What is Beta-hydroxybutyrate?
As people's interest in ketogenic diets continues to increase, some ketogenic supplements have appeared in the past few years. Leading the fat fuel supps is a small compound called βeta-hydroxybutyrate (abbreviated as BHB).
You may have heard a lot of BHB and the potential benefits it provides, but you may not be completely sure what BHB is, where it comes from, or why it is included in a supplement tailored specifically for ketogenic dieters.
This article will answer all these questions and more.
So let's get started!
What Is Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB)?
When eating an ultra-low carbohydrate diet, the body will switch from consuming glucose to fat. When the liver breaks down fatty acids, it produces ketone bodies. When the supply of carbohydrates is insufficient, ketone bodies provide energy for the brain, heart, and muscles.
In addition to low carbohydrate intake, during fasting periods (such as sleeping at night), the body will turn to rely on ketones for running. Beta-hydroxybutyrate(BHB) is the most abundant of the three ketone bodies produced by the liver, accounting for 78% of the total ketone bodies in the blood.
Acetoacetate (AcAc) is the second most common ketone body, accounting for about 20% of the total ketone body in the blood. Last, but not least, acetone, which accounts for only 2% of blood ketones. Interestingly, both BHB and acetone are derived from acetic acid, but BHB is mainly used to generate energy, while AcAc is usually excreted through sweat and breathing.
Three benefits of BHB
Support cognitive function
Although the brain only accounts for 2% of the body's body weight, it can provide about 20% of the daily energy required by the body. Normally, the brain relies on glucose as fuel; however, during a low-carbohydrate diet, the demand for glucose is short, which can cause brain fog and difficulty concentrating. BHB provides the brain with fast-response energy and can provide about 70% of the brain's energy requirements. In addition, BHB also has a wide range of neuroprotective effects, including reducing free radicals, reducing neuroinflammation, and improving the cognitive ability of patients with dementia.
AIDS gene expression
DNA is the "instruction manual" in biology, which determines how we grow, function, and reproduce. If DNA expression is restricted or damaged, your cells' ability to synthesize proteins will be impaired, leading to a series of health complications. BHB improves gene expression by inhibiting histone deacetylase (HDAC). HDAC is an enzyme that cuts off the acetyl groups of histones on DNA and reduces the availability of DNA to transcription factors.
Inhibition of HDAC can increase the human body's accessibility to genes (such as FOXO and MLT1) and trigger a series of biological activities. It has been noted that it can improve metabolic health, lifespan, and elasticity.
Fight oxidative stress and inflammation
In addition to the ability to support energy production and gene expression, BHB has also been found in some models to support the body's resistance to oxidative stress by up-regulating FOXO.
FOXO protein affects various mechanisms of the body, including metabolism, apoptosis, and resistance to oxidative stress. Together, these factors affect the longevity and lifespan of organisms. BHB also inhibits NLRP3, an inflammasome that stimulates the release of inflammatory molecules, including IL-1β, IL-18, and TNF-α. Preliminary studies have shown that BHB can reduce the levels of these inflammatory biomarkers.
So far, we have been discussing ketones naturally produced by the body, which are endogenous ketone bodies. Ketones can also be supplemented in the form of BHB salts. BHB salt combines BHB molecules with minerals such as sodium, calcium, or magnesium. When these are ingested, the body releases BHB to provide energy, while minerals support countless other functions in the body, such as hydration, muscle function, and blood clots.
Now, you may be thinking, if you have followed a ketogenic diet, why you need to supplement BHB salt ca. If a person is accustomed to a high-carbohydrate diet and suddenly switches to an ultra-low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet, it takes a while for the body to adapt to produce enough ketones to provide energy for its countless activities. When the body "returns to normal", flu-like symptoms will appear (drowsiness, brain fog, cramps, etc.). This condition is called keto flu.
People who want to transition to a ketogenic lifestyle can supplement exogenous ketones (in the form of BHB salt) to provide the body with easily accessible fuel to help the transition. This can reduce fatigue and accelerate the body's transition to burning fat as fuel.
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