Chronic diseases—cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s—are inherently linked to lifestyle nutrition, says scientist Latt Mansor, PhD, research lead at H.V.M.N. (Health Via Modern Nutrition), a performance nutrition and metabolic health company that manufactures and sells ketone products and supplements.
One powerful place to start is by addressing insulin, says Mansor, whose PhD is in physiology, anatomy, and genetics. The chronic elevation of insulin may be the direct cause of inflammation and metabolic health dysfunction that leads to these severe illnesses as we age.
We talked to Latt about how his company creates food with a zero-glycemic response in mind, unanswered questions about the keto diet, and how exogenous ketones may be the future of performance nutrition.
Q: When you started at H.V.M.N., what was the first project you started with, and what challenges were you trying to solve?
When I joined H.V.M.N., they threw me right in. I was the principal investigator for their $6 million military project, the STTR Phase II, using ketone ester to optimize human performance. We are looking at improving cognitive and physical performance in hypoxia (a state where tissues do not have sufficient oxygen) using ketone monoester.
In addition, they also asked me to create podcast content. Geoff Woo, our co-founder and executive chairman, and I do a research round-up where I pick one paper relevant to metabolic health, ketones, or a keto or low-carb diet. We discuss the paper for a half hour and dissect its methods and results.
Q: What is your health background? Do you follow a keto diet?
A: We want to stand by the products we sell, and we want to use the product ourselves. That said, I wasn’t even on keto when I joined H.V.M.N. because I didn’t know much about the keto diet. I’m not on a strict keto diet now, but I apply what I’ve learned as a research scientist to my own diet. Maintaining the right balance of glucose with fatty acids (referred to as the Randle Cycle) and consuming healthy fats keeps my blood ketones sitting around 0.5 millimolar (mM). (Physiological ketosis is when blood ketones are elevated above this level.) I do consume some carbs, but I’m generally on a higher ketone level than a person eating a standard diet.
Q: When it comes to the keto diet, are there areas where we’re still trying to learn more?
A: The whole conversation is around what we replace carbs in our diet with. Because you still need sufficient calorie intake to support your daily activities and brain and organ function. The question is should you increase protein or fat? Which one is better? There are concerns with both. Protein increases uric acid and urea. Cardiologists are concerned with fat; even if patients go into remission for Type 2 diabetes on a keto diet, they worry that high cholesterol from intake of certain fats may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
So far, there’s no data that specifically points to that sort of outcome. In terms of cholesterol, there is a discussion around if we should have a different reference range of LDL, HDL, and triglycerides for people on a keto diet. Because the current reference range we have is specifically for people on a Western diet that’s recognized and recommended by the FDA, which is an arguably unhealthy diet.
Q: One thing we see a lot among our members is how variable responses can be between two people eating the same food. How do you consider personalized nutrition when creating a single product for a mass audience?
A: I think we subconsciously personalize our own nutrition to a certain extent. We know what we like to eat, we know what feels good, we know what will make us feel tired. Our products are not in any way or form a full meal or a meal replacement. We are there to supplement your low-carb diet lifestyle. If you can’t find enough healthy fats around, or if you’re just learning about the keto diet and you don’t have time to go online and search, you don’t have to worry about it. We have these mixes and supplements and are upfront about the ingredients. I think more often than not when people are starting a keto diet, it’s very overwhelming. There’s just too much information that they don’t know where to start and what to hone in on.
Q: What are the next big opportunities or challenges you’re trying to solve at H.V.M.N.?
A: The use of exogenous ketones has been quite widespread over the past five years. (When taking exogenous ketones, you go into ketosis for a couple of hours and then return to your basal metabolic rate.) A lot more research focuses on the use of exogenous ketones to induce ketosis. This can be useful in bypassing issues, such as adherence and cultural differences an individual may have with the ketogenic diet. Exogenous ketones can be especially helpful for people who like to eat carbs, people who can’t eat that much fat, or generally can’t swallow that fatty food.
It comes down to balancing your goals and dietary preferences. If you’re addressing a chronic, long-term condition, maybe the ketogenic diet is better for you. But if you’re aiming for performance or improving post-exercise recovery, exogenous ketones may be the better choice. If you’re eating a cheat meal, exogenous ketones may also help you get back into ketosis much easier and help you adhere to the diet. However, there have also been some fascinating and amazing preliminary results in terms of using exogenous ketones in heart failure and in improving glycemic response in healthy and obese individuals.
With exogenous ketones, the questions are how do we decrease the cost? How do we make it taste better? Consuming ketone esters is like drinking battery water. The overall challenge is how we balance education and awareness around exogenous ketones with an affordable, accessible, and good-tasting product to match.