Ketone bodies, from the breakdown of fatty acids to acetyl groups, are also produced during this state, and are burned throughout the body. Excess ketone bodies will slowly decarboxylate into acetone. That molecule is excreted in the breath and urine. When glycogen stores are not available in the cells (glycogen is primarily created when carbohydrates such as starch and sugar are consumed in the diet), fat (triacylglycerol) is cleaved to give 3 fatty acid chains and 1 glycerol molecule in a process called lipolysis. Most of the body is able to utilize fatty acids as an alternative source of energy in a process where fatty acid chains are cleaved to form acetyl-CoA, which can then be fed into the Krebs Cycle. It is important to note that acetyl-CoA can only enter the Krebs Cycle bound to oxaloacetate. When carbohydrate supplies are inadequate, however, the liver naturally converts oxaloacetate to glucose via gluconeogenesis for use by the brain and other tissues. When acetyl CoA does not bind with oxaloacetate, the liver converts it to ketones (or ketone bodies), leading to a state of ketosis. During this process a high concentration of glucagon is present in the serum and this inactivates hexokinase and phosphofructokinase-1 (regulators of glycolysis) indirectly, causing most cells in the body to use fatty acids as their primary energy source. At the same time, glucose is synthesized in the liver from lactic acid, glucogenic amino acids, and glycerol, in a process called gluconeogenesis. This glucose is used exclusively for energy by cells such as neurons and red blood cells.
Ketosis should not be confused with ketoacidosis (diabetic ketoacidosis or the less common alcoholic ketoacidosis), which is severe ketosis causing the pH of the blood to drop below 7.2. Ketoacidosis is a medical condition usually caused by diabetes and accompanied by dehydration, hyperglycemia, ketonuria and increased levels of glucagon. The high glucagon, low insulin serum levels signals the body to produce more glucose via gluconeogenesis and glycogenolysis, and ketone bodies via ketogenesis. High levels of glucose causes the failure of tubular reabsorption in the kidneys, causing water to leak into the tubules in a process called osmotic diuresis, causing dehydration and further exacerbating the acidosis.