Ketogenic Diets for Psychiatric Disorders: A New 2017 Review
If you have a brain, you need to know about ketogenic diets. The fact that these specially-formulated low-carbohydrate diets have the power to stop seizures in their tracks is concrete evidence that food has a tremendous impact on brain chemistry and should inspire curiosity about how they work. I first became interested in ketogenic diets as a potential treatment for bipolar mood disorders, given the many similarities between epilepsy and bipolar disorder.
Ketogenic diets have been around for about 100 years, and have proved to be invaluable tools in the treatment of stubborn neurological conditions, most notably epilepsy. They have also shown promise in the management of other brain-based disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, Traumatic Brain Injury, Multiple Sclerosis, and chronic headaches, as well as in metabolic disorders like obesity, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
But where does the science currently stand on the ketogenic diet and psychiatricdisorders like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s Disease? How many human studies do we have, and what do they tell us? If you are struggling with mood, attention, or memory problems, should you try a ketogenic diet? If you are a clinician, should you recommend a ketogenic diet to your patients?
A recent review article “The Current Status of the Ketogenic Diet in Psychiatry” by researchers at the University of Tasmania in Australia [Bostock et al 2017 Front Psychiatry 20(8)] brings us nicely up to date on all things ketogenic and mental health. I summarize the paper below and offer some thoughts and suggestions of my own. [Full disclosure: I am a psychiatrist who studies nutrition and eats a ketogenic diet.]