- Keto pills can increase ketone levels in your blood but that doesn’t mean they can help you lose weight.
- Keto pills lack additional benefits you get from eating a ketogenic diet like lower insulin levels.
- This article was medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City.
- This article is part of Insider’s guide on How To Lose Weight.
Keto pills are a type of diet pill that advertise they can send your body into a state of ketosis to aid rapid weight loss.
Ketosis is a metabolic process where your body burns fat instead of glucose for energy. It’s believed to be why people on the ketogenic diet lose weight so rapidly. However, people on the ketogenic diet attain ketosis through eating low-carb, high-fat foods — not keto pills.
So, do keto pills work? Can they launch your body into a ketogenic state and help you lose weight? Here’s what you need to know.
Kicking off ketosis
After roughly 4 days of an extremely low-carb diet, the body produces more keto acids, or ketones, in the blood than usual. That’s because fat cells are being dispatched to the liver where they’re converted into ketones that your body then uses for energy.
The idea behind keto pills is the same — to increase levels of ketones in the blood. But instead of cutting out carbs, keto pills contain a key ingredient: medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). MCTs are a type of saturated fat found in coconut and palm oil.
When you consume MCTs while restricting your carb intake on a keto diet, your liver breaks them down into ketones. So, yes, under these conditions, MCTs can increase the ketones in your blood. And because MCTs have a shorter fatty acid chain than most other saturated and unsaturated fats, the body breaks them down more quickly.
However, this doesn’t mean the MCTs in keto pills will help you lose weight. Also, keto pills are limited in that they only increase ketones in your blood, and only when you’re also following a highly restricted ketogenic diet. Whereas the ketogenic diet offers additional benefits that keto pills lack.
“A ketogenic diet does more than just stimulate ketone production,” notes Barbara Gower, a professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Ketogenic diets also lower circulating insulin, and often glucose, which arguably may have more benefit than the ketones themselves.”
Moreover, the FDA has approved five drugs for weight loss based on extensive research proving their ability to help people lose weight — often in combination with a healthy diet. Keto pills are not one of those drugs.
It’s better to get electrolytes from food
Another ingredient in keto pills is electrolytes, such as magnesium and sodium. This can be helpful if you’re already eating a keto diet because ketosis triggers your body to release more salt than normal.
However, according to Ariana Fiorita who is a registered dietitian at the Center for Functional Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, it’s best to get electrolytes from food so you can better monitor what you’re consuming since keto pills aren’t FDA regulated. You may also save some money.
“Keto pills and drinks can be costly and oftentimes contain all of the ingredients that you would have at home already,” says Fiorita.
Supplements aren’t regulated
Like most dietary supplements, keto pills are regulated post-market, meaning the pills, drinks, and powders are sold to consumers without the oversight of the supplements’ safety or weight-loss claims.
“Just like any other supplement, keto pills are not regulated and must be purchased by a reputable brand that is tested by a third party,” says Fiorita. Manufacturers sometimes add caffeine — which can help boost energy — to the supplements, and it may be an irritant to some people with caffeine sensitivities.
Too much caffeine for anyone can cause dizziness, headaches, anxiety, and dehydration. Caffeine can also interfere with your body’s ability to absorb calcium. In the end, eating the right foods is the best way to safely follow a ketogenic diet. “The results of studies on keto supplements are inconsistent, and marginal at best,” says Gower.