New research shows a substance called a ketone ester can significantly boost exercise endurance, cognitive function and energy levels in the heart at high workloads.
Ketone esters are small organic chemicals that provide energy for the heart, brain and skeletal muscle in a highly efficient way, but are typically produced by the body only during periods of food scarcity and are not naturally present in typical modern diets.
According to researcher Andrew J. Murray, who was involved in the work from the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, in Cambridge, England, further research into the potential benefits of ketone ester for humans is vital. Murray regarded the latest research as “only just beginning.”
While the study was done in rats, researchers believe there are some extraordinary benefits for athletes who supplement with ketone esters.
The findings, published in The FASEB Journal, may lead to the advent of a new food group to boost endurance and memory.
“The dramatic improvements in exercise performance and cognitive function will no doubt interest athletes and professional sports teams worldwide. Our hope, however, is that ketone ester supplementation will also hold benefits for people who are suffering from debilitating metabolic and neurological diseases by improving energy availability,” Murray said.
“The dramatic improvements in exercise performance and cognitive function will no doubt interest athletes and professional sports teams worldwide.”
Murray and his team fed three different diets to rats for five days. A third of the calories in the diets were from a ketone ester, or fat, or carbohydrates.To test endurance, rats ran on a treadmill. Rats also had to complete a maze to test memory. They found that the ketone ester-fed rats ran farther and completed the maze faster and more accurately than rats on the carbohydrates or fat diets. The experiment also showed that the ketone ester diet improved energy production in the heart itself.
The study suggests that athletes may see improved abilities through the use of ketone esters, especially in heart-intensive exercises.
“These endogenous compounds have long been known in the metabolism field but here one is being used exogenously,” said Thoru Pederson, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “This may be a new horizon on the energy balance sheet in certain nutritional or physiological situations.”