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Understanding Ketones to Prevent Diabetes

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Hello Bacsi · Updated Mar 18, 2023

Understanding Ketones to Prevent Diabetes

An excess of ketones can be a warning sign of diabetes, cause loss of consciousness, and even lead to death. You may need to test for ketones if you have signs of fatigue, nausea, dry mouth, etc.

Having too many ketones in the blood puts you at risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), where the blood becomes so acidic that the person can lose consciousness. Let’s learn what ketones are, their symptoms when elevated, and how to prevent them!

What are Ketones?

Ketones are a class of organic compounds produced when the body burns fat for energy. The body uses nutrients for energy including carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Carbohydrates will be used by the body first, but if not available, the body will switch to burning fat, and ketones will be produced at this time.

Ketones have been in the spotlight in recent years thanks to the popularity of the keto diet, in which a low-carbohydrate diet causes the body to burn more fat instead of carbohydrates.

However, there is currently no clear evidence about the benefits of the keto diet, besides, you may experience some risks such as increased blood acid levels and muscle loss.

There are 3 types of ketones in the blood: Acetoacetate (AcAc), 3-β-hydroxybutyrate (3HB) and Acetone. Levels of each of these ketone bodies will vary, but are normally regulated in the blood naturally.

The human body mainly works on glucose. When the body lacks glucose, or has diabetes and doesn’t have enough insulin to help cells absorb glucose, the body will begin to break down fat for energy. Ketones are a by-product of fatty acid breakdown.

Breaking down fat for fuel and creating ketones is a normal body process. In people without diabetes, insulin, glucagon, and other factors prevent blood ketone levels from getting too high. However, for people with diabetes, there is a high risk of accumulation in the blood. If left untreated, people with type 1 diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

Urine ketones indicate the risk of uncontrolled diabetes, fasting, low-carbohydrate diets, and long-term alcoholism.

How Do I Know?

After visiting your doctor, you will be advised on when and how often you should test for ketones. You should get tested if you experience symptoms such as:

  • Prolonged fatigue
  • Fruity breath
  • Blood sugar higher than 300 mg/dl
  • Feeling nauseous, vomiting, or having stomach pain
  • Confusion, or difficulty thinking as quickly as usual
  • Constantly feeling thirsty or having a dry mouth

For someone with an illness, cold, flu, or infection, the American Diabetes Association recommends checking ketone levels every 4-6 hours, as illness can increase the risk of DKA. People who have just been diagnosed with diabetes should be tested twice a day to make sure they are taking the correct insulin dose.

You can test for ketones in your blood or urine. Some blood glucose meters are now able to simultaneously test blood sugar and ketone levels.

Ketones can make the blood in the body acidic causing DKA. The most serious effects of DKA include:

  • Brain tissue swelling
  • Loss of consciousness
  • It is important to see a doctor early when the readings start to be moderate to moderate.

    How to deal with elevated ketones?

    Treating high ketone levels can help you with problems caused by DKA. You need to do enough as prescribed by your doctor to maintain a moderate level. Treatments may include:

    • Alternative intravenous (IV): One symptom of DKA is increased urination, which can lead to dehydration. Parenteral fluid rehydration can help dilute excess glucose in your blood.

    • Electrolyte supplementation: When a person has DKA, electrolyte levels tend to be lower than normal, including potassium, sodium, and chloride. Excessive loss of these electrolytes can adversely affect heart and muscle function.

    • Insulin injections: In an emergency situation, people are often given insulin to improve the ability of the blood to use excess glucose in the blood for energy. It is important that you check your glucose levels hourly. Once blood ketone and acid levels begin to return to normal, you will continue your insulin regimen at your normal dose.

    How to Prevent High Ketones

    Good control of diabetes is key to preventing high ketone levels. Take the following steps to keep blood sugar levels healthy and ketone production to a minimum:

    • Check your blood sugar regularly: Besides measuring your blood sugar every day, you should check your blood sugar more often in the following cases: sick, blood sugar is rising, there are symptoms of high or low blood sugar.

    • Follow a healthy diet plan: Manage your carbohydrate intake and insulin use, which is important for diabetes management. Please discuss with your doctor to be given the most reasonable diet including eating a lot of vegetables, and limiting greasy foods, high in sugar, harmful fats

    While testing for ketones can be easily done at home, it’s a good idea to get tested periodically, and especially more often if you have diabetes. It is important that you take measures to maintain blood sugar at a healthy level, combined with exercise, eating and resting properly to help avoid the dangers of high ketone levels.

    Learn more about Type 2 Diabetes here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Hello Bacsi · Updated Mar 18, 2023

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