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How low carb diets and ketones can “trick” a DUI breath test

By Spodek Law Group | February 12, 2023
(Last Updated On: March 19, 2023)

Last Updated on: 19th March 2023, 01:34 am

Understanding the Connection between Low Carbohydrate Diets and Ketosis

A low carbohydrate diet, such as the popular Paleo, Atkins, or ketogenic diet, can cause the state of ketosis. In this condition, the body is forced to burn fat stores for energy as it is deprived of carbohydrates. This intentional production of ketones is just one of the many causes of insufficient carbohydrate intake.

Other Causes of Ketosis

There are several other factors that can result in high production of ketones, including:

  • Anorexia
  • Fasting
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Undereating
  • Starvation

The Effect of Diabetes on Ketones

Medical conditions such as diabetes can also impact the production of ketones in the body. Diabetes causes the body’s inability to produce insulin, a hormone that helps to burn glucose for energy. When the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, the body must burn protein and fat stores for energy, resulting in an excess production of ketones.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) – A Life-Threatening Condition

When ketone levels in the blood become too high, it can lead to a potentially life-threatening condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). People suffering from DKA are susceptible to wrongful arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) as the symptoms of DKA resemble those of alcohol impairment.

Common symptoms of DKA include:

  • Excessive thirst or dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Sluggishness
  • A flushed face
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Decreased coordination
  • “Fruity” smelling breath that can be mistaken for alcohol.

Thus, someone suffering from DKA might not only “fail” a DUI breath test, but also appear drunk to a law enforcement officer. This can result in an arrest for various charges, including:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol (California Vehicle Code 23152(a))
  • Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater (California Vehicle Code 23152(b))
  • Commercial driver DUI (BAC of .04% or greater) (Vehicle Code 23152(d))
  • Taxi, limo, or ride-sharing driver DUI (BAC of .04% or greater) (Vehicle Code 23152(e))
  • Underage DUI (BAC of .05% or greater) (California Vehicle Code 23140)

It is crucial to understand the connection between low carbohydrate diets and ketosis, as well as the impact of medical conditions such as diabetes on ketone production. This knowledge can help prevent potential life-threatening situations like diabetic ketoacidosis.

Can Medical Conditions and Diets Trick DUI Breathalyzers?

Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is a serious offense, with harsh legal consequences. However, what many people don’t know is that some diets and medical conditions can produce substances in the body that are chemically similar to alcohol. These substances, known as “ketones,” can sometimes trick DUI breath testing machines and lead to falsely elevated blood alcohol concentration (BAC) readings.

h4: What Are Ketones and How Does the Body Produce Them?

Ketones are chemical substances that the body produces when it burns fat as an energy source. They are similar in chemical composition to isopropyl alcohol, a type of alcohol found in solvents like acetone. However, many DUI breath testing devices cannot distinguish between isopropyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol, the type found in alcoholic beverages. When ketones are present in the body, a DUI breath test can report a falsely elevated BAC.

The body produces ketones as a natural response when it can’t get enough glucose from carbohydrates or if it can’t use glucose due to a lack of insulin. In these cases, the body burns stored fat, which the liver breaks down into ketones. This process is the body’s normal protection against starvation, and it is also useful for athletes and others who need energy for strenuous workouts beyond the levels of glucose in their blood.

Which Medical Conditions and Diets Can Cause Ketosis?

Several medical conditions and diets can cause the body to produce ketones. These include diabetes, hypoglycemia, fasting, and high-protein/low-carbohydrate diets like the popular Atkins and Paleo diets.

How Do Diabetes and Hypoglycemia Affect Ketones?

In diabetes, the body cannot produce enough insulin or cannot use insulin effectively. As a result, the body cannot use glucose as a source of energy, so it burns stored fat instead, producing ketones. In severe cases, this can lead to a dangerous condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which can cause a DUI breath test to report a falsely elevated BAC.

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can also lead to a falsely elevated BAC reading. When blood sugar levels drop too low, the body releases stored glucose and burns fat for energy, producing ketones.

 How Can These Issues Help You Fight a DUI Case?

If you have been arrested for DUI and believe that medical conditions or diets may have caused a falsely elevated BAC reading, you should consult with an experienced DUI lawyer. They can help you understand the science behind ketones and how they can affect DUI breath tests, and they can use this knowledge to build a strong defense in your case.

In conclusion, understanding the role of ketones in DUI breath testing is crucial for anyone facing DUI charges. By knowing how medical conditions and diets can produce ketones and affect BAC readings, you can better protect yourself and your rights in a DUI case.

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