Keto Diet May Ease Symptoms of Severe Mental Health Disorders

In a pilot study conducted by researchers at Stanford Medicine, individuals with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder who followed the ketogenic, AKA the keto diet, experienced significant improvements in mental and physical health.

Although antipsychotic medications can help ease the symptoms of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, the side effects of these drugs, which may include obesity, insulin resistance, and other metabolic conditions, are challenging for some individuals to manage.

While it's often critical for people with these conditions to continue taking their medications, many stop the drugs because of these unpleasant and potentially harmful effects.

Now, a small clinical trial published March 27 in Psychiatry Research offers hope for people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder who take antipsychotics and are experiencing the drugs' metabolic side effects.

During the trial, 21 adults with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder who had antipsychotic-related insulin resistance, weight gain, and other metabolic conditions followed a ketogenic, or keto diet, for four months. About 29% of the participants had metabolic syndrome, which means they had at least three metabolic conditions.

The participants received 10% of their calories from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and 60% from fat. The researchers assessed adherence to the keto diet by measuring ketones in their blood every week. The team also monitored the participants' psychiatric symptoms.

At the trial's conclusion, 14 individuals stuck to the keto diet, six were semi-adherent, and one did not follow the diet plan.

The researchers found that none of the participants had metabolic syndrome after adhering to the keto diet. They also lost weight, reduced their waist circumference, and experienced a reduction in blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Notably, the participants' mental health improved by 31%, with around 75% showing significant improvement.

The research team says their findings show that the ketogenic diet can reverse the metabolic side effects of antipsychotic medications while improving mental health.

In a Stanford Press release, first author Shebani Sethi, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, said, "Anything that improves metabolic health in general is probably going to improve brain health anyway. But the ketogenic diet can provide ketones as an alternative fuel to glucose for a brain with energy dysfunction."

Though the study showed promising results, the authors note that more extensive trials are needed to understand the mechanisms behind the findings. However, they hope this research opens the door for the development of more effective and sustainable interventions for the millions of people across the globe living with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

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