The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet known for helping people lose weight quickly. Now psychiatrists are saying it may also combat depression and bipolar disorder. Dr. Rif El-Mallakh, professor at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, told the Washington Post:
There are a lot of people out there who call themselves depressed who aren’t actually depressed.
I think people confuse low energy with depression, or sugar crashes with mood swings, but they probably don’t have a mental illness. And those people may do better with dietary interventions alone.
Dr. El-Mallakh is the author of Bipolar Depression, and he says a number of his patients with bipolar disorder had the condition relieved by following the ketogenic diet.
Research in the area is still in the early stages. El-Mallakh and other psychiatrists are not yet ready to say diet alone is the answer for depression and bipolar disorder. But they are sure diet impacts mood.
Dr. Michael Berk, professor of psychiatry at the Deakin University of Medicine in Australia, emphasizes the link between food and mental health is still being studied. He continues, “But the results are unusually consistent, and they show a link between diet quality and mental health.”
The Washington Post story tells the story of a California woman who suffered from bipolar disorder. In 2011, she went on a low-carb, high-fat diet, and found immediate relief from her depression and manic episodes. She says,
I changed my diet because I had gastrointestinal issues. I noticed within a day or two the marked difference in my head. It felt clear for the first time in years and years.
The woman no longer takes prescription medication to manage her condition. She says over the past three years, the low-carb, high fat diet has given her all the relief she needs.
Dr. Jeff Volek, a registered dietitian and professor at Ohio State University, says the ketogenic diet improves both physical and mental health. Drastically reducing carbs and replacing them with healthy, unprocessed fats can help you enjoy better mood control, have more stable blood sugar, prevent degenerative illnesses, and of course, experience rapid weight loss.
Dr. Volek, author of The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Living, shares his personal experience:
It was nothing short of an epiphany when I changed to a ketogenic diet 20 years ago. I felt better, more satiated, and had more consistent energy.
Carbohydrate restriction is the proverbial “silver bullet” for managing insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. There are very few people that a ketogenic diet could not help.
Dr. David Perlmutter, author of bestselling books Grain Brain and Brain Maker, says restricting carbohydrates and eating more unprocessed saturated fats such as those found in grass-fed beef, pastured eggs, coconut oil and avocados safeguards the brain. It makes you happier and protects you against the ravages of dementia and Alzheier’s disease. He adds,
Fat is your friend. The brain thrives on a fat-rich, low-carbohydrate diet.