Why Does The Body Produce Ketones?

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Diabetes And Ketones

Tweet The presence of high levels of ketones in the bloodstream is a common complication of diabetes, which if left untreated can lead to ketoacidosis. Ketones build up when there is insufficient insulin to help fuel the body’s cells. High levels of ketones are therefore more common in people with type 1 diabetes or people with advanced type 2 diabetes. If you are suffering from high levels of ketones and seeking medical advice, contact your GP or diabetes healthcare team as soon as possible. What are ketones? Ketones are an acid remaining when the body burns its own fat. When the body has insufficient insulin, it cannot get glucose from the blood into the body's cells to use as energy and will instead begin to burn fat. The liver converts fatty acids into ketones which are then released into the bloodstream for use as energy. It is normal to have a low level of ketones as ketones will be produced whenever body fat is burned. In people that are insulin dependent, such as people with type 1 diabetes, however, high levels of ketones in the blood can result from taking too little insulin and this can lead to a particularly dangerous condition known as ketoacidosis. How do I test for Continue reading >>

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  1. Doug Freyburger

    Others have mentioned the chemical details that lead to limits. That's only one side of the story. The other side is redundancy in energy production. Ketones can be used in anaerobic energy production. It's not as efficient but it is faster. There are times when fast beats efficient so redundancy gets selected for.

  2. Anand R

    Acetyl CoA can’t be circulated for two reasons: it’s a high energy compound and it’s labile. So it’s not a stable form for circulation to tissues. Also acetyl coA cannot cross cell membrane.
    Ketone bodies are an alternate fuel source. More importantly, they are water soluble analogs of fatty acids. This is important since, during starvation there is fat breakdown and excess fatty acids circulate in blood. However, fatty acids cannot be used by brain as fuel since, they cannot cross the blood brain barrier. Liver by producing ketone bodies helps brain cells during starvation.

    Also, these ketone bodies, as such, can be used by other tissues as well. There by other tissues refrain from using glucose. Hence, ketone bodies have a glucose-sparing effect. This glucose will be available for tissues like brain and red cells for use.

  3. Barry Gehm

    It’s because oxaloacetate is needed to metabolize acetyl-CoA (first step in the Krebs cycle is the reaction of acetyl-CoA with oxaloacetate) and is also needed (and used up) in gluconeogenesis (the production of glucose from amino acids and other small molecules, but NOT from acetyl groups or fatty acids). The liver is primarily responsible for gluconeogenesis, and if it uses up oxaloacetate on that, acetyl-CoA builds up and ties up all the coenzyme A in acetylated form. In order to alleviate this, the liver converts the acetyl-CoA into ketone bodies, and releases them into the blood. These, as the book says, are taken up by other tissues (such as brain and muscle) and converted back into acetyl-CoA. A key point is that these cells can use the acetyl-CoA because they are not depleted in oxaloacetate because they do not carry out gluconeogenesis.

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