Difference Between Ketosis and Ketoacidosis

29 November, 2018
Since the terms Ketosis and Ketoacidosis sound the same, are similarly written, and even involve metabolic processes, the terms are often subject to confusion.

When considering the differences between ketosis and ketoacidosis, it’s necessary to understand these two completely different concepts. What are the differences?

It’s easy to confuse these two terms. Such confusion may be due to the fact that both are metabolic processes that involve the breakdown of fats in the body.


A high concentration of ketones in the blood, produce this normal metabolic process. This happens when the body has exhausted its stored glycogen and begins to burn fatty tissue for energy.

The insufficient sugar derived from a limited intake of carbohydrates or a fasting situation will generate an immediate physiological response. The liver will have to produce glucose and the level of ketones that enter the bloodstream will increase.

Nurse taking blood test to prevent Ketosis And Ketoacidosis.

Ketosis and diets

The benefits we’ve seen are the reason why ketosis is the basis of many diets. These nutritional plans decrease or eliminate the consumption of carbohydrates. They are used in diets as methods to lose weight.

In ketosis, the body uses ketones instead of glucose to give cells what they need for energy generation. The immediate consequence is weight loss. However, this brings with it an undesired effect: ketones in the blood.


We must remember that our body has low levels of ketones in the bloodstream, that are natural and don’t present any harm to our health.


Ketoacidosis is a pathological condition that occurs when blood sugar levels are high. Our body cannot metabolize high sugar levels properly due to the absence of insulin.

This uncontrolled increase of ketones in the bloodstream can cause severe abdominal pain and severe dehydration. It’s a situation that may require medical help.

Unlike cytosis, in ketoacidosis ketones aren’t excreted fast enough to prevent the blood from becoming acidic. This increase in the acidity of the blood causes significant damage to the organs within the body.

As we can see, this pathology is a serious condition that requires emergency treatment. Ketoacidosis, if not treated properly, is potentially fatal. An alarm signal is the fruity odor of acetone in the patient’s breath.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)

DKA commonly occurs in patients with type 1 diabetes, or in patients with late-stage type 2 diabetes who can no longer produce insulin. Diabetics should avoid both fasting and exaggerated carbohydrate intake.

Among the triggers in the development of ketoacidosis, we can name those diseases whose symptoms are present in the form of high fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Ketosis and Ketoacidosis: Patient with diabetes type 1.

Other causes of ketoacidosis are stress and physical or emotional traumas. For instance, a heart attack. Alcohol and drug abuse can also exaggerate this condition.

There are symptoms that should alert us to the risks of ketoacidosis. Excessive thirst, frequent urination, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, difficulty breathing, weakness or fatigue, mental confusion and breath with a strong smell of acetone.

The fundamental difference between ketosis and ketoacidosis

Ketones that enter the bloodstream must be eliminated through urine, sweat, and breath. The way in which the body executes these processes is the main difference between ketosis and ketoacidosis.

In ketosis, the process of eliminating ketone bodies is natural and continuous. This physiological process prevents the concentration of ketones in the blood.

In ketoacidosis, the body fails to properly metabolize ketones due to insufficient production of insulin. This means that the levels of ketone bodies can skyrocket, causing serious damage to health.

Other points about ketosis

Ketosis is produced by diets that are free from carbohydrates. Usually, there are some side effects to note: permanent breath acetone, constant periods of dizziness and severe headaches.

Another risk of ketosis is osteoporosis, this is due to insufficient calcium. It can even compromise the health of people with kidney failure.