The metabolism of acetone was studied in lean and obese humans during starvation ketosis. Acetone concentrations in plasma, urine, and breath; and rates of endogenous production, elimination in breath and urine, and in vivo metabolism were determined. There was a direct relationship between plasma acetone turnover (20-77 μmol/m2 per min) and concentration (0.19-1.68 mM). Breath and urinary excretion of acetone accounted for a 2-30% of the endogenous production rate, and in vivo metabolism accounted for the remainder. Plasma acetone oxidation accounted for ≅60% of the production rate in 3-d fasted subjects and about 25% of the production rate in 21-d fasted subjects. About 1-2% of the total CO2 production was derived from plasma acetone oxidation and was not related to the plasma concentration or production rate. Radioactivity from [14C]acetone was not detected in plasma free fatty acids, acetoacetate, β-hydroxybutyrate, or other anionic compounds, but was present in plasma glucose, lipids, and proteins. If glucose synthesis from acetone is possible in humans, this process could account for 11% of the glucose production rate and 59% of the acetone production rate in 21-d fasted subjects. During maximum acetonemia, acetone production from acetoacetate could account for 37% of the anticipated acetoacetate production, which implies that a significant fraction of the latter compound does not undergo immediate terminal oxidation.


G. A. Reichard Jr., A. C. Haff, C. L. Skutches, P. Paul, C. P. Holroyde, O. E. Owen


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