Understanding Ketones

Understanding Ketones and Diabetes

Editor’s Note: This article references Ketones in relation to diabetes but is commonly misspelled as Keytones.

Individuals subscribing to an ultra-low carbohydrate diet may be well versed in knowing what their keytone/ketone levels are. The presence of ketones for the dieter may signify their body is accelerating the process of burning excess fat. In a normal, healthy individual the presence of ketones may not be a significant problem, but for a Type 1 diabetic, the issue can be deadly.

What are Ketones?

Ketones are an acid created when the body burns its own fat. Ketones are common in Type 1 diabetics because the body cannot get enough glucose from the blood. The insulin cannot deliver energy to the body’s cells, so the body has a survival mechanism that begins burning fat. In most Type 1 diabetics there may not be a lot of fat to burn. Diabetics may want to know what their ketone level are as a means of managing their blood glucose levels more efficiently.

If your body has an elevated level of ketones you run the risk of ketoacidosis. This overdose of ketones in a diabetic can lead to a coma or even death.

How to Determine Ketone Levels

You can easily test for ketones using keto test strips available in most pharmacies. If the test strip color changes then there are ketones in your urine. There is an indicator chart on the side of the bottles the test strips come in, making it easy to determine if you have any.

Why is Burning Excess Fat a Problem?

In most cases, there is no problem in burning the body’s stored fat, but in individuals who are starving, have an eating disorder, or have been diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic the implications are more complex than simply the burning of fat.

Your body can begin to consume tissue other than fat, including muscle. This may weaken an individual, but since the heart is a muscle long-term damage can result from a low or underweight individual also having elevated ketone levels. In certain cases, kidneys are also affected.

When Should a Diabetic Test for Ketones?

Test anytime your blood sugar is over 250mg for two tests in a row. You should also test anytime you are sick and whenever you are planning to exercise. If pregnant you should test for ketones each morning before breakfast and whenever your glucose level is over 250mg. If your ketone level is too high and left untreated it can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis.

What is Ketoacidosis?

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life-threatening complication. It is the toxic buildup of ketones in the blood changing the chemical balance of the blood and leading to hospitalization in most cases. It can be brought on by illnesses such as the flu or a cold. It can also result from an insufficient supply of insulin. This is one of the leading causes of death in Type 1 diabetics.

Other signs of ketoacidosis include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Constant thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fruity smelling breath
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Agitation
  • Irritation
  • Confusion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Extreme weakness
  • Air hunger or hyperventilation

When ketones are discovered in the blood or the urine of a healthy person attempting to lose weight it can be a cause of celebration. For a type 1 diabetic, it is a cause for concern, and getting your blood sugars under control will go a long way in preventing this from happening.

Author: Staff Writers

Content published on Diabetic Live is produced by our staff writers and edited/published by Christopher Berry. Christopher is a type 1 diabetic and was diagnosed in 1977 at the age of 3.