Glucose is the primary source of energy in the body. When the body does not get glucose, it will start to use fat instead. When this happens, chemicals, called ketones, are released and converted into fuel or energy.

The nutrient carbohydrate turns into glucose in the bloodstream. When dietary intake is low in carbohydrate, like banting and ketogenic diets, the foods eaten don’t turn into glucose in the bloodstream, resulting in no glucose available for fuel. This is great if you need to lose some fat, since the body will use fat to make fuel for the body instead.

However, if you are not eating a low carbohydrate diet, and the body is not able to process the glucose and convert it into energy, this will also trigger the response of fat to release ketones. 

Glucose is processed by insulin in the body, so when there is a lack of insulin in the body to do this job, the bloodstream will fill with glucose from the carbohydrate diet as well as the ketones that have been released from fat. 

When glucose and ketones occur together, they cause acid build-up and this acid can be damaging to the body. This condition is called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

It’s fine for a person with diabetes to have high ketones if their blood glucose is low. But if your blood glucose is high and you have ketones present in your blood or urine, you should get medical help straight away, especially if you have abdominal pain or are vomiting. 


DKA is serious and must be treated in hospital quickly with insulin and fluids to prevent dehydration. Left untreated, it could lead to a life-threatening situation.

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