Ketones are a popular topic of conversation in health circles, but if you’ve heard of them, it’s most likely in the context of the ketogenic diet. Now, scientists in California are investigating whether ketone ester supplements might change how we age.

What exactly are ketones? They’re a type of organic compound found in various forms and serving various roles in the human body, from sugars to steroids. When we have elevated levels of ketones, it’s known as ketosis. Broadly speaking, this happens when we have particularly low levels of glucose and need to rely on fat storage for energy. Ketosis shouldn’t be confused with ketoacidosis, which is a medical emergency often associated with diabetes.

As you can imagine, the potential fat-burning properties of ketosis have made it a subject of considerable interest in weight loss circles. A ketogenic diet is low in carbs and high in fat, often including fasting, to try to encourage ketosis. It was originally (and is still) used to try to manage some forms of epilepsy, and its use in weight loss has been controversial.

What scientists do agree on is that ketosis is interesting and important, with lots of potential for future research. For example, it’s been investigated as a potential treatment for various metabolic conditions, along with some of the neurological and neurodegenerative conditions associated with aging. Now they’re thinking about how it relates to aging more generally and if there’s a way to achieve ketosis without going on such a restrictive – and sometimes harmful – diet.

That’s where the study by the Buck Institute for Research on Aging comes into play. It aims to give participants, all of whom are healthy individuals over the age of 65, ketone ester supplements. It’s not the first study to do this, although others have focused on different areas of health, like cardiovascular problems or diabetes. This is the first time there has been a human trial on ketone ester supplements and aging specifically.

Half of the participants will receive the ketone ester as a drink, while the others will receive a placebo. Researchers will monitor various health indicators and their general physical and cognitive performance. If the ketones appear beneficial, it opens up an exciting avenue of further research into the potential of ketone supplements to alleviate aging and improve health. Plans for similar and expanded studies are already underway.

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