Keto diet: Balancing metabolic and mental health

Wednesday 17th April 2024 07:06 EDT

A pilot study by Stanford Medicine doctors suggests that a ketogenic diet not only restores metabolic health but also improves mental well-being. Published in 'Psychiatry Research', the findings highlight the potential effectiveness of nutritional interventions in managing mental health conditions.

"It's very promising and very encouraging that you can take back control of your illness in some way, aside from the usual standard of care," said Shebani Sethi, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences and the first author of the new paper.

The senior author of the paper is Laura Saslow, PhD, associate professor of health behaviour and biological sciences at the University of Michigan.

During the four-month pilot trial, the team monitored 21 adult participants diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. These individuals were on antipsychotic medications and exhibited metabolic abnormalities such as weight gain, insulin resistance, hypertriglyceridemia, dyslipidemia, or impaired glucose tolerance. The participants were prescribed a ketogenic diet consisting of approximately 10% of calories from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and 60% from fat, without the need to count calories.

"The focus of eating is on whole unprocessed foods including protein and non-starchy vegetables, and not restricting fats," said Sethi, who shared keto-friendly meal ideas with the participants. They were also given keto cookbooks and access to a health coach.

Throughout the trial, the research team monitored participants' adherence to the diet by measuring blood ketone levels weekly. Ketones, produced when the body metabolises fat for energy instead of glucose, were used as indicators. At the trial's conclusion, 14 patients demonstrated full adherence, six were partially adherent, and only one was non-adherent.

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