Ketone drink supplements could help regulate blood sugar, study finds

KELOWNA, Canada — It’s estimated that nearly one in ten Americans (more than 9% of the population) has a form of diabetes. Now, a study by researchers at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan finds a new possible solution for  regulating blood sugar levels. Ketone monoester drinks, a new supplement gaining popularity, appear to put drinkers’ bodies in a pseudo-ketogenic state, allowing them to better control their blood sugar with no changes in their insulin levels.

The research was led by Jonathan Little, an associate professor of Health and Exercise at UBC Okanagan.

“There has been a lot of excitement and interest in ketone drinks and supplements, which have really only been on the market and available to consumers for the last couple of years,” says Little in a university release. “Because they’re so new, there’s very little research on how they can influence metabolism and we’re among the first to look at their use in non-athletes.”

Type 2 diabetes causes the body to lose control of blood sugar levels due to malfunctions in the hormone known as insulin. “While Type 2 diabetes can be controlled with medications or injectable insulin, many people are looking to options that don’t require taking pills every day or that are less invasive,” says Little.

Ketone supplements have been studied by diabetes researchers a lot lately because they contain the body’s natural fuel source while experiencing ketosis, or the metabolic process that results from consuming a low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet.

“There is mounting evidence that a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet is very effective in controlling blood sugar and even reversing Type 2 diabetes,” Little adds. “We wanted to know what would happen if artificial ketones were given to those with obesity and at risk for Type 2 diabetes but who haven’t been dieting.”

Little and his team tested their idea by recruiting 15 people to consume a ketone drink after fasting overnight. Then, 30 minutes after consuming the supplement, they drank a solution of 75 grams of sugar mixed with water. The researchers then tested their blood.

According to the findings, the ketone drink threw the study participants into a pseudo-ketogenic state, allowing their bodies to control blood sugar levels without changing their insulin levels. These results show that ketone supplements have the potential to help manage and combat Type 2 diabetes.

While Little is quick to acknowledge that these ketone supplements aren’t a panacea, they could be a solution for people who can’t follow a strict and challenging ketogenic diet, or for those trying to control their blood sugar levels in new ways.

“There are a number of problems that we still have to work out, including the fact that we still don’t know what the long-term effects of consuming ketones are,” he concludes. “And not to mention that the drink itself tastes absolutely terrible.

The study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.