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© 2020 The Author(s). Published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the Biochemical Society. Much of the world's prominent and burdensome chronic diseases, such as diabetes, Alzheimer's, and heart disease, are caused by impaired metabolism. By acting as both an efficient fuel and a powerful signalling molecule, the natural ketone body, d-β-hydroxybutyrate (βHB), may help circumvent the metabolic malfunctions that aggravate some diseases. Historically, dietary interventions that elevate βHB production by the liver, such as high-fat diets and partial starvation, have been used to treat chronic disease with varying degrees of success, owing to the potential downsides of such diets. The recent development of an ingestible βHB monoester provides a new tool to quickly and accurately raise blood ketone concentration, opening a myriad of potential health applications. The βHB monoester is a salt-free βHB precursor that yields only the biologically active d-isoform of the metabolite, the pharmacokinetics of which have been studied, as has safety for human consumption in athletes and healthy volunteers. This review describes fundamental concepts of endogenous and exogenous ketone body metabolism, the differences between the βHB monoester and other exogenous ketones and summarises the disease-specific biochemical and physiological rationales behind its clinical use in diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, heart failure, sepsis related muscle atrophy, migraine, and epilepsy. We also address the limitations of using the βHB monoester as an adjunctive nutritional therapy and areas of uncertainty that could guide future research.

Original publication




Journal article


Biochemical Society transactions

Publication Date





51 - 59