Exogenous Ketone Supplements: Review of Current Products and Future Developments

Exogenous ketone supplements hold promise for individuals looking to lose weight, improve their health and longevity, and enhance cognitive performance. In this article, we will dive into the history of exogenous ketone supplementation, the different forms of exogenous ketones that are available and what to look out for when choosing a supplement.

The first installment of this two-part series, which can be found here, takes an in-depth look at what exactly exogenous ketones are and how they work. If you haven’t had a chance to read that yet, it is highly recommended you do so before continuing on with this installment.

Before moving on, it’s necessary to clarify that beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is the predominant ketone found in exogenous ketone supplements. Therefore, “BHB” supplement (i.e. beta-hydroxybutyrate supplements) is just another name for exogenous ketone supplement.

The State of Exogenous Ketone Supplements

Exogenous ketone supplements are somewhat new on the scene, with a select few companies manufacturing them for dietary use. The exogenous ketone products currently available on the market are BHB mineral salts (BHB with sodium and potassium to improve absorption). The term “BHB mineral salts” is synonymous with beta-hydroxybutyrate salts and ketone salts.

There are also combination BHB supplements that include MCT (or other) oils. Exogenous ketone products come in either liquid or powder form.

Timeline of Introduction of Ketone Supplements

Exogenous ketone supplements have been in research & development since the early 2000s, but didn’t start making their way to the general public until late 2014.

Ketoforce by Prototype Nutrition was the first to launch, followed up shortly thereafter by Pruvit’s Keto OS (and Keto OS Charged, a caffeinated version of Keto OS).

Keto OS and Keto OS Charged are combination supplements that combine MCT powder (and other ingredients) with BHB mineral salts. Whether or not this is more effective than pure BHB mineral salts is still up for debate as data doesn’t show a large difference between the two1 (refer to our previous exogenous ketone article for more on this).

KetoCaNa (also made by Prototype Nutrition) made it’s way to the market in 2015. It is a better tasting, powdered form of BHB salt (this time using calcium and sodium as mineral support).

The Patents Behind Ketone Supplements

There are several companies/inventors that own patents behind exogenous ketones (both BHB salts and esters). Currently, however, all products commercially available are derived from the first of these – the University of South Florida (USF) patent. Companies either make use of the patent directly or license it from USF for their products.

Existing patents include:

  • University of South Florida with the named inventors being Patrick Arnold (behind KetoTech and the KetoSports products), Dominic D’Agostino and Shannon Kesl. The main patent is this one.
  • Richard Veech, M.D. who is working on ketone ester production (rather than ketone salts). These are not yet ready for commercial sale.
  • TΔS® (T Delta S) a UK based company working on the future commercial sale of the ketone ester product, ΔG® (DeltaG). TΔS is linked to the University of Oxford in the UK.

Products Often Mistaken for Being Ketone Supplements (But Aren’t..)

Pruvit also released a dietary creamer supplement, called Keto Kreme, made with coconut oil and cinnamon extract. Be aware that Keto Kreme does not contain exogenous ketones like many people mistakenly believe. It is an MCT Powder product similar to Quest Nutrition’s MCT Oil Powder or others on the market.

Forever Green’s Ketopia Weight Management System includes KetonX and KetoPM, two patented products that claim to assist the body in reaching a state of ketosis within hours (but neither contain exogenous ketones). In the future, depending on legal outcome of current licensing litigation, KetonX and KetoPM will have BHB salt patented by the University of South Florida (same ketones used in Keto OS).

What to Look Out for in Exogenous Ketone Supplements

Depending on how your goals and preferences you may favor one supplement over another. There are a number of factors you should consider to help you decide which supplement is objectively the best suited for you.

We explore these in this section, and later on in the article compare the currently available supplements against these criteria.

How Strong is the Blood Ketone Impact?

Ultimately, one of the most objective parameters you can look at is the impact of the products on your blood ketones. Depending on a product’s configuration (what type of ketone salt is it? how pure is it? what other ingredients are added?) a ketone salt may have a differing end impact on blood ketone levels.
We define this as…

  • Power: The products impact on BHB levels in the blood. The stronger the product, the more effective it is as putting the body into ketosis and the longer the effect lasts.

