Are You Faking Ketosis?

Fat Burning vs Carbs Burning

As the world turns, we learn more damaging information about how eating grains, highly sugary fruits, and starchy vegetables is bad for us. We learned that foods such as bread, pasta, rice, etc., are basically like eating straight glucose. The amazing damage this misleading information that led the “heart health” fantasy for over 60 is years now over. We now know that obesity, heart disease, metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are all caused by this extremely unhealthy “heart health” hypothesis. Much misleading information is still out there but the new generation of people see past that and there is hope for recovery. However, not everything is rosy.

A large number of people turn to LCHF (low carbs high fat) or ketogenic (even more low carbs and higher fat with moderate protein: no grains, no fruits and only leafy veggies as carbs) or the zero carbs (no fruits, grains or veggies at all just meat and cheese sort of foods), and there are new “fake it to make it” propositions also in abundance. And that is a new generation of bad stuff.

I feel I need to clarify a few things to those of you who want real health and not “fake it” health. After all, what is the point of, for example, getting ketones in your urine if you are really not in ketosis? Who is getting fooled and what is the goal?

To explain what ketones are for those of you who have no idea what I am writing about, here is a very short explanation.

There are two metabolic processes for the human body:

  1. carbs burning (burning glucose for all energy) and
  2. ketones burning (burning fat for all energy with exception of the iris and the cornea of the eyes, that need glucose, which can be derived from protein so there is no need for any carbs).

There is no third metabolic process for humans and there is also no “in between” process either, meaning your body cannot be burning both glucose AND ketones at the same time for energy with efficiency. Protein also becomes glucose and burns as such, hence its limitation in the ketogenic diet, which is a fat burning nutritional approach. While many people use these nutritional approaches for weight loss—hence “diet”—they are actually not for weight loss. That just happens to be a desired benefit.

Here I only want to talk about the basic concepts of carbs burning (regular American diet) versus fat burning (ketogenic diet) to bring home a very important point. The point is: ketones.

Those who eat high fat, moderate protein and very low carbs (understand minimum 80% of your calories coming from fat, about 15% from protein and 5% from carbs maximum), have their bodies switch to fat burning mode. When your body burns fat, it does not burn glucose.

Ketogenic Diet is the Default Human Diet. Carbs Diet is An Evolutionary Survival tool for Times of Food Scarcity!

The reason why we can burn ketones is important: the ketogenic diet is a nutritional approach for times of normalcy, which still happens today in the societies of many (though forever shrinking) peoples. When humans have ample food, the most nutritious and fastest way to get all nutrition needed is eating fat and meat.

The goal of the body is survival in times of scarcity is to eat whatever may provide some energy and so fruits and vegetables and tubers become a resource to pass the times of no food availability. We have a huge reserve of body fat and fat per gram gives more than twice the energy of carbs or protein. Thus fat burning is an efficient procedure whereas carbs and protein burning is not so efficient. If you were to eat the same amount of calories from carbs as from fat, you would need to eat 2.25 times as long a day–this is a luxury when predators are everywhere! The faster you can get your energy, the better.

Can we create ketones in our body today even though our lifestyle today includes mostly carbs? Sure! We have two ways of creating ketones:

  1. reduce carbs and protein and  increase fat. It is as simple as that.
  2. eat coconut oil. Eating coconut oil after eating an entire cake creates ketones similarly to how the body creates ketones in the process of burning body fat. However, just because you ate coconut oil and created ketones, it does not mean your body is burning fat! This is fake ketosis!

Let me repeat: eating coconut oil will produce ketones that show up as ketones in your urine but this does not mean you are in ketosis.

Real ketosis is used for therapeutic treatment for reversing metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, CNS disorders such as seizures, migraines, MS, and other conditions in which neurons have damaged myelination (insulation) from the voltage the brain cells have to pass on. It is also used to treat cancer. Thus ketogenic diet has many health benefits; it is a serious nutritional tool to achieve a health goals!

The ketogenic diet fad is used for weight loss only. And that is too bad because as a fad, it is used wrong, may hurt hundreds of people, and that will kill all chance for research.

Measuring Systems

Ketogenic dieters can use three processes by which they can measure their level of ketogenic progress.

