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A maladaptive shift from fat to carbohydrate (CHO) oxidation during exercise is thought to underlie myopathy and exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis in patients with fatty acid oxidation (FAO) disorders. We hypothesised that ingestion of a ketone ester (KE) drink prior to exercise could serve as an alternative oxidative substrate supply to boost muscular ATP homeostasis. To establish a rational basis for therapeutic use of KE supplementation in FAO, we tested this hypothesis in patients deficient in Very Long-Chain acyl-CoA Dehydrogenase (VLCAD). Five patients (range 17-45 y; 4 M/1F) patients were included in an investigator-initiated, randomised, blinded, placebo-controlled, 2-way cross-over study. Patients drank either a KE + CHO mix or an isocaloric CHO equivalent and performed 35 minutes upright cycling followed by 10 minutes supine cycling inside a Magnetic Resonance scanner at individual maximal FAO work rate (fatmax; approximately 40% VO2 max). The protocol was repeated after a 1-week interval with the alternate drink. Primary outcome measures were quadriceps phosphocreatine (PCr), Pi and pH dynamics during exercise and recovery assayed by in vivo 31 P-MR spectroscopy. Secondary outcomes included plasma and muscle metabolites and respiratory gas exchange recordings. Ingestion of KE rapidly induced mild ketosis and increased muscle BHB content. During exercise at FATMAX, VLCADD-specific plasma acylcarnitine levels, quadriceps glycolytic intermediate levels and in vivo Pi/PCr ratio were all lower in KE + CHO than CHO. These results provide a rational basis for future clinical trials of synthetic ketone ester supplementation therapy in patients with FAO disorders. Trial registration: Protocol ID: NCT03531554; METC2014.492; ABR51222.042.14.

Original publication




Journal article


J Inherit Metab Dis

Publication Date





787 - 799


VLCADD, fatty acid oxidation, in vivo 31P MRS, ketone ester, mitochondrial energy transduction, muscle, nutritional ketosis, very long-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase