In late 2010 a professor from a university in Florida approached me to see if I could synthesize a compound that he wanted to use in his research. This compound was what is known as a “ketone ester”. This ketone ester is a synthetic prodrug which, after ingestion, your body naturally breaks down into the ketone bodies beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and acetoacetate (AcAc).
Ketone bodies are energy sources that your body naturally produce and burn under special metabolic conditions. These conditions include starvation and a very high fat / low carbohydrate diet (known as the ketogenic diet). Ketones are the end products of fatty acid metabolism, and compared to your body’s major source of caloric energy (glucose), they are pretty amazing. Unlike glucose, ketones do not require insulin to enter cells and be incorporated into the metabolic cycles that generate the cellular fuel ATP. They cannot be converted to body fat. Also, unlike most fats, ketones can freely enter the brain where they are an excellent fuel for brain cells. On top of all that, ketones generate more ATP per unit oxygen consumed than any other energy source. Ketones are essentially your body’s super fuel.
I ended up successfully synthesizing this ketone ester for the professor, and he ended up performing some pretty cool studies utilizing the product. For instance in one study he made rats resistant to the toxic effects of high pressure oxygen upon the central nervous system (this has major implications for deep sea divers such as navy seals, as well as indirectly on folks suffering from epilepsy). In another study he almost completely halted the growth of cancerous tumors in rats by giving them the ketone ester. The professor also showed in a more informal study that rats taking the ketone ester could exercise quite a bit longer than control rats.
As a supplement manufacturer I found the potential health and performance implications for raising ketones through the administration of a “ketone supplement” very exciting. Unfortunately the ketone ester I made for the professor is both synthetic and extremely expensive, so it was wholly unsuitable for sale as a supplement. My collaboration with the professor did get me thinking though, and I set out to see if I could develop a way to raise ketone levels by administering a natural product alternative.
My focus was on the ketones themselves. As I mentioned previously, there are two major endogenous ketones: beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and acetoacetate (AcAc). AcAc I had to eliminate right off the bat because it is too unstable (it breaks down relatively quickly to acetone and carbon dioxide). BHB on the other hand was a possibility – particularly in the form of one or more of its salts. The problem was the only BHB salt which is commercially available is sodium BHB and it’s just too expensive. So I had to embark on my own R&D project to figure out how to make BHB salts at a price that is not completely out of reach.
I ended up perfecting a proprietary manufacturing method for sodium and potassium mixed BHB salts. Why mixed sodium and potassium salts? The reason for that is because at the level of intake of BHB required for benefits you would have to ingest a substantial amount of cation (positively charged mineral such as sodium or potassium). At such levels of cation ingestion it made sense that a balance of sodium and potassium salts would be the healthiest thing to do.
Additionally, I discovered that the product had to be delivered as a concentrated liquid because potassium BHB is simply too hygroscopic to isolate as a powder (it picks up water from the atmosphere and turns into mush at an astonishing rate, whether by itself or mixed with sodium BHB).
So, just to make things clear, is I have developed a supplement product that raises blood ketone levels. This product does not require a ketogenic diet to raise ketone levels as it is essentially providing an external source of ketones. As such, it will raise ketones even if you eat a plate of spaghetti before taking it (still, its benefits are maximized when combined with either a ketogenic or other sort of low carb diet).
This kind of thing is a lot of work. For instance it involved developing novel analytical testing methodologies (which as an organic synthesis guy isn’t second nature by any means!) But after about a year of work this weekend I am proud to announce the introduction my sodium and potassium mixed BHB salts on my prototypenutrition.com website.
I hope to continue this topic next week and introduce you to some blood data and exercise performance data on my BHB salts that I think you will find very exciting. Also I will give some tips on how to possibly best uitilize this product for whatever health or fitness goals you may have.
So stay tuned!