Keto Diet Shows Promise in Improving Mental Health Symptoms, Pilot Study Reveals

by Ella

A recent pilot study suggests that the ketogenic diet could potentially serve as a dual-action treatment for individuals grappling with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. These findings offer a glimmer of hope for patients who often face metabolic side effects from their medication regimens. The research highlights how adopting a ketogenic diet not only addresses these metabolic issues but also leads to significant improvements in psychiatric conditions.


Key Highlights:

The ketogenic diet showcased substantial metabolic and psychiatric enhancements in patients with severe mental illnesses, countering the adverse effects of antipsychotic medications.
Participants experienced an average weight loss of 10% and exhibited no signs of metabolic syndrome after the four-month trial. Additionally, they demonstrated a notable improvement in mental health metrics.
This study, backed by various research funds, lays the groundwork for larger trials, emphasizing the diet’s potential in offering alternative brain fuel and enhancing overall brain metabolism.



For individuals grappling with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, standard treatment with antipsychotic medications often poses challenges due to accompanying metabolic side effects such as insulin resistance and obesity. These complications can be distressing enough to prompt many patients to discontinue their medication regimens.


A recent pilot study led by researchers from Stanford Medicine offers a promising alternative. Their findings, published in Psychiatry Research on March 27, shed light on the efficacy of a ketogenic diet in not only restoring metabolic health but also enhancing psychiatric conditions in these patients.


Insights from the Study:

The pilot trial, spanning four months, monitored 21 adult participants diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. These individuals were undergoing treatment with antipsychotic medications and exhibited metabolic abnormalities like weight gain, insulin resistance, hypertriglyceridemia, dyslipidemia, or impaired glucose tolerance.

Participants were instructed to adhere to a ketogenic diet, comprising approximately 10% of calories from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and 60% from fat. The emphasis was on consuming whole, non-processed foods, including protein and non-starchy vegetables, while not restricting fats. Weekly measures of blood ketone levels tracked participants’ adherence to the diet.

By the end of the trial, 14 participants adhered fully to the diet, six were semi-adherent, and only one was non-adherent. Significant improvements were observed in both metabolic and psychiatric assessments:

None of the participants met the criteria for metabolic syndrome post-trial, marking a remarkable turnaround.
On average, participants experienced a 10% reduction in body weight, an 11% decrease in waist circumference, and improvements in blood pressure, body mass index, triglyceride levels, blood sugar levels, and insulin resistance.
Psychiatric assessments revealed an average 31% improvement on the clinical global impressions scale, with three-quarters of the participants showing clinically meaningful progress. Participants reported enhanced sleep quality, mood, energy levels, and overall life satisfaction.

Implications and Future Directions:

The study’s findings underscore the potential of dietary interventions, particularly the ketogenic diet, in addressing both physical and mental health challenges in individuals with severe mental illnesses. This novel approach offers a glimmer of hope for patients grappling with metabolic side effects from traditional medications.

Dr. Shebani Sethi, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford Medicine and the study’s lead author, expressed optimism about the results. She emphasized the need for further research to validate these findings on a larger scale and guide the development of more robust treatment strategies.


As the field of metabolic psychiatry continues to evolve, innovative approaches like the ketogenic diet offer promise in revolutionizing the treatment landscape for individuals with severe mental illnesses. The findings of this pilot study pave the way for future research endeavors aimed at harnessing the therapeutic potential of dietary interventions in enhancing both physical and mental well-being.


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