Managing diabetes: Ketone testing

Updated On Jan 12, 2022
  • Glucose is the primary fuel for the human body. When you are low on glucose, or if you have diabetes and don’t have enough insulin to help your cells absorb the glucose, the body uses fat for energy
  • Ketone is an alternative source of energy to sugar and is produced by the body breaking down fats known as ketosis 
  • It is often produced when the body has insufficient insulin 
  • Instead of insulin helping your cells to absorb the glucose, your body starts to break down fats for energy 
  • Those without diabetes rely on insulin, glucagon and other hormones that help prevent ketone levels in the blood from getting too high
  • Ketones are the byproducts of the breaking down of fatty acids 
  • Those with diabetes have a risk of ketones building up in their blood
  • Those with type-1 diabetes are at higher risk of developing a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) – high level of ketones produced that can cause the blood to become acidic which can cause danger to the organs if not treated in time
  • Ketoacidosis is an extremely severe condition, so you should call your doctor as soon as possible

Diabetes patients should be aware of ketones and ketoacidosis symptoms: 

  • Those dependent on insulin – such as those with type-1 diabetes
  • People with type-2 diabetes who take SGLT2 inhibitors (such as Forxiga, Invokana, and Jardiance) 

Ketone testing

  • Ketone testing tests blood ketone levels via your urine or your blood and prevents this complication from occurring
  • There are two types of ketone testing – urine and blood 
  • Urine ketone testing is not as accurate as blood ketone testing

Ketone test results

What it means

Under 0.6mmol/L

Normal blood ketone value


More ketones are being produced than normal, test again later to see if the value has lowered


High level of ketones and could present a risk of ketoacidosis. It is advisable to contact your healthcare team for advice

Above 3.0mmol/L

A dangerous level of ketones which will require immediate medical care

Early signs and symptoms:

  • Stomach pains 
  • Nausea and/or vomiting 
  • Breathlessness
  • Breath that smells fruity

Preventing high ketone levels: 

  • Check blood sugar levels regularly 
  • Follow a healthy diet plan