There is very little publicly available data on human consumption of the different ketone salts, and supplement products. Published studies are on mice, and in human based data-sets the specific product is not revealed.

Some limited data is available via self-experiments published on blogs, where we know which ketone salt product was used. The information available currently is only for the KetoSports products (the KetoForce product in particular).

KetoForce Average Blood Beta-Hydroxybutyrate Levels Over Time

KetoForce Average Blood Beta-Hydroxybutyrate Levels

Source: Data set taken from article published by Patrick Arnold on his Blog
Note: Blog currently has had some connection issues.

Although, not confirmed, it is probable that the ketone salt used in Peter Attia’s self-experiment published here is through the BHB salt KetoForce (to confirm). The serving taken in the experiment is just lower than the typical serving size used for KetoForce currently (15.6g instead of 19g). Attia’s data shows a bump of 1.9 mmol/L (2.6 mmol vs. 0.7 mmol) at the 60 minute post ingestion mark with the BHB salt compared to his baseline nutritional ketosis.

(Note: Since we can’t provide data for the different products currently, the next article in this series, yet to be published, will be dedicated to this topic. It will provide the results of our own self-experiments with different ketone salt supplements)

How Many Ketones for the Price?

BHB is the main active ingredient in ketone supplements and it’s impact on per gram dose should be similar across ketone salt products. As such it makes sense to standardize how you look at the cost of the supplement based on how many grams of BHB it contains. This allows you to compare supplements with different serving sizes, and take into account the supplements BHB density and weighting of additional ingredients in its makeup.

This brings us to the next criteria we can look at…

  • Price per BHB gram: The cost for each active gram of BHB contained in the product. Derived by dividing total grams of BHB in a serving by the cost of the serving.

The other reason using this metric makes sense is that it is the most expensive ingredient in the supplements.

Most of the supplement products provide this information directly now, and where they don’t it’s easily calculated based on the nutrition facts labels. We’ve provided this cost comparison in our review.

However, it should be noted that it is slightly reductive to look at the supplements this way. Other ingredients may provide other benefits you are looking for.

Specifically, some supplements contain a mixture of BHB, and another active ingredient, MCT Powder (e.g. Keto OS). So just looking at the BHB doesn’t do a supplement justice – even where we’re only interested in the supplements Ketone Power. The MCT powder provides an additional bump in ketones, and this is something we’ll look at separately in an upcoming article on MCT Powders.

The Product Experience

A variety of factors affect how you experience the product, and how easily you can fit it into your life. Many questions we receive at Ketosource relate to the items below – so we know these are important factors for you.

  • Taste: The palatability of the product. Exogenous ketones naturally have an unpleasant taste, so efforts are made by product manufacturers to compensate this via the mix of additional ingredients used in products. Some products fair better than others in this area.
  • Form (Convenience): Denotes whether the product is available in liquid or powder form. Generally, powder products are easier to transport so keep that in mind if you need something available on-the-go.
  • GI Tolerance: A major limiting factor for ketone supplements to date has been the human guts tolerance of their intake. MCT oil has a relatively low gut tolerance (highest tolerable dose in a case study was 4 tablespoons in one intake2). For this reason, it’s something to consider for ketone supplements, especially for those with more sensitive or chronically damaged guts.
  • Electrolyte Balancing: Exogenous ketones may throw electrolyte balance out of whack, so whether there are added electrolytes is something to consider when purchasing a ketone supplement. This topics deserves deeper discussion, as a variety of ideas have surfaced which differ. The electrolyte balance of a supplement can also become a key determining factor in how you should use the supplement optimally. So we’ll discuss this separately in a future article to give it the attention it deserves.

Other Aspects to Consider…

Products contain more or less additional ingredients that provide side benefits, or may be included for other reasons. This is an area which you should consider based on your goals and relative costs. Current products on the market vary widely in the number and extent of additional ingredients used.

  • Other Ingredients: This category includes any other ingredients aside from electrolytes and ketone bodies found in the product. Examples include: MCT powder and what it’s made from, caffeine, sweeteners, etc.

Of the current products, KetoCaNa and KetoForce are the simplest products, with Kegenix being the most complex in terms of ingredients.