  1. Measure the level of ketones in the urine;
  2. Measure the level of beta hydroxybutyrate in the blood by special blood testing equipment, similar to glucose testing kits,
  3. Use a breath acetone level measuring device.

Of these three, only blood beta hydroxybutyrate is accurate. The three types of “ketones” represent different byproducts of the ketogenic burning process. The acetone breath, for example, is an evaporating byproduct. It doesn’t represent how well one burn ketones; it merely demonstrates that ketones are burned as fuel.

How Urine Ketones Fool You

Ketones are only one of the two products our bodies use. Just as a diabetic mellitus patient will have sugar in her urine as a result of inefficient glucose absorption, ketone bodies will be found in the urine only as “leftovers” meaning they don;t represent how well one burns fat for fuel; rather they represent how inefficiently one burn it. The more ketones in your urine, there is a chance the less beta hydroxybutyrate is in your blood! Be aware! The only accurate test is the blood test so invest in a blood testing kit made specifically for ketogenic dieters.

Coconut Oil

So you just ate a huge cake followed by a half a watermelon, drank a sugar full of soft drink, and a tall latte with whipped cream (meaning about a half a pound of sugar). Now  you take a bunch of coconut oil pills, and voila! Fake ketosis!! You will have ketones in your urine! Note you will NOT have beta hydroxybutyrate in your blood. 

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, there is no way on earth you can achieve ketosis while eating only vegetables because all vegetables are carbs (complex carbs but carbs and convert to glucose). However, you sure can fake ketones in your urine by eating fat bombs or special ketone supplements. Who are you cheating with that? Yourself, of course.

I have a Marathon runner in my migraine group who is a carbs burner but because of the extreme energy requirements of running a Marathon, midway through the Marathon a runner’s body runs out of carbohydrates and switches to the ketogenic mode, turning on the ketones burning process. In her case I recommended to take with her coconut oil pills for the Marathon and as she felt bonked (out of energy) toward the middle of the run, and take coconut oil pills. It helped her then because her body switched to ketones burning and with this help she was able to use the energy from the highly saturated fat coconut oils and thereby shave 26 minutes off her best time ever, She also did not get a migraine, and was not pooped like usual after the run. You can find her story in two parts: part one here and part two here.

This approach is not fake ketosis; this is how to take advantage of ketones when one is not otherwise in ketosis but the body experiences stress and needs help.

However, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, a major sweet tooth or live off of rice, pasta or any high carbs food, and after eating coconut oil you find ketones in your urine, I have one thing to say: go check your blood! End faking it! Not only are you potentially hurting research on the ketogenic diet but you may also get sick!

Comments are welcome, as always.

Angela

About Angela A Stanton, Ph.D.

Angela A Stanton, PhD, is a Neuroeconomist focusing on chronic pain, electrolyte homeostasis, and genetics. She lives in Southern California. Her current research is focused on migraine cause, prevention and treatment without the use of medicines. As a forever migraineur from childhood, her discovery was helped by experimenting on herself. She found the cause of migraine to be at the ionic level, associated with disruption of the electrolyte homeostasis, resulting from genetic variations of all voltage gated channels that modulate electrolytes and voltage in the brain, insulin and glucose transporters, and several other related variants, such as the MTHFR variants of the B vitamin methylation process and many others. Migraineurs are glucose sensitive and should avoid eating carbs as much as possible. As a result of the success of the first edition of her book and new research and findings after treating over 4000 migraineurs world wide, all ages and both genders, she is now finishing the 2nd edition. The 2nd edition is the “holy grail” of migraines, incorporating all there is to know and also hypotheses. It includes an academic research section with suggestions for further research. The book is full of citations to authenticate the statements she makes to be followed up by those interested and to spark further research interest. It is a "Complete Guide". Due out in the summer of 2017. Dr. Stanton received her BSc at UCLA in Mathematics, MBA at UCR, MS in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, PhD in NeuroEconomics at Claremont Graduate University, and fMRI certification at Harvard University Medical School at the Martinos Center for Neuroimaging for experimenting with neurotransmitters on human volunteers. For relaxation Dr. Stanton paints and photographs. Follow her on Twitter at: @MigraineBook
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