Ketone drink may help diabetics manage blood sugar, suggests study

By Tim Cutcliffe

- Last updated on GMT

© gettyimages
© gettyimages

Related tags Glucose tolerance test Insulin

Drinking a ketone supplement may enable diabetics to have more control over blood sugar, according to a new study in the Journal of Physiology.

Individuals fasted for 10 hours prior to consuming a ketone supplement drink. Half an hour later, they took an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). Compared with placebo, the supplement group significantly reduced their blood sugar spike in response to the OGTT, found researchers from the University of British Columbia, Okanagan.

As well as improving glycaemic response, the ketone monoester supplement (KMS) improved markers of insulin sensitivity, although insulin secretion remained unchanged.  

The supplement caused a rapid rise in blood levels of D-beta-hydroxybutyrate (BOHB). This may have led to a reduction in glucose output from the liver, the researchers speculated. (BOHB is the main ketone body in circulation, produced by the liver in response to very low intakes of calories or carbohydrates).

“A KMS supplement that acutely increased BOHB levels up to approximately 3 millimoles (mM) attenuated the glycaemic response to an OGTT in healthy humans,“ ​commented lead researcher Professor Jonathan Little.

“The reduction in glycaemic response along with improved markers of insulin sensitivity was not driven by increased insulin secretion, but could be related to a BOHB mediated reduction in hepatic glucose output,“ ​Little explained.

Trial used healthy individuals

The small (n=20) double-blinded randomised placebo-controlled trial was conducted in healthy individuals. This avoided possible confounding effects of insulin resistance, beta-cell dysfunction and medications, explained the researchers.

Further research is underway to produce the necessary replication in individuals with metabolic disorders or obesity. If the trials which are in progress validate these findings, then ketone supplements could in future help diabetics and pre-diabetics manage their blood sugar levels. 

"Our study was done in healthy young participants but if the same responses were seen in people with, or at risk for, type 2 diabetes then it is possible that a ketone monoester supplement could be used to lower glucose levels and improve metabolic health. We are working on these studies at the moment,”​ said Little.

The researchers also experienced an interesting challenge in designing the placebo drink.

"The ketone supplements do not taste very good and, in order to blind the participants, we had to make a control drink that also tasted distinctly bad. It made for interesting mornings seeing how the participants would respond to the taste of their drinks,"​ revealed Little.

Source: Journal of Physiology
Published online, doi: 10.1113/JP275709
“Prior Ingestion of Exogenous Ketone Monoester Attenuates the Glycemic Response to an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test in Healthy Young Individuals”
Authors:  Étienne Myette-Côté, Helena, Neudorf, Hossein Rafiei, Kieran Clarke, Jonathan Peter Little 

Related topics Research Blood sugar management

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