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The Benefits of BHB Oil for Keto and Beyond

By Fitoru | 21 June 2019
The benefits of BHB oil.

Whether you’re starting a ketogenic diet or you’re looking for a supplement that might help you burn body fat better, BHB oil may be the key. Find out what this substance is and why it may be effective in helping you lose weight and live longer, plus the extra benefits of BHB oil. 

What Is BHB?

BHB stands for beta-hydroxybutyrate, an energy source known as a ketone body that is produced when your body burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. The main ketone bodies include:

  • Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB): The most abundant ketone, comprising up to 78% of total blood ketones.
  • Acetoacetate (AcAc): The second most abundant ketone, making up about 20% of the ketones in the bloodstream.
  • Acetone: The least abundant ketone, around 2% of the ketones in your blood—this ketone body is not used for energy.

BHB and acetone both derive from acetoacetate, but acetoacetate is not chemically stable enough to be produced as an exogenous ketone supplement, which is why you don’t see it on health food shelves or in your Google searches. 

What Are Exogenous Ketones?

The difference between the types of ketones that can only be produced inside your body and those used in ketone supplements is the difference between endo and exogenous ketones.

  • Endogenous ketones: The ketones derived from burning either dietary or stored fat in the human body (all three of the above listed ketones can be endogenic).
  • Exogenous ketones: Ketones that can be ingested from outside sources, like BHB in either ketone salt or liquid ketone ester form.

Many people use BHB supplements to start or maintain their keto diet.

How Does the Keto Diet Work?

The key to the high-fat, low-carb keto diet is to replace glucose (sugar) with ketones as the body’s energy source, thus training the body to burn fat when it wants fuel. This is known as the state of ketosis, which is characterized by elevated ketone levels in your blood, plus a rapid shedding of body fat.

The keto diet works by dramatically reducing carb consumption and increasing your healthy fat calories up to 75% of your daily intake. This lets your body know that it can’t use quick glucose anymore and it’s time to burn fat for ketones instead.

BHB Salts vs. MCT Oil

Those on a keto diet may be more accustomed to hearing about MCT oil made up of medium-chain triglycerides derived from coconut oil. The difference between the two when it comes to their use for staying in ketosis is that BHB salts are a fast-acting direct ingestion of exogenous ketones, while MCT oil takes longer to digest as it is itself a fat, but then leads to the production of endogenous ketones. Which one is better? It’s less a question of which to use as when to use them: 

  • BHB salts: These are great for starting keto, for burning fat during periods of intermittent fasting, and for taking if you accidentally or on purpose (as an athlete might have to) consume a high-carb meal. 
  • MCT oil or MCT oil powder: These supplements are better to use once you’re in ketosis, to ensure you’re getting enough healthy fats to meet the tall order of 75% of your daily caloric intake, and to make sure your body is actively burning fat on its own without external help.
The benefits of BHB oil.

The Benefits of BHB Oil

Here are just some of the ways BHB oil can help you lose weight and more.

1. Aids Fat Loss and Athletic Performance

Not only can ketone intake trigger more fat burning during exercise, but ketone bodies also encourage the body to burn fat while retaining lean muscle mass. In addition, the use of BHB for workout energy leaves enough glucose and glycogen (sugar stored in the muscles for quick energy) afterwards for muscle recovery. In this way you can achieve weight loss without the loss of anything else.

2. Defends Against Oxidative Stress

There is evidence showing that BHB, much like antioxidants, can help reverse oxidative damage done to your blood vessels and your brain. We’re talking about BHB helping to prevent neuronal death, guard against oxidation in the neocortex (the part of the brain responsible for higher functioning like language and spatial reasoning), and defend the integrity of your synapses in the hippocampus (where your emotions and long-term memories reside). 

Ketones have also been seen to help protect the endothelial lining of your blood vessels and fight back against the oxidative stress involved in strenuous exercise.

3. Improves Heart Health

Piggybacking off of endothelial and cardiovascular health, the heart adapts well to ketones and ketone production. Under normal functioning, the heart gets about 70% of its ATP (adenosine triphosphate, a fuel source) from fatty acids, with a mix of amino acids, glucose, lactate, and ketones filling in for the rest. Burning ketones allows for increased blood flow efficiency by up to 75%.

4. Heightens Cognitive Function

Here’s a health benefit you can’t get everywhere: ketones can cross the blood-brain barrier and supply up to 70% of the brain’s energy needs. When glucose is in low supply, the brain is happy to welcome ketone bodies, and your neurons in particular burn up a significant amount of BHB. This fast absorption of ketones means lower inflammation for your brain, healthier neurons and synapses, fewer free radicals in the area, and overall a lower risk of mood disorders like depression or dementia. In fact those with dementia related to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease have shown improved cognition with ketones.

One particular study from 2004 saw that an increase in BHB resulting from the consumption of MCT oil improved recall in adults with memory impairment, and more research in animal studies indicates that ketones can aid memory in the young and old alike.

5. Encourages Anti-Inflammatory Activity

BHB has the ability to block an inflammation platform known as NLRP3 inflammasome. NLRP3 can release inflammatory agents that contribute to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, gout, bone diseases, neuroinflammation, Alzheimer’s disease, and various cancers. 

In defense, BHB decreases the inflammatory molecules IL-1β  and TNF-α in the brain’s hippocampus, and interleukin IL-1β and IL-18 in white blood cells. BHB is particularly effective for cases of allergic reactions, acne, psoriasis, and other inflammatory skin conditions because it helps block inflammatory antagonists.

6. Increases Insulin Sensitivity

Ketone esters have been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and lower insulin and blood glucose levels by imitating the effects of insulin. Not only can this behavior help to reverse insulin resistance and improve your blood sugar levels, but it also decreases the risk of developing lifelong conditions like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes. 

7. Helps Fight Cancer

BHB helps to slow tumor growth and proliferation because cancer cells can’t feed off ketone energy. It’s a novel way to starve out cancer cells without starving yourself, which is the only kind of starvation you want. It’s what is known at the Warburg’s effect, which states that tumors and cancer cells utilize glucose breakdown (glycolysis) to gain strength and size, while your healthy cells have the ability to use glucose and ketone bodies interchangeably. Using cancer cells’ inabilities against them, scientists have found that denying access to glucose could shrink abnormal growths in the pancreas, the brain, and several other aggressive human cancer cell lines, suggesting that ketones and the ketogenic diet could be therapeutic strategies against cancer.

Keto BHB Oil Capsules: Side Effects

With all the benefits of BHB oil, you may be tempted to try it out for yourself but wondering, “Are keto BHB oil capsules safe?” There are some reported side effects, though they’re quite mild when compared to all the potential benefits listed above. Some people find that taking BHB salts or esters leads to stomach upset, nausea, or diarrhea. It’s also suggested that keto supplements like BHB might leave you with an unpleasant aftertaste, which could be masked depending on how you choose to consume your supplements (how about mixing them in a perfect keto smoothie?).

BHB Your Best Self

If you’re looking to up your blood ketone levels, the first thing you’ll want is a high-quality BHB supplement. You can get BHB oil in powered or capsule form, and avoid keto flu while you get started on your new low-carb diet. With your BHB levels where you want them, it won’t be long until your body produces its own valuable ketones like a (literal) well-oiled machine.

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