Exogenous Ketone Supplements Review

Product Size (ml) Servings Included BHB grams Price ($US) Price per BHB gram Taste Form GI Tolerance Other Ingredients
Keto OS 2.0
(15 Packets)
Standard or Charged
350 15 Product: 99g
Serving: 6.6g
$85.00 $0.86* Reasonable Powder Reasonable, some people observe gut disturbance Calcium, Sodium, Caffeine, MCT Powder, Stevia
Keto OS 2.0
(30 Packets)
Standard or Charged
692 30 Product: 198g
Serving: 6.6g
$160.00 $0.81* Reasonable Powder Reasonable, some people observe gut disturbance Calcium, Sodium, MCT Powder, Stevia
KetoCaNa 318 16 Product: 187g
Serving: 11.7g
$59.99 $0.32 Reasonable Powder Good, few people observe GI disturbance Calcium, Sodium, Stevia
KetoForce 480 16 Product: 187g
Serving: 11.7g
$59.99 $0.32 Unpleasant Liquid Reasonable, some people observe GI disturbance Sodium, Potassium
Kegenix 1230 30 Product: 1170g
Serving: 39g
$149.00 $0.38 Reasonable Powder Reasonable, some people observe GI disturbance Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Erythritol, Protein Blend, Natural Flavors, Malic Acid, Citric Acid, Disodium Phosphate, Rebaudioside A, Maltodextrin, Silicon Dioxide, L-leucine, L-lysine, L-isoleucine
InstaKetones 549 30 Product: 351g
Serving: 11.7g
$69.99 $0.20 Reasonable Powder Reasonable, some people observe gut disturbance Amino Acid Blend (L-Taurine, L-Tyrosine, L-Leucine), Calcium, Sodium, Citric Acid, Orange Extract, Lou Han Guo (Monk Fruit)
KGX Boost**
(1 Fluid Oz/ 30ml)
N/A N/A Product: N/A
Serving: 1ml
N/A N/A Reasonable Liquid Spray N/A Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Erythritol, MCT, Green Tea, Vitamin and mineral supplements
Source: Last updated January 2017. All data derived from product Nutrition Facts labels and standard calculations.
All prices reflective of current US pricing and availability.
*Doesn’t account for MCT Powder active ingredient that also contributes to Ketone Power.
**Information currently not available – will be updated shortly.

The Future of Ketone Supplements

In the near future, a broader range and variety of ketone salt based products are likely to come to market. There are indications that some of these may arrive before the end of 2016, and will be of improved taste, convenience and GI tolerability.

The outlook for the other, more powerful form of exogenous ketone, the ester, is still highly volatile and subject to change.

Ketone esters (also known as ketone mono-ester supplements) have been used in research for some time but their use in the general population has been extremely limited.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that ketone ester supplements are extremely hard to palate. That being said, it is viable/ likely ketone esters will reach consumers in the coming years as was discussed in part one of this series. Unfortunately, they are extremely costly to manufacture at this point, which is the barrier that needs to be overcome in order to make them as widely available as the ketone salts.

For a more in-depth comparison of ketone esters and ketone salts refer to the previous exogenous ketone article.

Of the two entities bringing ketone esters to market, that led by the researcher, Richard Veech, and the other by the company TΔS in the UK, TΔS is likely to be the first with the announced product ΔG. TΔS is aiming to commercialize the ΔG product inside 2016, so they’re adamant about finding potential investors to help accelerate that process (it is a costly endeavor to bring new ingredients to market due to the regulatory approval process amongst other costs).

Consideration: Is it OK for Everyone to Take Ketone Supplements?

Some individuals may want to take caution before supplementing with ketones as there are potential downsides. Particularly those with gastrointestinal disorders/ issues as some ketone supplements can cause diarrhea, upset stomach, and flatulence.

Type-1 and type-2 Diabetics should consult a physician before initiating usage of exogenous ketones as ketones can significantly alter blood sugar levels. However, exogenous ketones may actually be therapeutic for type-2 diabetics; this is an ongoing area of research that could change treatment for these individuals.

