The Truth About Keto Diet Pills: Do They Really Work?

Chances are you’ve heard about — or possibly even tried — the keto diet, a low-carb, high-fat approach to weight loss that is widely popular but not the easiest or most sustainable diet to follow.

The keto diet eliminates nearly all carbohydrates and relies on calories from fat for fuel, a process called ketosis. However, getting into and staying in ketosis can be tricky because you need a specific amount of fat, carbs and protein.

Given how challenging the keto diet can be, it’s no surprise that manufacturers have created keto supplements claiming to help you boost energy, burn fat and lose weight fast.

For those looking to shed pounds, it’s hard not to be intrigued by these claims. But it raises the question: Do keto supplements actually work, or is it simply clever marketing?

What Are Keto Diet Pills?

While the human body naturally produces ketones when it breaks down fat for fuel, keto supplements claim to boost ketone levels, help you achieve ketosis faster and, ultimately, lose weight.

Keto supplements typically contain two active ingredients:

Ketone beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), a compound that the liver produces from fats. These small molecules circulate in the bloodstream and are used up by the body’s tissue for energy.

Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of fat found in coconut and palm oil that can be used as a source of energy for the body in ketosis.

“In theory, taking extra ketones in the diet may help the body lose weight by using ketones for energy and, therefore, burn fat,” explains Erin Holley, a registered dietitian at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “The claim is that you can take these keto diet pills and not have to follow a low-carb diet.”

Such supplements are also marketed to help ameliorate the so-called “keto flu,” an unofficial term that refers to a group of flu-like symptoms that can develop within about a week of switching to a keto diet.

Symptoms include:


Brain fog.

— Fatigue.

— Irritability.

— Nausea.


— Sleep changes.

However, there’s no evidence to support that keto pills can help prevent keto flu. While the exact causes of the keto flu are unclear, symptoms typically resolve within a few days as your body adjusts.

[See: Best Foods to Eat on the Keto Diet.]

Types of Keto Diet Supplements

The three most common types of keto diet supplements are:

Keto pills

Many keto pills contain BHB salts or BHB esters and are promoted as a natural weight loss supplement.

Keto powders

Similar to keto pills, keto powders contain some form of BHB. However, many keto powder supplements may also include electrolytes to help people stay hydrated and remain in ketosis.

Keto gummies

One of the newer keto supplements on the market, keto gummies are deceiving because many don’t actually contain any ketones. Instead, they are often made with apple cider vinegar, which companies say boosts metabolism and, therefore, promotes weight loss. However, there’s not enough scientific evidence to support this claim.

It’s important to note that the Food and Drug Administration does not approve dietary supplements, including vitamins, minerals, herbs and keto products, meaning there’s a chance that what’s in the bottle is not actually what’s on the label and may even contain heavy metals and other contaminants. Therefore, if you decide to purchase keto supplements, make sure to check for products that have been tested and certified by third-party organizations, such as the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP).

“These companies will test to make sure that what’s on the label is actually inside the bottle because a lot of times with supplements, it might not even contain what it claims to contain,” says Diana Guevara, a registered dietitian and community health education specialist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health.

However, while third-party tests can check for ingredients, they do not check for efficacy.

Do Keto Pills Work?

There’s not enough research on the efficacy of keto supplements to support the claim that taking keto pills, powders or gummies will help you achieve ketosis.

“We just don’t know whether (these supplements) will work,” Guevara says. “They’re very expensive, and there’s a chance for them to be contaminated, so for me, it’s a lose-lose-lose all around.”

While some research, such as this 2020 study, suggests that taking exogenous ketones can help boost concentrations of ketones in the blood quickly, more robust studies with strong evidence are lacking.

“It’s still unclear as to whether exogenous ketones will produce the same type of ketosis effects as diet,” says Gaby Vaca-Flores, a registered dietitian and founder of Glow+Greens, a nutrition and skin care consultancy based in Santa Monica, California.

One of the reasons why supplementation may not be all that effective is because the body seeks to maintain an even level of ketones to prevent a potentially toxic buildup of these chemicals in the bloodstream. When the body senses that ketone levels are high, the liver stops making its own and will try to flush out excess ketones in your urine, a process called ketonuria.

“Supplements are often expensive (urine) because, at best, you’ll just pee it out,” Guevara says. “At worst, it could be harmful for your liver because it does have to process everything you’re taking.”

Ultimately, the jury is still out on whether or not these supplements work. But one thing is for certain: Experts do not recommend keto pills — or any diet pill, for that matter.

“(While they’re) probably safe to use for most people, I certainly don’t recommend diet pills for anyone,” Holley says.

[SEE: Top Nutrition Tracking Apps.]

Beware of Scams and Overly Expensive Keto Pills

There’s a risk of scams with some keto products, specifically, supplements being pushed heavily on social media. In July 2020, AARP reported that two women in their 80s had been scammed out of more than $200 each when they purchased keto diet pills. AARP also warned that the number of reported scams is on the rise.

The FDA encourages consumers to be cautious of any supplements being pushed via email or pop-up ads, as these points of contact are more likely to lead to a scam product. Also, keep an eye out for certain words and phrases in any marketing text, such as “quick fix,” “guaranteed results” and “scientific breakthrough.” They’re usually a red flag of false advertising.

In addition, because dietary supplement products are not regulated by the FDA, it can be difficult to know whether you’re getting what you pay for. If you’re intent on purchasing a keto supplement, do your homework and ask the company to provide its research or evidence that the supplement does what the company is saying it does. A reputable manufacturer should be able to provide information about how its product has been tested and what it contains.

Is the Keto Diet Worth It?

If you’re considering the keto diet, Guevara encourages you to ask yourself why you’re doing it and if it’s really worth it.

Very restrictive diets are hard to follow, and they’re not sustainable,” she says. “With the keto diet, specifically, when we look at it for weight loss, most of that weight you’re losing quickly at the beginning is water weight. You’re not losing fat. It’s very exciting to see that number drop, but it’s not going to be metabolically better for you.”

Alas, there are few shortcuts to healthy and sustainable weight loss, and using a supplement to speed up the process could lead you to lose more money than weight.

“Truly, these are a waste of your money,” Holley emphasizes. “Do not fall for this gimmick. If you’re thinking about purchasing these, please speak with your doctor or a dietitian first.”

More from U.S. News

What Are the Best Keto Foods to Eat?

Tips to Succeed on the Keto Diet

The Best Keto-Friendly Vegetables

The Truth About Keto Diet Pills: Do They Really Work? originally appeared on

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