Basis for New Nutrition and Treatment Strategies | Danish Diabetes and Endocrine Academy
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Basis for New Nutrition and Treatment Strategies

β-hydroxybutyrate is the central substance in new research at Steno Diabetes Center Aarhus, beneficial, for example, to people with type 2 diabetes and athletes.

People with type 2 diabetes, people with impaired muscle function and athletes. These are the three groups on which Ole Emil Andersen’s research may have an impact. He himself says that his project has the potential to create a basis for new nutrition and treatment strategies in the three groups. For all of them, it is important how their skeletal muscles function and convert energy during muscle work.

Ole Emil Andersen is a doctor and research assistant affiliated with Steno Diabetes Center Aarhus, and he has just received a grant of DKK 1.1 million from the Danish Diabetes Academy for his work.

Regarding his project, he says that skeletal muscles are not only essential for the human body’s ability to move, but also play a key role in the regulation of blood sugar. As we age, the ability of the muscles to absorb sugar from the blood decreases, while the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases. Both the age-related decline in the ability of the muscles to lower blood sugar and the age-related reduction in work ability seem related to poorer energy metabolism in muscles.

Another fact is that β-hydroxybutyrate – a ketone substance naturally produced by the liver with low carbohydrate availability – improves the pumping function of the heart muscle by increasing energy conversion. β-hydroxybutyrate also appears to improve athletic performance in endurance sports.

“We do not know whether β-hydroxybutyrate has a direct impact on function and energy conversion in skeletal muscle,” Ole Emil Andersen says.

That is what he will now discover in three methodologically diverse experiments:

1) An animal study, in which rat muscles will be isolated and exhausted, while surrounded by a fluid containing β-hydroxybutyrate or glucose. This will make it possible to measure the endurance of the muscles and the response to electrical impulses when provided with β-hydroxybutyrate.

2) A MRI scan study, which will examine the energy turnover of the tibialis anterior, while the muscle works in a newly designed MRI foot pedal. The subjects will consist of two groups: an older and a younger group. In both groups, each subject will be examined on different days, while receiving either β-hydroxybutyrate or saline in the bloodstream. The method will be gentle on the participants and facilitate a detailed insight into the energy turnover of the muscles during muscle work.

3) A functional study. In this study, physical capability will be compared after consuming a ketone drink and after a sugary drink with the same calorie content. The study will be a cycling study, in which oxygen uptake and fatigue will be assessed during both high- and low-intensity muscle work, both in people in an early stage of type 2 diabetes and in physically active people.

As part of the PhD study, Ole Emil Andersen will spend a period at Florida Hospital, United States, and be part of Bret Goodpaster’s research group in the hospital’s Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes. The plan is for this collaboration to consolidate the collaboration between Aarhus University, Steno Diabetes Center Aarhus and Goodpaster’s group.


  • Ole Emil Andersen, MD, Research Assistant

  • Awarded a grant of DKK 1.1 million by the Danish Diabetes Academy

  • Title of project: The Metabolic Effects of β-hydroxybutyrate on Working Skeletal Muscle

  • Research institution: Steno Diabetes Center Aarhus

  • Supervisor: Head of Research and Professor Niels Jessen, Steno Diabetes Center Aarhus and Aarhus University  

Ole Emil Andersen
Tel: +45 29934167

Danish Diabetes Academy
Managing Director Tore Christiansen
Tel: +45 29 64 67 64