevated blood triglycerides (≥ 150 mg/dL)
- low blood high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the so-called “good” cholesterol; ≤ 40 mg/dL for men and ≤ 50 mg/dL for women).
The American Heart Association recommends a metabolic syndrome diagnosis when a person has three or more of the above factors.
If you have any of these risk factors or want to be proactive about your health, you’ll be happy to know that lifestyle interventions can help control metabolic syndrome for most people. Lifestyle improvements include physical activity and dietary intake, including a lower carbohydrate diet and using ketones as an energy source.
Lifestyle Factors to Improve Metabolic Health
While metabolic disease is widespread, the great news is that changing lifestyle factors can positively prevent or treat most of these conditions. There is scientific support for a variety of lifestyle factors aimed at improving metabolic health, with the main focus on four in particular:
- Physical activity and exercise
- Dietary intake
- Dietary supplementation
Everyone knows sleep is good for you, but did you know it plays a role in disease prevention?
Studies have shown that people who sleep 7 hours a night have the lowest risk of metabolic syndrome. Sleep disorders—insomnia, short sleep duration, sleep apnea, and shift work—can all contribute to metabolic dysregulation.
Researchers have further concluded that “Prolonged curtailment of sleep duration is a risk factor for the development of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke and may contribute, in the long-term, to premature death.”
If you’re struggling with sleep disorders, talk to your doctor to find a solution that works for you.
Physical Activity and Exercise
Physical activity (lower-intensity activity) and regular exercise (planned, structured activity of higher intensity) substantially impact metabolic health.
It’s best to do structured exercise—like going to the gym or doing a sport—for 30 minutes or more, four or more days a week. Exercise will improve your fitness (e.g., muscular strength or power, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance) and metabolic function (e.g., enzyme activity, mitochondrial health, substrate utilization).
From a blood sugar regulation perspective—which will have implications for pre-diabetes and diabetes—exercise is even more critical. This is because skeletal muscle contraction has an insulin-mimicking action or insulin-independent effect. It promotes glucose uptake from the bloodstream into cells, which depends on the amount of muscle mass used and the type, intensity, and duration of exercise. Unfortunately, these effects are short-lived, so you must exercise regularly for optimal glucose control and metabolic health.
Your diet is vital to the prevention and management of metabolic disease. Research has mainly focused on blood sugar control and alleviating insulin resistance. These studies have shown that a range of diets works. This means you can choose from an array based on your likes and dislikes.
For example, Mediterranean, plant-based, and vegan diets all provide benefits. The ketogenic diet—which is high in fat, moderate in protein and very low in carbohydrates—is an alternative to these carbohydrate-focused meal plans.
Dietary supplements can complement whatever diet you choose. These include items that function as antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents and nutrients that aid mitochondrial function.
More recently, much discussion has centered on the use of supplemental ketones as an aid for metabolic health. A brief presentation related to dietary and supplemental exogenous ketones for metabolic health follows.
What is the Connection Between the Ketogenic Diet and Cardio-Metabolic Health?
When many people think about ketones and cardio-metabolic health, they initially think about the keto (short for ketogenic) diet. While there are variations, the standard ketogenic diet involves eating a high percentage of fat (usually about 60% or more) and protein, and minimal carbohydrates.
To follow the keto diet, you must restrict your intake of dietary carbohydrates (e.g., bread, rice, pasta, fruit) to approximately 30-50 grams per day. 30-50 grams is the equivalent of 1-2 slices of bread or 1-2 pieces of fruit.
Instead of using all your daily carbs for an apple and a cracker, the keto diet encourages eating green vegetables rich in micronutrients but low in digestible carbohydrates.
Therefore, the usual intake consists of meat, fish, eggs, certain cheeses, plain yogurt, oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, and small quantities of green vegetables.
Following the keto diet also improves a variety of cardio-metabolic factors. For example, the diet appears to help with heart failure, hypertension and obesity-related metabolic disorders, suggesting that there is, indeed, a connection between ketones and cardio-metabolic health.
From a metabolic perspective, the reduction in carbs yields a consistently lower and more stable blood glucose level—the goal of many with pre-diabetes and diabetes. It also results in lower blood insulin levels and heightened insulin sensitivity.
The improvements in blood glucose and blood insulin levels improve the body’s ability to utilize stored fat as a fuel source. This explains why following the keto diet often helps reduce body weight and fat mass.
But the benefits extend beyond weight reduction and improved blood glucose levels. Keto can improve blood lipids and help prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Ketones and Cardiovascular Function
While ketones have many metabolic benefits, they also help with cardiovascular conditions (any condition affecting your heart and blood vessels). Both experimental and clinical research have found that ketones play a protective role in cardiovascular disease.
Studies involving both ketogenic diets and supplemental ketone esters have noted favorable findings on various functional measures in models of heart failure, including suggestions for improvement in myocardial blood flow. Additional research is needed to determine the implications of ketones on the healthy heart and cardiovascular system.
Ketones and Mitochondria
It should be noted that ketones are also implicated in the vital task of improving mitochondrial function. You may already know this from high school biology, but mitochondria are the energy-producing organelles within cells and are responsible for generating ATP (Adenosine triphosphate).
Impaired mitochondrial function is involved in the origin of many chronic diseases. So, improving mitochondrial function helps prevent disease. The ketogenic diet may serve this purpose, and recent evidence has noted that following a ketogenic diet can improve mitochondrial function and efficiency in skeletal muscle.
One Potential Concern with Ketogenic Diets
While the data around ketones and cardio-metabolic health are encouraging, one concern remains: Many people cannot follow a strict ketogenic diet for a significant time. The keto diet requires a big lifestyle change and total diet overhaul that many people aren’t ready for, especially since there’s little room for error.
Some have suggested a modified ketogenic diet that is not as restrictive and uses supplemental “exogenous” ketones.
Exogenous Ketones and Cardio-Metabolic Health
Like the ketogenic diet, exogenous ketones have gained attention recently. These dietary supplements are typically consumed in beverages, powders, or gummies. They are referred to as exogenous ketones (outside the body) instead of endogenous ketones (produced in the liver).
For those with type 2 diabetes, there is a lot of therapeutic potential. The authors of a study on the potential therapeutic effects of ketone supplements for Type 2 Diabetes state, “The recent advent of exogenous oral ketone supplements represents a novel, non-pharmacological approach to improving Type 2 diabetes pathophysiology and potentially protecting against cardiovascular disease risk.”
Exogenous ketones can act as a clinical tool to improve metabolic health and cardiovascular function, potentially regulating inflammation and immune function. However, there is a need for further studies.
In addition, people with diabetes should always consult a medical professional before taking exogenous ketones or beginning a new diet. It’s best to choose the ketone esters, which have been reported to result in a more rapid and significant elevation in blood ketone levels compared to ketone salts.
In addition, more significant effects on blood glucose-lowering with ketone esters have been observed compared to ketone salts.
The research on ketones and cardio-metabolic health is promising. As always, it is best to consult a qualified healthcare provider before using exogenous ketones or embarking on a ketogenic diet, particularly for people with diabetes and those with impaired glucose metabolism.