If you’re researching different weight loss options, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the ketogenic (or keto) diet and/or keto weight loss pills.
The popular keto diet focuses on high fat intake, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate foods to achieve a state of nutritional ketosis. In this state, your body switches from burning primarily carbs for energy to burning fat, which is supposed to help you lose weight. While keto diets can be effective for weight loss, they’re hard to maintain in the long run. And eating even a small amount of carbs shuts off ketosis.
For that reason, keto diet pills for weight loss were introduced to help people stay in ketosis.
In this guide, we explore the research behind using keto pills for weight loss and how effective they really are.
What are keto weight loss pills?
Keto weight loss pills are nutritional supplements designed to help your body achieve or stay in ketosis. And, while this may sound like the answer for those struggling to achieve ketosis to lose weight, there are questions about the legitimacy of keto weight loss pills.
Remember also that the safety and efficacy of supplements, including keto weight loss pills, aren’t FDA-approved. The ingredients can also vary widely from one brand to the next.
Ketosis happens when your body burns fat. When in ketosis, your liver produces three types of ketones to replace the energy it’s not getting from carbohydrates.
Ketones are chemicals produced by the liver when it breaks down fats that can be used for energy. When the body produces too many ketones, for example during periods of starvation or during uncontrolled diabetes, it can cause dangerously high acid levels in the blood, known as ketoacidosis.
During ketosis, acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) are the most abundant ketones produced, while acetone is the least abundant.
Along with a ketogenic diet and/or keto weight loss pills, other things induce a temporary state of ketosis, such as intense exercise or overnight fasting.
But are keto weight loss pills worth it?
Discover a tailored approach to weight loss that fits your unique needs.
Do keto weight loss pills work?
One major misconception about keto weight loss pills is that by raising blood ketone levels, they help your body achieve ketosis and lose weight. While they do help you achieve ketosis, they don’t help you lose weight.
Raising ketone levels in your blood doesn’t immediately translate into weight loss, but many ketone weight loss supplements make misleading claims that they melt off pounds without you having to follow a ketogenic diet. This simply isn’t true.
While exogenous ketones (ketones taken from supplements) have been shown in studies to increase blood ketone levels by up to 300%, they have not been shown to result in weight loss. Let’s look at why.
Why keto supplements don’t cause weight loss
Forcefully elevating your blood ketone levels by taking a supplement isn’t the same as producing ketones naturally or being in a state of ketosis.
When your body produces ketones in a state of ketosis in response to a ketogenic or low calorie diet, it’s reacting to a lack of available carbs to burn for energy. As a byproduct of your body breaking down fat, it produces ketones, which can then be used for energy. This is why ketones are associated with weight loss, but ketones have not been shown to directly cause weight loss in human studies — and only a small amount in mice possibly.
The majority of studies that report a link between ketones and weight loss are referring to a ketogenic diet, but supplement companies extrapolate this to include ketone supplements. However, studies don’t support that ketone supplements cause weight loss in humans, at least not directly. They may help indirectly, such as by reducing appetite, which we’ll explore.
On the converse, when you’re consuming plenty of calories and carbs, ketone-boosting supplements just raise your blood ketone levels without burning additional fat because artificially raising ketones in your blood isn’t the same as genuine ketosis brought on by carbohydrate restriction.
Ketone supplements may prevent weight loss
Taking keto weight loss pills, especially outside of a ketogenic or calorie-restricted diet, may inhibit some fat breakdown. While there are no studies on this matter specifically, they contain calories and could, in theory, inhibit fat breakdown. That’s because your body uses artificial ketones for energy before tapping into your fat stores. Supplements may also slow down the production of natural ketones.
Your body always prioritizes using external energy sources over using its own body fat for energy. It’s a matter of survival.
For ketosis to work, the research is clear that a calorie-restricted diet, which can include a ketogenic diet, is needed to lose weight. For instance, a study on ketogenic diets published in Frontiers of Nutrition showed that adding exogenous ketones to a ketogenic diet didn’t alter body composition any more than following a ketogenic diet on its own did.
So while keto pills alone won’t appear to cut it, that doesn’t mean that keto weight loss pills don’t have any benefits.
Indirect weight-related benefits of keto pills
While keto weight loss pills don’t melt fat to cause weight loss, they may help weight loss efforts in a minor, indirect way. Research is still being done and is far from conclusive, but some studies show that keto weight loss pills may help with weight loss indirectly.
A small study on ketones and appetite of 15 people showed a 50% reduction in perceived hunger and desire to eat following drinking a ketone ester beverage before bed compared to the placebo group who received a simple sugar drink. Participants who got the ketone drink also experienced a reduction in ghrelin levels, the body’s primary hunger hormone.
Keto flu symptoms
Keto flu can happen as the body adjusts from burning carbs to burning fat at the start of a ketogenic diet. Symptoms include nausea or diarrhea, insomnia, headaches, dehydration, and feeling sluggish.
Some dieters swear that taking keto weight loss pills reduces their keto flu symptoms. Research to prove this or identify a connection is sparse at best, But, if keto weight loss pills make the transition to a ketogenic diet easier, it may be worth trying, provided you consult with your healthcare provider before starting either.
Controlling blood sugar
There’s some evidence to support that certain keto weight loss pills help with blood sugar fluctuations. For instance, a review of several studies on the effects of exogenous ketones on blood glucose (sugar) concluded that they increase blood ketone levels and reduce blood sugar levels.
While lower blood sugar won’t directly cause weight loss, it’s thought that better blood sugar control may help with cravings and hunger, which can have a positive effect on weight management. Many popular drugs used for blood sugar control for type 2 diabetes, such as Mounjaro and Ozempic, were discovered to help people lose weight and have been rebranded or reformulated into prescription medications for weight loss.
