Psychiatrists say the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic and Atkins diets can alleviate depression and bipolar disorder.
"The results are unusually consistent, and they show a link between diet quality and mental health," psychiatrist Dr. Michael Berk told the Washington Post.
The low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet has already proven effective at producing rapid weight loss, managing epilepsy, reversing type 2 diabetes, and even fighting cancer. But a growing number of medical experts now say LCHF diets can also relieve depression and bipolar disorder.
The field of study researching the connection between diet and mental health is only a few years old, but has provided convincing evidence of the link between what we eat and how we feel.
Psychiatrist Rif El-Mallakh, a professor at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, has treated patients suffering from depression and bipolar disorder with the ketogenic diet. Dr. El-Mallakh, author of Bipolar Depression, said several patients overcame their conditions on a low-carb, high-fat diet.
Undisputed Connection Between What We Eat and How We Feel
Jodi Corbit, a 47-year-old woman from Maryland, adopted the ketogenic diet to lose weight, but stuck with it after discovering it dramatically boosted her mood. "It was like a veil lifted and I could see life more clearly," she said.
Similarly, a 32-year-old California woman with bipolar disorder overcame her manic depression after switching to the low-carb Atkins diet. "I noticed within a day or two the marked difference in my head," she said. "It felt clear for the first time in years."
The woman has been doing well since 2011, and no longer takes prescription drugs to treat her bipolar disorder. For her, the LCHF diet has been a complete life-changer.
As it is, a common dietary prescription for depression patients is to increase their intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to enhance mood.
"Low-carb diets keep blood sugar levels stable and prevent food cravings, which helps with mental clarity and boosts mood," said Linda O'Byrne, chief nutritionist for the New Atkins Nutritional Approach. "The intake of natural fats, especially foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, are linked to improved mood and reduced risk of depression."
The new research supporting the mental-health benefits of the ketogenic and Atkins diets is a no-brainer to Dr. Jeff Volek, a registered dietitian and professor at the University of Connecticut.
Dr. Volek told me a ketogenic diet has many different health benefits, including preventing disease, enhancing mood and speeding weight loss. This is because drastically reducing carbs prevents the blood-sugar spikes that fuel mood swings, inflammation, and weight gain.
"For about 98% of human history, we've been eating low-carb," said Dr. Volek, author of the Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living. "We evolved in a state of nutritional ketosis."
Dr. Volek discovered the transformative effects of the ketogenic diet after switching to the LCHF eating plan 20 years ago. "It was nothing short of an epiphany when I changed to a ketogenic diet," said Volek, co-author of New Atkins for a New You.
"I felt better, more satiated, and had more consistent energy. There are very few people that a ketogenic diet could not help."
Similarly, neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter told me eating high-quality fats (like those found in extra-virgin olive oil, grass-fed beef, pastured butter and avocados) has powerful neuroprotective qualities that can prevent dementia, ADHD, and Alzheimer's.
Perlmutter is dismayed that four decades of the low-fat, high-carb diet dogma has resulted in the tsunami of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's we now see around us. Perlmutter, who follows the ketogenic diet, wishes his dad (who suffers from Alzheimer's) had known about the brain-protecting qualities of LCHF diets years ago.
"Even slight elevations in blood sugar have been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease," said Dr. Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain. "Food is medicine. We can actually change our gene expressions with the foods we eat."