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The ketone bodies, d-β-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate, are soluble 4-carbon compounds derived principally from fatty acids, that can be metabolised by many oxidative tissues, including heart, in carbohydrate-depleted conditions as glucose-sparing energy substrates. They also have important signalling functions, acting through G-protein coupled receptors and histone deacetylases to regulate metabolism and gene expression including that associated with anti-oxidant activity. Their concentration, and hence availability, increases in diabetes mellitus and heart failure. Whilst known to be substrates for ATP production, especially in starvation, their role(s) in the heart, and in heart disease, is uncertain. Recent evidence, reviewed here, indicates that increased ketone body metabolism is a feature of heart failure, and is accompanied by other changes in substrate selection. Whether the change in myocardial ketone body metabolism is adaptive or maladaptive is unknown, but it offers the possibility of using exogenous ketones to treat the failing heart.

Original publication




Journal article


Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis

Publication Date





Acetoacetate, Heart, Ketone body, Ketone ester, Metabolism, β-Hydroxybutyrate