A keto diet has been shown to support improvements in mental health conditions

People with severe mental health disorders can ease symptoms of their condition by following a ketogenic diet, new research has unveiled.

Scientists from Stanford Medicine in the US have found that following a keto diet can ease symptoms of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

According to the researchers, an individual’s diet can be a key tool in the fight against their mental health illness.

First author Dr Shebani Sethi said: “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.”

According to Dr Sethi, a keto diet can reduce the number of auditory hallucinations people with treatment-resistant schizophrenia experience.

She said: “The ketogenic diet has been proven to be effective for treatment-resistant epileptic seizures by reducing the excitability of neurons in the brain. We thought it would be worth exploring this treatment in psychiatric conditions.”

A total of 21 adults with either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder were examined during the study.

Each participant was taking antipsychotic medications and had a metabolic abnormality, such as dyslipidaemia, weight gain, hypertriglyceridemia, insulin resistance or impaired glucose tolerance.

In addition, each participant was following a ketogenic diet throughout the research investigation.

Dr Sethi said: “The focus of eating is on whole non-processed foods including protein and non-starchy vegetables, and not restricting fats.”

The results show that 14 of the participants followed a keto diet fully, while six were semi-adherent and one non-adherent.

Those who followed a ketogenic diet for four months no longer had metabolic syndrome and most of the participants lost 10% of their body weight, the findings have revealed.

Dr Sethi noted: “We’re seeing huge changes. Even if you’re on antipsychotic drugs, we can still reverse the obesity, the metabolic syndrome and the insulin resistance. I think that’s very encouraging for patients.”

Alongside the physical improvements, most of the participant’s improved their mental health conditions by 31%.

“The participants reported improvements in their energy, sleep, mood and quality of life. They feel healthier and more hopeful,” said Dr Sethi.

She added: “We saw more benefit with the adherent group compared with the semi-adherent group, indicating a potential dose-response relationship.

“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.”

The study has been published in the journal Psychiatry Research.

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