I recently saw a lecture at McLean Hospital titled “The Ketogenic Diet in Medicine and Psychiatry” by Dr. Chris Palmer and I found his research to be fascinating and inspiring. I’m posting this not as a snake oil cure, but just something of interest and to provide maybe a little bit of hope. The lecture is unfortunately not available online, but basically Dr. Chris Palmer was studying the keto diet for epilepsy, which has replaced medication for many children that are suffering. As we know, many of our loved ones have been on anticonvulsant medication for mood stabilization (i.e Lamotrigine, Depakote, Gabapentin). The mechanism of action isn’t well understood, and Chris Palmer wanted to know why the medication helped both in medicine and psychiatry. So he prescribed the ketogenic diet to two of his patients, both with great success. He described the keto diet they followed was stricter than a traditional atkins diet, and he used a 4:1:1 ratio of fats:protien: and carbs. His first patient was a young woman with a dx of depression with a strong family history of bipolar. He was hesitant to begin an antidepressant, but after 1.5 years of traditional therapy with no results, he prescribed one. This bounced her right into mania, and then came psychosis. She had tried many medications and even ECT with no relief of symptoms. On the ketogenic diet, “her delusions resolved and her PANSS (Positive and Negative Symptom Scale)” dramatically dropped. During the second case study, a man who had gained >150lbs on clozapine was prescribed the ketogenic diet to help with weight loss. After about a year his “PANSS scores improved significantly—falling from 98 to only 49.”
During the lecture, he stated they saw results in about 3-6 weeks. He emphasized that this ratio is extremely difficult to eat and maintain, and he showed a picture of a meal of a bowl of mayonnaise, 100ml of olive oil, 3oz of chicken breast and 3oz of broccoli. Not only is it difficult but the ketogenic diet takes a LOT of meal preparation that can become cumbersome. Dr. Palmer found that when the participant cheated on the diet- their symptoms temporarily got worse.
Personally, I can’t wait to see where this research goes. This Psychology Today article is the only non-journal article I can find of his work but I think it does a nice job of summarizing. There is a link to the journal abstract within the article.