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A ketone test can tell you many things depending on what health reason you are using the test for. Ketones are an acid created when the body burns its own fat. The word ketone is from the old German word for Acetone called Aketon. You may want to test for ketones if you are a diabetic but you may also just be on a ketosis diet where you wish to monitor your ketones. Ketones are common in Type 1 diabetics and this is why you will see people losing a lot of weight when they are first are diagnosed with Type 1 despite the fact they are eating a lot...their body is ultimately starving. If your blood glucose level is fine, it is ok to have ketones a little high if you are trying to lose weight. However if your blood glucose AND the ketones are high this can cause a dangerous problem in the body called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

A blood ketone test kit is more accurate

Because a type 1 diabetic cannot produce insulin, the insulin cannot deliver energy to the body’s cells, so the body has a survival mechanism that begins burning fat. In most Type 1 diabetics there may not be a lot of fat to burn. If your body has an elevated level of ketones you run the risk of ketoacidosis which is extremely serious and can lead to coma or death. If a person with diabetes has the following symptoms, it is important that they do a test for high ketones immediately or go straight to the doctor if they have nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain

Always keep an eye on diabetics who:

  • Are sick, influenza or vomiting/diarrhea
  • Are on a low carb or high fat diet, fasting or has an eating disorder
  • Are pregnant

Ketone tests at home:-

A ketone test checks for ketones in your blood or urine. Ketones can be tested in a laboratory by using home blood or urine tests.

Ketone in Urine Test

The Ketone urine test is the recommended way to test for ketones at home and if you see ketones in your urine you should contact your healthcare provider because the actual presence of ketones, and not merely the level, may be important.

When Should You Test for Ketones in Urine?

Although your doctor or healthcare provider can help you understand when it becomes important to check for ketones by analyzing your health history you should generally test for ketones when your:

  • Blood glucose number is over 300
  • Stomach experiences vomiting, nausea, or abdominal pain
  • Skin loses its color or you become flushed
  • Body feels lethargic and/or you become confused
  • Breath smells “fruity”
  • Breathing becomes difficult 
  • Mouth is dry or you become thirstier than normal

A urine ketone test kit contains dipsticks coated with chemicals that react with ketone bodies. A dipstick is dipped in the urine sample. A color change indicates the presence of ketones. Make sure to keep the urine sample extremely clean. It is good to wipe the genital area with a sterile wipe before urinating.

A blood ketone test kit is more accurate and can be included in a diabetic’s glucose monitoring kit and involves a finger prick and blood sample the same as doing a blood glucose reading.

Readings for ketones in diabetics are as follows:

  • Under 0.6 mmol/L - a normal blood ketone value
  • 0.6 to 1.5 mmol/L - indicates that more ketones are being produced than normal, test again later to see if the value has lowered
  • 1.6 to 3.0 mmol/L - a high level and risk of ketoacidosis. Contact your healthcare team for advice.
  • Above 3.0 mmol/L - a dangerous level needing immediate medical care.

Non Diabetic Ketone Testing

Of course you may trying to lose weight and are not a diabetic and may just want to be in nutritional ketosis. Urine and blood home test kits can be ordered if you are not diabetic. If you are trying to lose weight or are on a fitness program and are not a diabetic, use these tests to see if you are in ketosis. Nutritional ketosis is often defined as between .5 and 3 mmol/L and it can take up to 4 weeks to be in this range. If you want to track your blood ketones day-to-day, picking one time of day and sticking with it will give you the best comparison.

Do not read information specifically relating to diabetics when it comes to these ketone levels as they do not apply to you. Your blood ketones may be the highest in the morning after your overnight fast. Just remember that exercise or consuming various types of good fats (or not sticking to the diet of course) can affect your blood ketone reading. A urine test is not as accurate as a blood test for ketones as it will only show excess ketone exerted not the actual level. There is a brand new ketone breath analyzer on the market which will be much more accurate for your use and only involves blowing in to a mouthpiece so watch this space.