Ketones are an acid remaining when the body burns its own fat. Ketones build up when there is insufficient insulin to help fuel the body’s cells. When the body has insufficient insulin, it cannot get glucose from the blood into the body’s cells to use as energy and will instead begin to burn fat. When the body is burning too much fat, it may cause ketones to become present in the bloodstream.
High levels of ketones are therefore more common in people with type 1 diabetes or people with advanced type 2 diabetes.
Blood Ketones test and result
Historically, ketones could only be tested for in a hospital. Now you can get a few home products that can show ketones. Some blood test meters can also test for ketones in a similar way to blood glucose testing.
Blood Ketone test results
- 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 of ketones and could present a risk of ketoacidosis. It is advisable to contact your healthcare team for advice.
- Above 3.0 mmol/L – a dangerous level of ketones which will require immediate medical care.
Ketones urine test
A ketone urine test measures the amount of ketones in the urine. You may have to follow a special diet. Your health care provider may tell you to stop taking medicines that may affect the test.
A negative test result is normal.
Small: <20 mg/dL
Moderate: 30 to 40 mg/dL
Large: >80 mg/dL
An abnormal result may also be due to:
Abnormal food or nutrition intake due to: anorexia nervosa (an eating disorder), fasting, high protein or low carbohydrate diet, starvation, vomiting over a long period
Acute or severe illness
Disorders of increased metabolism
Nursing a baby (lactation)
How to Test for Ketones