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Exogenous Ketones: Health Benefits and Side Effects

One popular type of supplement used on the keto diet are known as exogenous ketones. Supplements are made to help an individual boost the effects a low-carb diet. These supplements are marketed as being able to boost any effect of the keto diet without the need to restrict carbohydrates.

BHB ketone structure

As the keto diet continues to grow in popularity, the brands that produce these exogenous supplements are also increasing. Unlike the ketones produced inside the body, these exogenous ketones are administered from outside the body (in supplemental form, hence the name exogenous)

How do these exogenous ketones work? Some have suggested that just like the ketones produced inside the body, these exogenous supplements perform in a similar manner. When a person follows the keto diet, the body enters ketosis, and blood ketone levels are raised. Taking exogenous ketones is believed to have this same effect – increased blood ketone levels. By mimicking what happens in ketosis, these supplements may also have the same results when consumed. However, apart from weight loss, these ketone supplements may have other added benefits.

With the rising popularity of these ketone supplements, many people choose to use exogenous ketones with the hope of reaching ketosis faster. Some also purchase these supplements in order to lessen the side effects of the keto flu. But one of the primary reasons why some choose these ketone supplements may be to enjoy the benefits of keto without actually following the diet. Are all the health benefits associated with these supplements all true, or are there hidden dangers that should be made known? This article discusses the answer to these questions and more.

Understanding the Difference Between Endogenous and Exogenous Ketones

Understanding the difference between endogenous and exogenous ketones can help clarify their unique functions in your body.

Endogenous ketones are produced naturally by your body when you are in a metabolic state called ketosis. This metabolic state is achieved through a low-carbohydrate, high-fat ketogenic diet. When you restrict your carbohydrate intake, your body starts to break down fats for energy instead of glucose. As a result, ketone bodies are produced as a byproduct of this fat metabolism.

Exogenous ketones, on the other hand, are ketones that are consumed from an external source, typically in the form of supplements. These supplements provide an immediate source of ketones, bypassing the need for your body to produce them. Exogenous ketones can be useful in various situations, such as when you want to quickly increase your ketone levels, enhance mental clarity, or support athletic performance.

While endogenous ketones are primarily involved in maintaining ketosis and fueling your body’s energy needs, exogenous ketones can serve as a tool to help you get into ketosis faster or maintain ketosis during periods of increased carbohydrate intake. It’s important to note that exogenous ketones should not be relied upon as a substitute for a well-formulated ketogenic diet. They are best used as a supplement to support your overall ketogenic lifestyle.

Types of Exogenous Ketones

There are three common forms of exogenous ketones available:

  • Ketone Salts: These are also known as BHB (Beta-Hydroxybutyrate) mineral salts or ketone mineral salts. They are bound to a salt such as sodium, potassium, calcium, or magnesium, and are the most commonly used form. They are usually found in supplement powders or capsules.
  • Ketone Esters: These are raw BHB ketones that are not bound to any other compound. Ketone esters are used for scientific research due to their high ketone levels and fast absorption rate. However, they have a very strong and unpleasant taste, which makes them less common for general consumption.
  • Ketone Oils: Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oils are a type of dietary fat that your body can easily convert into ketones. While they are not technically exogenous ketones as they require your body to convert the MCTs into ketones, they are often used in a similar way to increase ketone levels.

Health Benefits of Exogenous Ketones

Exogenous Ketones Can Help Promote Weight Loss: One of the major reasons why people take ketone supplements is to promote faster weight loss. Since exogenous ketones are made with a ketone produced by the body, it is expected to produce similar results. When exogenous ketones are consumed and combined with a low-carb diet, the body enters ketosis. The ketones from the supplements increase the level of ketones in the blood. At the end, when glucose is completely replaced by fat for energy supply, weight loss is achieved.

May Help Improve Brain Function: The brain continually needs glucose to function properly. While on the keto diet, carb intake is limited to about 50 grams per day. This restriction makes it difficult for the brain to get energy from glucose. The good thing is that glucose is not the only fuel the brain can make use of for energy. The brain can also utilize ketones for the same purpose. Since the keto diet also allows a small amount of carbohydrates, any part of the brain that still requires carbohydrates to function will be adequately supplied.

May Help Regulate Blood Sugar Level: Regulation of blood sugar level is particularly important for people with type 2 diabetes. Following a healthy diet like the keto diet and making lifestyle changes can also prove helpful. Since the diet consists of only a limited quantity of carbohydrates, it will not cause a spike in blood glucose level. It may also help maintain a low glucose level in the blood, reducing the need for insulin. Before any diet changes are made, it is best to speak with a doctor to check if it interferes with any medication.

