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What is Beta Hydroxybutyrate (a.k.a. BHB)?

What is it?

Beta hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is a dietary supplement ingredient that is self-affirmed Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). BHB raw material is typically supplied as a stable mineral salt, such as BHB sodium, BHB calcium, or BHB magnesium. BHB is a naturally occurring metabolite formed during fat digestion and metabolism, known as a ketone body. Much like glucose is the energy molecule derived from carbohydrates/sugars, and amino acids are derived from proteins, ketones are energy molecules derived from fat. BHB is an energy dense molecule that naturally fuels your brain, heart, and muscles during periods of low carbohydrate intake.

Who uses it?

BHB supplementation is most common among ultra low-carb, ketogenic and paleo dieters. Blood levels of BHB increase during low-carb dieting, and are routinely measured in these dieting populations. A boost in blood ketones indicates that the body is preferentially using ketone bodies for fuel, and benefiting from lowered blood insulin and blood glucose, while burning stored body fat. Supplementing with exogenous ketones is thought to decrease side effects when transitioning from a standard high-carb diet to low-carb/ketogenic diets (a.k.a. the keto flu). Target consumers of BHB include individuals looking to supplement ketogenic diets, boost physical performance, avoid sugar highs and lows, improve mental performance, and enhance fat loss while maintaining muscle mass. Looking towards the future, BHB is a natural fuel alternative to carbohydrate-based (sugar-based) fuels, such as energy drinks, sports drinks, snacks, etc.

How and when is it used?

The BHB formulation is a proprietary blend of BHB sodium, calcium, and magnesium, balanced with potassium. Provided as a dry powder for reconstitution, the resulting drink is intended to fuel exercise as well as mental performance, such as avoiding afternoon brain fog.

Why use it?

Fat-derived energy typically involves consuming large quantities of fats or MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides). These fats can lead to GI discomfort and only modestly increase blood ketone levels. BHB supplementation rapidly raises blood ketone levels and avoids GI issues because it bypasses digestion. BHB sodium has been used in the clinic for decades where it has been shown to:

Additional potential benefits of BHB drawn from ketogenic diet protocols:

How does it work?

BHB, as a naturally occurring energy substrate, is the transport (stable) form of ketone bodies. BHB mineral salts, such as BHB sodium, calcium, and magnesium are hydrolyzed to free BHB and free metal ions upon ingestion. BHB then travels through the blood and is actively transported into the brain and muscle. Once in the cell, BHB is converted into acetoacetate, then to acetyl CoA, to enter the citric acid cycle and generate ATP. ATP is the molecular unit of currency of intracellular energy transport. BHB also has a plethora of other effects, typically opposing effects of glucose. Additional actions are potential HDAC inhibition and inflammasome inhibition.

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