If you want to try keto supplements, talk with your doctor and consider what’s available to you, which we cover below.
Available types of keto weight loss pills
There are a variety of keto diet pills for weight loss. The most popular types are covered here while the most popular brands are covered in the table below.
Exogenous simply means ketones that come from an outside source like a supplement, as opposed to endogenous ketones, which are the ones your body produces naturally. Most of the studies on keto weight loss pills that do show benefits, like appetite suppression, are done on exogenous ketones.
There are two primary types of exogenous ketones: salts and esters.
Ketone salts are far more common on the market and accessible to the public. They consist of synthetic ketones bound to an electrolyte, such as magnesium, sodium, or calcium. They come in many forms, including pills, powders, and drinks.
Ketone esters contain beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), the most common ketone produced by the body. They’re considered more powerful, but are much more expensive and have a very strong, even revolting, taste.
Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil
MCT oil or MCTs are a type of saturated fat your liver quickly converts into ketones. In this way, they boost your body’s own endogenous ketone production. As with exogenous ketones, MCT oil alone won’t put you into ketosis the same way that diet will. You still need to follow a ketogenic diet to lose weight. MCT traditionally comes in an oil form, but there are also powdered products on the market and even MCT oil coffee creamers.
Raspberry ketones are the organic compound that gives raspberries their distinct smell. They’re commonly used in cosmetics and food flavorings. While a study published in the Journal of Berry Research showed a small effect on obesity in mice fed whole raspberries, raspberry juice concentrate, and a combination of the raspberry phytochemicals ellagic acid and raspberry ketone, no human studies are available. And there’s no evidence of the effectiveness of raspberry ketones for weight loss.
Popular brands of keto weight loss pills
We looked at the most popular keto weight loss pills sold on Amazon.com, based on both best sellers and positive reviews, to offer this table of the top three keto weight loss supplements available at the time of publication.
|Type and ingredients
|Pros and cons
|Purely Optimal Keto BHB
|Exogenous ketone salt capsule containing calcium, magnesium, and sodium BHB
|Pros: Customers report positive effects on appetite, energy, and weight loss. Easy to swallow. Made in the U.S.
Cons: 800 mg of ketones is not much. Pricey for a low amount of ketones; most brands contain 5–12 grams per serving.
|Real Ketones BHB Exogenous Ketones Drink Mix (Shift)
|Exogenous ketone salt powder containing calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium D-BHB
|Pros: Customers report great taste, decreased appetite, dissolves well, variety of flavor options, and good value. Lower in sodium than many brands. Pairs with their free app.
Cons: Some customers noted it took a while to get into ketosis. A few customers felt the flavor was too strong.
|Bulletproof Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil
|Caprylic acid triglycerides from highly refined coconut oil
|Pros: Aids natural ketone production. Contains the C-8 form of MCTs, which turns to ketones in minutes per their website. Customers report a pleasant, neutral taste.
Cons: Contains 130 calories per serving. Some feel it’s pricey.
Note: all information in this table is as of January 2024, and subject to change.
Is it safe to take keto weight loss pills?
It’s important to remember that no supplements, including keto weight loss pills, are FDA-approved. That means they haven’t been through clinical trials to prove their effectiveness or identify potential risks or side effects. Before taking any new medication or supplement, talk to your healthcare provider.
We do know that some keto weight loss pills can cause problems.
The safety of ketone salts
Ketone salts contain a lot of salt and may pose a risk to those with conditions like high blood pressure or kidney disease. High amounts of sodium (salt) can be dangerous for those with hypertension. And people with kidney disease have an impaired ability to regulate their electrolytes, one of which is sodium, and have to be careful how much they consume.
Even in healthy people, too many electrolytes and too much salt can lead to imbalances, which can affect vital functions like heart rhythm.
Exogenous ketone supplements may also cause serious stomach upset.
People with diabetes may be at risk for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) due to the potential blood-sugar-lowering effects of keto diet pills. If you’re diabetic, always monitor your blood sugar and know how different food affects your blood sugar levels.
MCT oil safety
MCT oil is a type of saturated fat. MCTs are different in chemical structure than standard long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). MCT though may pose some of the same risks as LCTs, like causing a small increase in triglyceride levels, which may lead to arterial and heart disease later.
Raspberry ketone safety
A study on raspberry ketones published in Plants concluded that they “can be considered safe and efficacious with limited side effects as an alternative to modern medicines in the treatment of major lifestyle-based diseases.”
What are other ways to lose weight?
Other proven effective options for weight loss include obesity counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy, such as through a therapist found on Klarity. A therapist can help you identify emotional and mental triggers that lead to overeating.
There are also a variety of other medical weight loss programs and medications. These programs and medications include the guidance of a healthcare provider and are proven to help people lose weight. And prescription weight loss pills are safer than supplements because any prescription medication your doctor prescribes is tested and FDA-approved for safety and effectiveness.
The best place to start any weight loss effort is with a conversation with your healthcare provider. Learn how to talk to your provider about weight loss pills or weight loss in general.
You may also benefit from reading about the best prescription weight loss pills or the best over-the-counter weight loss pills and using what you learn in the conversation with your doctor.
Start your weight loss journey today on Klarity
If you’re looking for proven ways to help you lose weight, whether with a medication-managed approach to weight loss, counseling, or both, find a qualified doctor, registered nurse, physician’s assistant, psychologist, and/or therapist who offers weight loss services online or near you on Klarity. Get started today.
The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional with any questions or concerns you have regarding your health.
How we reviewed this article: This article goes through rigorous fact-checking by a team of medical reviewers. Reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the author.