May Help Improve Energy Levels in The Body: Several studies show that ketones can impact energy levels. In one such study on rats, exogenous ketones were used to boost ketone levels in the rats. The effect of these ketones was tested on the physical performance and cardiovascular functioning of the rats. The results showed marked improvement in the overall performance of these rats. By boosting energy levels, exogenous ketones can also help reduce fatigue.

Exogenous Ketones Make Transitioning Into Ketosis Easy: The overall aim of the keto diet is to put the body in ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state where the body is forced to use fat as its primary source of energy. Exogenous ketone supplements supply the body directly with ketones, making the transition to ketosis very smooth. Getting the keto flu is one of the fears of many who want to start the keto diet. The flu results when there is limited glucose for energy. Using exogenous ketones can help avoid symptoms of the keto flu since it supplies ketones directly to the blood.

Possible Side Effects of Exogenous Ketones

Exogenous Ketones May Cause Pain and Digestion Issues: For the body to reach ketosis, it has to adapt to the new diet. This process of adaptation can give rise to dehydration, and this, in turn, can cause stomach pain. When exogenous ketones are consumed, they boost the process of keto-adaptation. This action also increases the rate at which any side effect of keto-adaptation occurs. Nausea and diarrhea are also linked with taking exogenous ketone supplements.  These supplements, coupled with the pains that arise from keto-adaptation, can make the keto diet hard to follow.

Exogenous Ketones May Lead to An Excess of Calories: Most of the exogenous ketones available for purchase have calories in them. Remember that some people who use these ketone supplements do not see the need to follow the keto diet. Such ones may end up consuming exogenous ketones several times a day. This leads to a build-up of calories that can increase beyond the required calorie allowance. It, therefore, suggests that these supplements should not be treated like miracle supplements. In fact, using these supplements should be combined with a healthy keto diet for the best results.

Exogenous Ketones Can Prevent the Breakdown of Fat: The keto diet aims to replace glucose as the major energy source with fat. This is achieved when the body is in ketosis and produces ketones. But what happens when ketone levels are increased in the blood? The acidity of the blood is significantly increased up to dangerous levels. When this happens, the body produces fewer ketones, and fat breakdown is halted for a period of time until the ketone levels are adjusted to normal. Excessive high blood ketone levels may follow the intake of exogenous ketones several times a day.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Exogenous Ketones Be Used as A Replacement for A Ketogenic Diet?

No, exogenous ketones cannot replace a ketogenic diet. While they can support weight loss, exercise performance, mental clarity, and appetite control, they should be used in conjunction with a proper ketogenic diet for optimal results.

Can Exogenous Ketones Help with Managing Blood Sugar Levels?

Exogenous ketones can help manage blood sugar levels effectively. Research suggests that a proper dosage can have positive effects. However, be cautious of potential side effects and long-term effects, as more research is needed.

Are There Any Potential Interactions Between Exogenous Ketones and Medications?

There are potential side effects and interactions between exogenous ketones and medications. It’s important to consult with your doctor before taking them. Recommended dosage, benefits, common misconceptions, and the best time to take exogenous ketones should also be discussed.

Can Exogenous Ketones Be Used by Individuals with Certain Medical Conditions, Such as Diabetes or Liver Disease?

Exogenous ketones may be used by individuals with certain medical conditions like diabetes or liver disease, but safety precautions should be taken. Research suggests they may help manage symptoms, but dosage recommendations and potential risks should be considered.

How Long Does It Typically Take to Experience the Effects of Exogenous Ketones After Consumption?

It varies from person to person, but the effects of exogenous ketones are typically felt within 30 minutes to an hour after consumption. The duration of these effects can last for a few hours. Individual variability and factors like metabolism can influence absorption. Some potential side effects include digestive issues and a decrease in blood sugar levels.


Exogenous ketones have several benefits for the body. On the one hand, they can boost blood ketone levels and mimic the ketotic state. They are also important in decreasing appetite and promoting weight loss. These exogenous ketone supplements are generally considered safe to use, but there is limited research on the effects when used for a long time. It is also essential to know that using these supplements also comes with some side effects such as limited weight loss by prevention of fat breakdown. This defeats the purpose of the keto diet and may result in weight gain. Rather than consume exogenous ketone supplements, it may be best to stick with a healthy keto diet plan. Supplements used while on keto should be to boost the effect of the low-carb diet.

Michael Jessimy
Michael Jessimy is a qualified Pharmacist with over 10 years experience dealing with a range of both prescription and alternative remedies. He is also an amateur heavyweight bodybuilder and loves spending his spare time hitting the gym. He strives to help others build the best body possible through fitness, health and nutrition consultation and has several published books under his name.