- Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called “brain fog,” though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
- Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
The Keto Diet in the Psychiatric Literature
In 2017, a group of psychiatrists published a paper called “The Current Status of the Ketogenic Diet in Psychiatry“ that examined research conducted on the keto diet and psychiatric conditions over the past couple of decades. On depression, the overview noted two studies:
- A 2004 study, which tested the hypothesis that the “ketogenic diet may act as a mood stabilizer,” showed that rats placed on the keto diet showed fewer signs of depression, or showed less “behavioral despair.”
- A 2014 study on rats showed an even more surprising finding. The researchers put one group of mice on the keto diet, and one on a normal diet. The offspring of the keto group were more active and showed more development in several key areas of the brain, including the hippocampus, cerebellum and neocortex. These effects persisted even though the offspring weren’t put on the keto diet themselves.
Interestingly, the overview also found that the keto diet seems potentially effective at alleviating at least parts of nearly every other psychiatric condition mentioned in the overview, including schizophrenia, autism and anxiety. Still, it’s too early to know for sure whether the keto diet is a safe and effective treatment for any of these conditions, as the researchers concluded:
“While these animal studies are placing research into KD on a firm footing and identifying some promising leads, on balance the evidence in humans is insufficient to form an opinion as to the efficacy or lack thereof of this intervention in the mental disorders reported.”
There’s a wealth of anecdotal evidence suggesting the keto diet has helped people overcome depression. As Redditor willilikeit wrote:
“Six months on keto. Have lost 40 pounds. But the best result is how I feel. I’ve gone from waking up with dread and fighting suicidal thoughts off and on most days, to feeling energetic, positive, and only a rare, passing, suicidal thought. It is night and day! Omg. Thank you for all of your posts and support!”
Of course, improvements like these might also stem from the simple fact that any diet that helps people lose weight, gain energy or otherwise gain a sense of control over one’s life might also lead to improvements in mood and self-esteem. Still, recent research suggests that the keto diet might in fact be a useful tool in combating depression, and possibly other psychiatric conditions including schizophrenia and ADHD.
Ketones and Mood
People who are depressed or have the manic-depressive disorder have also been found to have cerebral hypometabolism, where the brain can not use glucose as the primary source of fuel.
The brain works better with the alternative fuel source ketones and can result in positive changes in the mind.
Observations of people on a keto lifestyle have also revealed a decrease in the sodium in the cells when the body goes into ketosis.
Ketones can work great in favor of mood stabilization.
There are two main chemicals that should be well balanced for optimal functioning of the brain.
The first GABA decreases brain stimulation, while the other, Glutamate (neurotransmitter) stimulates the brain.
When the quantity of Glutamate in your brain is too much compared to that of GABA, susceptible neurons could get injured and fog forms in the brain.
When eating a high-carb diet, the body uses glutamate together with other energy types as a source of energy and in so doing the astrocytes are unable to convert glutamate into GABA.
Neurotoxicity, (excess glutamate) is the result, and in severe cases, neurotoxicity can trigger an epileptic attack.
On a Keto diet, the brain is equipped to utilize energy and manage the levels of glutamate efficiently.
Two ketones, acetoacetate, and beta-hydroxybutyrate have been proven (through rat studies) to thwart any negative consequences of glutamate excitotoxicity.
These small changes and regulations of chemicals in the brain help control mood changes.
Keto Diet, Depression and Anxiety
Is it plausible to positively influence depression through ketosis?
The keto diet initiates specific processes in the body that help fight anxiety and depression.
When on a keto diet, the switch in energy source from glucose to ketones as fuel is the underlying neurological benefit of this diet.
When ketones are the primary source of food for the brain, there is a decrease in the number of radicles produced which allows the body’s natural internal antioxidants to neutralize them easily.
Consequently, neurotransmitters find it easier to move over synapses and the mitochondria function far more effectively.
All these are said to help improve anxiety, depression, and even quality of sleep.
Being in a state of ketosis seems to help people against depression.
Since ketogenic nutrition influences the body in many different ways, it is still not clear which are the levers it tackles.
Hence, it is why we present different forms of depression, their origins, and effects – with the aim of identifying possible levers of ketosis.
Treating Mental Disorders with Psychoactive Drugs
What are some of these dangers?
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Side effects
- Heart problems
- Violent behavior
- Worsened mental illness
- Sexual dysfunction
- Increased risk of car accidents among drivers using these drugs
These are not the only dangers posed by these drugs, but they suffice to demonstrate that these medications are not as harmless as many users might think.
Using a ketogenic diet is one of the new approaches to dealing with mental health conditions.
Clinical studies have demonstrated the efficacy of this diet in treating diverse neurological disorders.
Using this approach to treat this health problem is a sure way to avoid all the risks mentioned earlier and attain mental health more effectively and naturally.
The use of natural remedies to treat stress, anxiety, and other mental illnesses appears untenable to some people.
However, such remedies do exist and may even work more effectively than the usual conventional drugs.
Studies have strongly demonstrated the potential that this treatment has the potential to help treat these mental health conditions.
For instance, research findings suggest that this diet significantly reduced depressive behaviors in mice and rat models in two controlled studies.
Granted, these are animal models, but they suffice to show the potential that this diet has a superior and natural treatment of mental illnesses.
How Keto can Benefit Mental Health Problems
Ketogenic diets seem to affect the brain in several positive ways including:
- Boosts brain power
- Provides a feel-good effect
- Antioxidant effects
Boost the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters
Taking this diet increases the production of GABA, a common neurotransmitter in the brain.
Studies show that dysfunctional GABA activity leads to depression and various anxiety disorders.
On the same note, studies carried out on the use of ketogenic diet show that the right balance of neurotransmitters leads to improved mental focus and reduced depression and anxiety.
Bolsters Brain Power
Ketone bodies produced from fat can provide an alternative fuel for this organ.
Why is this power important in fighting mental illnesses?
The answer is simple.
Many mental disorders have one thing in common:
An insufficient energy production.
So how does this work?
These bodies are known to increase the number of mitochondria in the brain cells.
Mitochondria are responsible for manufacturing energy in the cells.
Long-Term intake of a ketogenic diet boosts the energy levels in these cells thanks to the increased number of mitochondria.
An improvement of mitochondria contributes to the reduction of depression and other related mental illnesses.
On the same note, the improved power helps to elevate and stabilize your mood.