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Are Exogenous Ketones Helpful or Harmful?

By Dr. Eric Berg

Our Educational Content is Not Meant or Intended for Medical Advice or Treatment

Have you ever seen exogenous ketones and wondered what all the hype was about? Ketone pills, powders, and products are all over the market. These supplements are highly marketed as a quick-fix approach to helping you lose weight.

It takes some work to shift to a keto diet. And it takes some patience to see the benefits of weight loss and improved health. So if someone told you that there was a product out there that can help you to lose weight easier and without all the work? It might be tempting to try, right?

But there are so many health claims and cure-all promises out there. So it’s healthy to be a bit of a skeptic when it comes to these things.

And with popular exogenous ketone supplements like Perfect Keto and HVMN costing several dollars per serving, you would want to know before buying if they are really worth it.

So do exogenous ketones really work? Are they helpful? Or might they cause more harm than good?

In this article, I will break this topic down. I’ll explain what these supplements are and what their claimed benefits are supposed to be. I’ll look at whether or not they help you lose weight. And finally, I will explain what I think is a better, healthier approach.

But first, let’s do a quick refresher on ketosis and how the keto diet is meant to work.

How do ketosis and the keto diet work?

The basic principle of the ketogenic diet is to limit your carb intake so that your body burns fat for fuel instead of carbs.

When the body burns fat, it produces something called ketone bodies. These are by-products of the fat burning process. When fat is used for energy and ketones are produced, blood ketone levels increase. This state of elevated blood ketone bodies is called ketosis.

With keto, the goal is to use diet to put your body into ketosis naturally. In this state, it is producing ketones by burning fat.

In order to go into ketosis naturally, you must limit your carb intake. This is so that carbs aren’t available as fuel. During times when you are fasting and not eating, your body will turn to fats for energy if carbs aren’t available.

Fat Storing Hormone and blood sugar are involved in this process, too. When we eat lots of carbs, our blood sugar rises and more Fat Storing Hormone is produced. Eating fewer carbs results in less Fat Storing Hormone. Low Fat Storing Hormone signals cells to use fat as fuel, while high levels signal carbohydrates to be used.

To review, eating a low-carb diet sends signals to your body to use fat as the primary energy source. And when the body burns fat for fuel, you can lose weight and fat.

The ketogenic diet is a diet that supports burning fat instead of carbs. A keto-friendly diet is low in carbs, moderate in protein, and higher in fat.
 

What are exogenous ketones?
 

Blue supplement bottle with question mark on the label


Ketones that are made naturally in the body are called endogenous ketones. As described above, this happens when fat is being used as the primary energy source.

Ketones that come from outside of the body in the form of a supplement are called exogenous ketones. The word ‘exogenous’ means coming from outside of the body. Exogenous ketone supplements are a way to raise the overall level of ketone bodies in your blood.

Ketone supplements are meant to be taken regularly. This is done to keep your body in the state of ketosis. Because your body isn’t naturally producing ketones, you have to continually take them to maintain ketosis.
 

Forms of exogenous ketones

These supplements are all over the market and come in a variety of types of forms. They come in powders, liquids, and prepared products.

Our body produces three types of ketone bodies. These are beta-hydroxybutyrate, acetoacetate, and acetone. Beta-hydroxybutyrate is the most abundant of the three in the body. It is most often used in ketone products.

Exogenous supplements come in two forms. These are ketone salts and ketone esters. Ketone salts come in powdered form, with the ketone bodies bound to a mineral salt. This might be sodium, calcium, or magnesium. Ketone esters, on the other hand, are liquids that contain no salts.

Some of the popular brands include Perfect Keto, HVMN, Pruvit Keto, and more. They are designed to be taken multiple times per day.
 

What are the claimed benefits of ketone supplements?

Ketone supplements are marketed as a way to raise your ketone levels and to put your body into an ‘artificial’ state of ketosis.

The idea is to make your body go into the state of ketosis when it wouldn’t naturally. Marketers supposedly say that this will lead to health benefits.

Here are some of the claims marketers will make about these supplements:

  • Taking ketones will make you lose weight faster.
  • You’ll burn more fat.
  • You don’t have to address your diet or limit your carbs as much.
  • You can indulge in high-carb cheat foods that aren’t normally allowed on the keto diet.
  • The supplement will help you return to ketosis easily when you eat carbs.
  • They are a quick-fix option that is easier than changing your dietary habits.
  • You’ll experience greater mental clarity.
  • Your physical performance will be improved.

But are any of these claims true? Do they really work?
 

Do exogenous ketones work?

Taking ketones as a supplement will certainly put your body into a state of ketosis (elevated ketone levels in the blood).

But does raising ketone levels in the body through supplementation have the same end result as going into ketosis naturally? Are the results the same as when you use dietary changes and the ketogenic diet?

That is an important question to ask. And in the end, the answer is no.
 

High ketone levels do not lead to weight loss

Raising ketone levels artificially simply means that your blood ketone level is elevated. You will be peeing out extra ketones, but other than that not much changes.