Summary Takeaways

It is very early days with respect to ketone supplements, as patents that have not yet resulted in commercial supplement products will eventually bring more and different supplements to market.

Nonetheless, we’re already seeing a variety of ketone supplement options based on University of South Florida patent.

Which supplement you decide to use will depend on your personal goals (supporting keto adaptation when starting a ketogenic diet, fat loss, endurance, resistance training, general performance or health and longevity) and budget. In future articles, will look at best practices in how to use ketone supplements to achieve these different goals.

QUESTION(S): Do you take an exogenous ketone supplement? If so, what’s your goal and what results have you noticed? Let us know in the comments.

References:

  1. Kesl, S. L., Poff, A. M., Ward, N. P., Fiorelli, T. N., Ari, C., Van Putten, A. J., … & D’Agostino, D. P. (2016). Effects of exogenous ketone supplementation on blood ketone, glucose, triglyceride, and lipoprotein levels in Sprague–Dawley rats. Nutrition & metabolism, 13(1), 1.
  2. Azzam R, Azar N. (2013). Marked Seizure Reduction after MCT Supplementation Case Reports in Neurological Medicine)
  • Dor Konforty

    Great resource. Thanks.

  • Machelle

    What is your take on InstaKetones from Julian Bakery? If I did the math right, it is .20 per gram of BHB?

    • Hi @machelle210:disquswe investigated this product and have added the InstaKetones analysis into the table above. Yes, it does look like it’s 20 cents/ gram of BHB. We’ve also contacted them to double confirm this – waiting to hear back.

      • Machelle

        Thank you for the information. Also, I was wondering how you got the information about the amount in KetoOS, the company told me that they don’t release that info b/c it’s a patented formula? Also KetoOS has three types now, 2.0, 3.0 and the new BioMax. Which one are you comparing here?

        • The information was on the nutrition facts of each product at the time of publication – you were able to calculate it based on that. These were version 2.0. I’ll look into getting this updated to include 3.0 and BioMax.

          • April King-Davis

            Were you able to get the 3.0 for the Keto OS or the 2.1? I have been searching for the Max but everywhere I look it’s patent pending….

      • Roni0907

        Hi – just came across your article. Also wondering about the Julian Bakery Instaketones. Any response from the company yet? I’m trying to determine if this one or Keto OS is better overall 😀

    • Kellie

      I ordered this brand from an advertisement on Facebook. I received it 4 days ago and started taking it and was pleasantly suprised. I began to research all this keto stuff because I had no idea about it, I haven’t found anything bad yet and have been researching for 3 days. I have been taking one serving a day and although i hate the taste I have not had a carb, a sweet or a coke for 4 days.It has completely stopped my cravings!!!

      • Lorie Ervilus

        Have you lost any weight taking this product and would you recommend buying it??

  • Angie Stewart-Lefler

    Both my father and his brother developed Alzheimer’s. Given the genetic nature of the disease, naturally you can see where my interest in ketone supplementation lies. I stumbled upon your article recently, some years after reading a study where Dr. Mary Newport fed her husband, who had developed Alzheimer’s, relatively large amounts of coconut oil to increase ketone production. As a result, his cognition improved drastically over the course of just a few weeks. I guess my question is, were a person to begin taking ketone supplements to help stave off, or possibly even prevent mental decline, would you think supplementation be best in and of itself or combined with a ketogenic diet rich in coconut oil? Granted, any insight/thoughts you might provide are purely an educated “possibly”. Thanks for your consideration, because honestly, as scary as the thought is, I would probably try just about anything to prevent my children from the pain of watching their mother slowly disappear even though she were still alive.

