Anyone who has ever dealt with a “sugar crash” or the feeling of drowsiness after a large meal knows that food affects your mood. But despite those experiences, it sometimes doesn’t seem possible that the right diet could dramatically change our outlook. However, for anyone suffering from a serious mood disorder or depression, there’s nothing abstract or outside the realm of treatment. And food is definitely part of that.
A review in the journal Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews has found that for reasons outside of epilepsy treatment or weight loss, the ketogenic diet may also help treat mood disorders that are resistant to conventional approaches. A ketogenic diet derives most of its calorie intake – up to 90% -- from fats, while the rest comes from proteins and very limited complex carbohydrates. The ratio of fats to proteins and carbohydrates can be as much as four to one.
A low carb diet like this changes the way that our body and mind chemistry act and react. In addition to stopping the ups and downs of blood sugar levels, stopping carbohydrate intake can reduce the additional physiological stress of inflammation and improve the efficiency of neural signals. Overall, that means more clear-mindedness and resilience that helps put things in perspective.
Certainly, more clinical work needs to be done to get a full picture of the efficacy of the ketogenic diet and states of mind. However, this review is good news to those struggling with a chronic low mood or other serious emotional dysfunction who are looking for balance and an additional ally in their treatment plan.
Brietzke E, Mansur RB, Subramaniapillai M, et al. Ketogenic diet as a metabolic therapy for mood disorders: Evidence and developments. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2018;94:11–16.
Despite significant advances in pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments, mood disorders remain a significant source of mental capital loss, with high rates of treatment resistance, requiring a coordinated effort in investigation and development of efficient, tolerable and accessible novel interventions. Ketogenic diet (KD) is a low-carb diet that substantially changes the energetic matrix of the body including the brain. It has been established as an effective anticonvulsant treatment, and more recently, the role of KD for mental disorders has been explored. Ketogenic diet has profound effects in multiple targets implicated in the pathophysiology of mood disorders, including but not limited to, glutamate/GABA transmission, monoamine levels, mitochondrial function and biogenesis, neurotrophism, oxidative stress, insulin dysfunction and inflammation. Preclinical studies, case reports and case series have demonstrated antidepressant and mood stabilizing effects of KD, however, to date, no clinical trials for depression or bipolar disorder have been conducted. Because of its potential pleiotropic benefits, KD should be considered as a promising intervention in research in mood disorder therapeutics, especially in treatment resistant presentations.
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