Taking exogenous ketones will put your body into a state of ketosis. But that doesn’t mean your body is burning fat as fuel. As a result, these supplements won’t help you lose weight.

You will only begin to burn fat as fuel (and begin to lose weight) if the body doesn’t have any alternative source of fuel to use other than fat.

This is why providing exogenous ketones as an extra fuel source can actually make losing weight harder on the ketogenic diet.
 

Exogenous ketones can slow your weight loss efforts

This is a common scenario:

A person is doing the ketogenic diet. They see an ad for ketone supplements, like the promise of a quick fix, and buy it. But when they start using the product, something odd happens. All of a sudden, they find it harder and harder to lose weight… But why?

Taking these supplements can actually impede your weight loss efforts. Watch me explain how this can happen in this video.

The supplements actually defeat the purpose of using the ketogenic diet as a weight loss strategy.
 

Measuring tape on a plate set with fork and knife, symbolizing weight loss

When you take ketone supplements, your body will use the exogenous ketones as fuel first. This makes your body think it doesn’t need to make its own source of energy. As a result, your body won’t turn to burning fat as fuel. If it doesn’t need fuel, then why would it go through the trouble of making it?

At the end of the day, you really don’t need exogenous ketones. In fact, they might actually inhibit your progress instead of help.

You simply need to focus on changing your diet, limiting carbohydrates, and becoming healthier with your habits. That is when the real progress will be seen.

This healthy approach is the basic foundation of my ketogenic diet plan.
 

Are exogenous ketones helpful in any circumstances?

The only time these supplements may be useful is for athletic performance. If you are an elite athlete, for example, you might use them. They can provide you some extra fuel to counteract the high demand you put on your body. In this case, your body might benefit from an extra energy source.

For weight loss, though, they just aren’t helpful or necessary.

In fact, using them can come with several drawbacks and even side effects.
 

Drawbacks and side effects of exogenous ketones

Exogenous ketone supplements aren’t helpful for weight loss. And they can actually make it harder to be healthy and lose weight.

Aside from those major issues, there are many other problems associated with them:
 

1. They are expensive.

These supplements aren’t cheap. They’ve got a high price tag, with bottles sometimes-costing $130 or at least a few dollars per serving.

Instead of draining your wallet for a supplement that won’t even help you get healthy, why not spend those precious dollars on your diet instead? Investing in healthy foods and healthy meal plans will be much more worth your while.
 

2. They taste bad.

Ketone supplements are known for their bad taste. Ketone esters are worse tasting than the salts, but most people have a hard time swallowing either one. This causes many people to try and cover up the bad taste with fillers and unhealthy ingredients like sugars or artificial flavors.

A healthy diet full of a variety of interesting foods will make your taste buds much happier. And it will also help you avoid using additives or fillers that aren’t good for you.
 

3. They can cause digestive problems.

Taking ketone supplements can cause a lot of digestive upset. Side effects like diarrhea, gas, bloating, and stomach pain aren’t uncommon.

No one likes unpleasant symptoms like these. They can really ruin your day and leave you feeling awful. Opt for fresh foods that make your digestive system happy.
 

4. They encourage a quick fix, not helping you to learn healthier habits.

One of the biggest issues with these supplements is this. They make you feel like you don’t need to actually do the real work of getting healthier. Making healthy changes and losing weight requires shifting your lifestyle, habits, and diet. Anything that promises a quick fix really defeats the purpose. It will prevent you from making the necessary changes to become healthier overall.

For best results, you will want to focus on learning how to adapt to a keto-friendly diet. This will allow you to be healthier overall.

The bottom line

As we’ve showed above, it is my opinion that exogenous ketone supplements aren’t helpful for weight loss. In the end, they can actually impede your efforts. They can make it harder to lose weight on the ketogenic diet.

And on top of all of that, they have some serious side effects and drawbacks.

Ultimately, the real goal is to become healthier through natural approaches. This means correcting your diet, changing your habits, and shifting your lifestyle. If you do the diet, do it in a healthy way, and incorporate intermittent fasting, then you will be on the right track.

Exogenous ketones are not necessary and you simply don’t need them.

Use the ketogenic diet plan to get healthy naturally

What do I recommend in place of these exogenous supplements?

The best way to fat loss and weight loss is through your diet. A keto-friendly, low-carb diet will induce nutritional ketosis. This encourages fat burning and weight loss in a healthy way.

Low-carb foods spelling out the word keto, using cheese, nuts, broccoli, and egg.


My approach is all about getting healthy. I recommend Healthy KetoTM, which involves getting healthy first and then losing weight. I also suggest intermittent fasting, which is a tool and pattern of eating that supports the process. It’s not all about limiting calories. It’s about a healthy lifestyle.

It takes time for your body to get used to this new way of working and using fuel sources. But eventually, your body will adapt to the process. Your cells will create new machinery to burn fat as fuel on a regular basis. This is called becoming keto-adapted.

If you are new to the keto diet and want to learn the basics then watch my video on healthy keto plan. I explain my program in this great video for beginners.

Do you follow a keto diet? What are your best tips for living a healthy, keto life?

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