Hydroxybutyrates are compounds that contain a hydroxyl group (-OH) and a butyric acid group. More specifically, in the context of clinical medicine and biochemistry, β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is often referred to as a "ketone body."

Ketone bodies are produced by the liver during periods of low carbohydrate availability, such as during fasting, starvation, or a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. BHB is one of three major ketone bodies, along with acetoacetate and acetone. These molecules serve as alternative energy sources for the brain and other tissues when glucose levels are low.

In some pathological states, such as diabetic ketoacidosis, the body produces excessive amounts of ketone bodies, leading to a life-threatening metabolic acidosis. Elevated levels of BHB can also be found in other conditions like alcoholism, severe illnesses, and high-fat diets.

It is important to note that while BHB is a hydroxybutyrate, not all hydroxybutyrates are ketone bodies. The term "hydroxybutyrates" can refer to any compound containing both a hydroxyl group (-OH) and a butyric acid group.