  • Theresa Rojas

    A friend gave me the Keto OS sample to try. At the time I was approximately 30 weeks pregnant (now 33 weeks), and maintain a good diet and exercise program. My friend assured me it was safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women along with children. Before taking the sample I did ask my friend for any information but she didn’t know. She is in the health industry and so I took it with the intention of giving her honest feedback. I took 1/3 of the sample and my husband took 2/3 of the sample on a Sunday. I felt energetic, increased mental clarity and awareness but I had put down my extra trips to the toilet to pregnancy. On Monday whilst in my usual routine of kids and going to workout, I started suffering lower abdominal cramping and couldn’t continue to exercise. I stretched out as much as possible, went home, showered and went to my ante-natal appointment. I started suffering severe, regular and strong Braxton-Hicks contractions. My obstetrician was concerned and wanted to admit me into the Maternity ward of my Hospital. I dismissed the contractions to being tired and having to run around after the kids and told the Obstetrician that I would go home and rest. She told me that if the contractions continued in frequency and severity to come back to the Maternity ward. I went home and could not get off the couch from the contractions I was having. My husband came home from work and had to take over feeding the kids, bathing them and putting them to bed. Knowing contractions are muscular cramps I started drinking coconut water (full of natural electrolytes). By the next day Tuesday my contractions had waned but I was fatigued and missed my regular workouts for the rest of the week. Explaining my symptoms to another friend, she sparked my curiosity in reading up further about the Keto OS product. Not much is known. From what I understand Pruvit have taken their research and results on exogenous ketones from studies on exercise and (ketogenic) diet induced ketosis – not the same thing! For one, the body has had its glucose/glycogen stores depleted before using ketosis to provide the body with a fat fuel source which it can quickly regulate and bring itself back to homeostasis. Pruvit irresponsibly advertises that users can continue to eat a regular diet and take exogenous ketones – right?! So a person can continue to consume a diet with carbs but take exogenous ketones to go into ketosis, that is, burn fat stores, so what happens over time with unused/un-metabolised carbs? Disaster in my books. The liver does a fantastic job at metabolising, regulating and storing carbs, proteins, fats so using exogenous ketones long-term whilst eating a high carb diet will basically give you hyperglycaemia, excess carb storage – glucose/glycogen in cells, muscles, liver and fat and potentially cause insulin-insentivity because of the liver’s inability to metabolise all the unwanted glucose! Hello diabetes! Going back to what happened to me, so being pregnant I am potentially regularly entering/exiting states of ketosis to support a growing baby, I am already working out at an advanced level with no problems and hydrating/supplementing well I might add, I put the exogenous ketones in my body, it raises uric acid levels in my blood binding to essential minerals for my body and baby, I unsuspectedly go the toilet all day Sunday urinating all those precious essential minerals, I workout on Monday losing more essential minerals through sweat, my body can no longer support growing a baby and starts going into a pre-labour state. I rest, I bathe in Epsom salts, I drink electrolytes and coconut water, I eat liver (because I don’t know how much iron I have lost) and it takes my body a full week to recover before I am back to normal. Exogenous ketones were the only thing I did different! Now turn that on a regular exogenous ketone user and see you later essential minerals, hello heart palpitations and cramps, see you later precious sleep! Don’t give this to anyone with a weak heart, who doesn’t drink water and is unfit! How about overloading those poor kidneys? Can people not see the problem here?!?! And haven’t we learnt anything when we overload our sensitive system with drugs or hormones? The system self-regulates (homeostasis) and stops producing it’s own chemical/salt/hormone. Take long term use of steroids for example. I foretell a future of fat zombie ex- exogenous ketone users who can no longer metabolise fats because their bodies no longer regulate/metabolise fat stores/fuels and who look drained from lack of minerals!! The way to ketosis is letting the body do it naturally through diet or exercise people!! Don’t fall victim to desperate attempts to lose weight through a ‘magic pill’ approach. The only magic pill is diet and exercise!!

  • Donna Martin

    I was made aware of these the possibility of using exogenous ketone supplements because of the advertising by the Julian bakery, so I am grateful to them. I am, however, a bit nervous about purchasing products from them as they seem to be having litigious problems and possibly some quality control issues, which is a concern, although some of the claims seem a bit petty; the size of a wrap..but others are more disconcerting, eg. timely delivery of products and quality control. They claim “Our Ketones (BHB) for this product are made in the USA by of one of the original inventors (which means they really work!)” The fact that they do not reveal the name of the original inventor is more disconcerting than the manner in which it is phrased.
    I’m interested in losing about 60 pounds, but don’t want to run into issues with supply/quality or a company folding due to litigation. SO,is there a guide to using Keto Force? I would like to assemble everything I need before I begin, and would like to asses and compare the cost.