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Why Do Ketone Bodies Cause Acidosis?

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Getting To Know Ketones

People with diabetes, particularly those with Type 1 diabetes, have been at least vaguely aware of the word ketones for a long time. With the recent resurgence of popular interest in low-carbohydrate diets, however, just about everyone seems to be talking about ketones these days. But does anyone really know what ketones are? Are they a danger to your health (as in diabetic ketoacidosis), or a sign that you have lowered your carbohydrate intake enough to cause weight loss (as some people who follow low-carbohydrate diets believe)? What are ketones? Ketones are end-products of fat metabolism in the body. That is, they are formed when fat is burned for energy by the muscles. Chemically, they are acids known as ketone bodies, and there are three types: beta-hydroxybutyric acid, aceto-acetic acid, and acetone. But you don’t have to be a chemist to understand what role they play in the body. To get to know ketones, it’s helpful to understand how your body burns fuel. A simple analogy is that of an automobile. For a car engine to run, the engine must burn fuel (gasoline), and when the fuel is burned, exhaust (carbon monoxide) is created. The carbon monoxide is the end-product of gaso Continue reading >>

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Popular Questions

  1. Knicks

    In DKA, the patient is acidotic, right? So why would the body decrease bicarbonate (a base)? Wouldn't you want to keep the bicarbonate high so as to neutralize the acid?
    Too tired to think straight at the moment.

  2. generic

    The HCO3 derangement is not a compensation--it is the primary problem.
    DKA patients have a metabolic acidosis, I think it's mostly caused by the formation of tons and tons of ketone bodies (acidic). These are formed because despite high circulating levels of glucose, the cells can't use the glucose without insulin-->turn to ketone formation instead.
    The metabolic acidosis may cause respiratory compensation, which would give Kussmaul breathing, for example.

  3. treva

    Knicks said: ↑
    In DKA, the patient is acidotic, right? So why would the body decrease bicarbonate (a base)? Wouldn't you want to keep the bicarbonate high so as to neutralize the acid?
    Too tired to think straight at the moment. Remember the kidney takes days to compensate for acidodic state by producing more bicarb. Acutely, the bicarb is used to buffer the extra acid, so it drops.
    This also explains why DKA pts have increased RR:
    CO2 + H20 <--> H2CO3 <--> HCO3- + H+
    If you blow off extra CO2 (ie by upping RR) you shift the above equation to the left, and promote the formation of H2CO3 via CA, helping to mop up the H+.

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