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Keto for Brain Energy

Food for active brain
Brain working

Christopher M. Palmer MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School just released a book (Brain Energy) suggesting a revolutionary new approach to treating mental health.  From an opportunity to treat an obese woman with many years of poor mental health, he observed the impact of a ketogenic diet on her weight, overall health and her mental health.  Up until then, he, like many other mental health professionals, believed that diet had a limited impact on mental health.  The recovery of this woman opened his eyes to new thinking.

From this seed of an idea he has gathered a huge amount of quality research that show a very strong relationship between the health of a person’s mitochondria, their metabolic health and their mental health.  There are many elements in a persons life that can impact their mitochondrial health including diet, sleep, supplements, exercise, drugs, addictions, social activities, trauma, etc.

Dr. Palmer has highlighted the possibility that most if not all the growing chronic diseases directly related to mental health may in many cases be driven by mitochondria that are over stimulated, damaged, or malnourished.  He cites a number of cases where the patient recovered mentally with reduced medication but with healthy dietary intervention.

His metabolic/mitochondria theory fits well with the changes we have seen in diet over the last 100 years, particularly as we have replaced real food with ultra-processed food.  Using seed oils as an example: since the 1910 when cottonseed oil began to be sold as food we have seen a massive growth in the level of seed oils in the diet with up to a third of the calories in the standard American diet now coming from vegetable/seed oils.  These oils are high in Omega-6 which is an essential oil but only needed in tiny amounts.  Vegetable/seed oils are polyunsaturated, pro-inflammatory, often already oxidized, bringing additional random oxidized species (ROS) and foreign compounds into the body and the high level can upset the delicate 4:1 Omega-6 to Omega-3 balance that humans had for thousands of years.  These three impacts can result in damage to the mitochondria including widespread inflammation.

The ketogenic diet was developed and has been used for years as an aid to reducing seizures particularly in children and is well known for this impact on mental health.  However it is frequently forgotten in our world awash in prescription drugs.

The ketogenic diet can encourage the body to increase the density of mitochondria, increasing the production of the ATP energy molecules which provide energy for all body functions including our immune system, cellular repair, and energy for living and healing.   This along with some intermittent fasting also promotes mitophagy, which is the active housekeeping, repair or removal of damaged mitochondria.  Both of these activities are strong promoters of healthy mitochondria which can drive improved mental health outcomes.

Message me at   I can answer questions.  Seek professional medical advice before making dietary changes, particularly if you have underlying health problems.  Good health,  George Elder, Diet Research Reviewer, Dip. Nutrition.

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