Breath acetone as a potential marker in clinical practice

Veronika Ruzsányi, Miklós Péter Kalapos

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

28 Citations (Scopus)


In recent decades, two facts have changed the opinion of researchers about the function of acetone in humans. Firstly, it has turned out that acetone cannot be regarded as simply a waste product of metabolism, because there are several pathways in which acetone is produced or broken down. Secondly, methods have emerged making possible its detection in exhaled breath, thereby offering an attractive alternative to investigation of blood and urine samples. From a clinical point of view the measurement of breath acetone levels is important, but there are limitations to its wide application. These limitations can be divided into two classes, technical and biological limits. The technical limits include the storage of samples, detection threshold, standardization of clinical settings, and the price of instruments. When considering the biological ranges of acetone, personal factors such as race, age, gender, weight, food consumption, medication, illicit drugs, and even profession/class have to be taken into account to use concentration information for disorders. In some diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung cancer, as well as in nutrition-related behavior such as starvation and ketogenic diet, breath acetone has been extensively examined. At the same time, there is a lack of investigations in other cases in which ketosis is also evident, such as in alcoholism or an inborn error of metabolism. In summary, the detection of acetone in exhaled breath is a useful and promising tool for diagnosis and it can be used as a marker to follow the effectiveness of treatments in some disorders. However, further endeavors are needed for clarification of the exact distribution of acetone in different body compartments and evaluation of its complex role in humans, especially in those cases in which a ketotic state also occurs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number024002
JournalJournal of breath research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Acetone
  • Alcoholism
  • Breath analysis
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Ketogenic diet
  • Starvation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine

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