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CreatedBy: 1
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Createdon: 14 Jul 2017
Updatedon: 03 Apr 2023

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Author: Khoa Tran
Published Jul 14, 2017
Updated Apr 03, 2023

Table of contents


Etymology and Pronunciation

Ketosis (kee-TOH-sis)
ketosis - Referencing ketone bodies, the byproduct of using fat as energy instead of glucose
ketos - Greek for "sea monster" or "whale"


The concept of ketosis has been known for centuries, although the term itself was not coined until the early 20th century. Throughout history, people have fasted or restricted their diets in various ways, and it was observed that during these times the body would switch to burning fat for energy instead of glucose.

The term "ketosis" was first used in 1911 by a German biochemist named Hans von Euler-Chelpin. The word comes from the Greek word "ketos" which means "sea monster" or "whale". This term was chosen by the German physician Franz Knoop in the early 20th century to describe a metabolic state in which the body burns fat for fuel instead of glucose. He and his colleagues were studying the metabolism of fatty acids and discovered that when the body was deprived of carbohydrates, it would begin to break down fat into molecules called ketone bodies. This metabolic state was named ketosis.

In the following years, researchers continued to study the mechanisms behind ketosis and its potential applications for health and disease. In the 1920s, scientists at the Mayo Clinic found that a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet could be an effective treatment for epilepsy, and that this effect was likely due to the induction of ketosis.

In the decades that followed, the ketogenic diet gained popularity as a treatment for epilepsy, particularly in children who did not respond to other treatments. The diet was also found to be effective for weight loss, and in recent years has been studied as a potential treatment for conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and neurological disorders.

Modern Understanding

The body's primary energy source is carbohydrates (sugars, bread, and grain), and ketones (fat and protein) are the secondary source of energy.

Ketosis is a metabolic state that occurs when the body doesn't have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy, and begins to break down stored fat instead. This process produces ketones, which can build up in the blood and urine and cause a range of symptoms, including nausea, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.

When your body is in ketosis, it changes the way it gets energy and starts burning fat and muscle instead of glucose.


When fats are broken down, they turn into fatty acids which are carried to the liver. Inside the liver's mitochondria, the fatty acids are processed further into a molecule called acetyl-CoA (from an enzyme called acetoacetyl coenzyme A). This leads to the production of acetoacetate, which is then converted into two other ketones: beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and acetone. Acetone is then released from the blood vessels and breathed out the lung, and is the substance that causes "bad breath".


The treatment for ketosis depends on the underlying cause. In some cases, such as during a low-carbohydrate diet or fasting, ketosis may be a normal and harmless metabolic state. However, in other cases, such as in people with uncontrolled diabetes, ketosis can be a serious medical condition that requires immediate treatment.

Treatment for ketosis typically involves addressing the underlying cause and restoring normal blood sugar and insulin levels. This may include:

Increasing carbohydrate intake: If ketosis is caused by a low-carbohydrate diet, increasing carbohydrate intake can help reverse the condition. Adding healthy sources of carbohydrates such as fruits, whole grains, and starchy vegetables can help provide the body with the energy it needs to function properly.

Managing diabetes: People with diabetes who experience ketosis need to work with their healthcare provider to manage their blood sugar levels. This may include taking medication or insulin as prescribed, monitoring blood sugar levels regularly, and making lifestyle changes to improve blood sugar control.

Rehydration: Dehydration can worsen ketosis, so it's important to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. This can include water, herbal tea, and sugar-free electrolyte drinks.

Electrolyte replacement: When ketones are produced, they can cause a loss of electrolytes, which are essential minerals that help regulate bodily functions. Replacing lost electrolytes can help prevent complications such as muscle weakness and irregular heartbeats. Consuming foods or drinks high in sodium, potassium, and magnesium can help restore electrolyte balance.

Treating underlying conditions: If ketosis is caused by an underlying medical condition, such as an infection or illness, treating the condition can help alleviate symptoms of ketosis.