Testing Blood Ketones to Monitor Nutritional Ketosis
A number of people who follow a low-carb lifestyle have become interested in testing blood ketone levels. The reason for this is that the amount of ketones that show up on urine testing tends to drop over time as your body adapts to burning ketones for fuel. This makes following your urine ketone level (urine dip sticks for ketones) of limited value.
The Best Info – The book to read that is most informative about nutritional ketosis is The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance by Jeff S. Volek, PhD, RD and Stephen D. Phinney, MD, PhD. The price is more than reasonable ($8.95 on amazon and no I have absolutely no commercial ties or links). It is also available in Kindle format for $5.99, so really it is accessible to most people, as you do not need a Kindle to read a Kindle format book – you can download it to your computer (or to most other devices) and read it on your screen. It may be available in other eBook formats, I have not checked.
Getting Over the Finger Prick Factor
There are plenty of videos on YouTube showing people demonstrating the use of blood glucose test meters. This is exactly the same as the process for testing blood ketone levels, except a different test strip is used. Watch some of the young kids testing themselves and you will realize this is the sort of thing a person can just get used to.
Time of Testing Matters to Understanding
One of the speakers at the Nutrition and Metabolism Society meeting in 2011 was Dr. Adam Hartman, who is an expert in the use of ketogenic for the control of epilepsy in children. He made an interesting comment on the timing of testing for ketones. When eating the typical mixture of foods that people normally consume in our society (a mix of proteins, carbohydrates and fats), ketones are highest in the morning. This makes sense because the least flow of carbohydrates in from the digestive tract is overnight, so the body burns some fat in the night.
When eating a ketogenic diet, on the other hand, the most exposure to carbohydrates is overnight especially towards morning as the liver produces glucose to keep your brain fueled and to prepare you for getting up. Therefore, if you are eating a very ketogenic diet, the blood ketones go up during the day as you burn more fat for fuel.
Testing Meters (as of Sept 2012) (be sure to check that the meter you are looking to buy tests ketones)
- Abbott Precision Xtra Blood Glucose and Ketone Monitoring System (also known as Medisense)
- Nova Max Plus
Testing Meters Compared
There is not much concrete to go on in trying to compare the two meters. On Oct 2,2012, I posted the following, which can only be considered as “some comments” rather than really substantial information. For most people, probably the most important consideration will be price of the test strips combined with availability of the test srtrips. Where I live, in Canada, I can buy the Abbott test strips at one of the major pharmacies in town for $2 per strip.
“Jimmy Moore has an important post, on his Livin’ La Vida Low Carb blog, in which he compares the two available brands of blood ketone testing meters.
Included is some direct head-to-head testing done with the two meters. It is also interesting to read the comments below the post for other people’s experiences.
Hopefully, if there is enough interest, a better unit with more affordable test strips will be developed – soon!”
The following refers to the blood ketone test strips for the Abbott Precision Xtra (Medisense). These come in a box of 10 strips.
Please note that the shelf life of these strips is not long (I don’t know the details) so please be aware of this before ordering a large number of testing strips or before buying from a source you don’t have confidence in. An expiry date will be on each box and a lot number.
(1) Local Pharmacy in Canada
For people in Canada, the first place to turn to is your local pharmacy. I bought mine at London Drugs (a major chain) over the counter for $20.00 per box of 10 strips. I checked their on-line ordering site, and they do not offer these strips for on-line sale. I didn’t shop around to compare price, so I am not advocating London Drugs over any other store.
Note: I have tried 4-5 pharmacies locally of various chains and most do not carry these strips. The location that I got them from is the main outlet for that chain in the region. Don’t count on being able to drop in to a convenient pharmacy and pick these up. I am sure that any pharmacy would be willing and able to order in these strips for you.
(2) On-line from Canada
People in the US face prices for these testing strips that can be quite high and also people in smaller towns may have difficulty getting testing strips locally. I did some looking around on-line.
Also, of course I can’t vouch for any company on-line or not. You have to look into any company or on-line seller and make a decision for yourself.
I am just reporting what I have found on-line. I have no idea whether these are good companies or not. Exercise caution as you would for any other on-line purchase.
A significant factor in cost could be the shipping fees, so you might want to take that into consideration, not just the price per box.
Well.ca offers at this link a box for $24.29 USD ($2.43 per test strip)
CanadaDrugs.com lists, at this link
- $32.42 USD (May 28/12) for box of 10 ($3.24 per test strip)
- for 3 boxes or more (30 test strips or more) this drops to $2.49 per test strip
Universal Drug Store offers at this link a box of 10 for $19.99 USD ($2.00 per test strip)
There may be other sites that are as good or better, this is just what I found with about 20 minutes of checking.
I am not advocating that you purchase from any of these sites or that these sites will link you to a reputable business. Buyer beware.
(3) Order 1200 test strips at once. Jimmy Moore, of Livin’ La Vida Low Carb, reports that he found a source for this. LINK Please remember that these strips have a fairly limited shelf life, so you wouldn’t want to order so many that you don’t get them used before they expire. The source is in the U.S., so please be aware that you would not be allowed to have this shipped into Canada unless you formally do so as a business. Canada Customs would not interpret 1200 test strips as being for personal use..
If you come up with something better, please let me know.