Low-Carbohydrate Diet Superior to Antipsychotic Medications

A Cutting-Edge Conference

This summer, I was fortunate to participate in the groundbreakingInternational Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research(link is external)(ISNPR) conference held in Bethesda, Maryland. The meeting was truly inspiring and exciting to those of us who believe that nutritional approaches are the way forward in the treatment of mental healthdisorders. While the majority of the presentations at this conference were focused on omega-3 fatty acids, microbiome research, micronutrients, and the Mediterranean diet, there were a few small breakout sessions exploring the potential benefits of ketogenic diets. Ketogenic diets are special low-carbohydrate diets that have been used to treat epilepsy for almost 100 years and show great promise in the management of a wide variety of other brain disorders.

Psychosis, Mood, and Diet

One of the presentations I attended was by Dr. Chris Palmer, a psychiatrist from Harvard’s McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. In a small room packed with curious doctors, scientists and nutritionists from around the world, Dr. Palmer described the experiences of two adults in his practice with schizoaffective disorder who had tried a ketogenic diet. Whereas schizophrenia is characterized primarily by psychotic symptoms, people with schizoaffective disorder have to cope not only with psychosis but also with overlapping periods of severe mood symptoms. Signs of psychosis include paranoia, auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations, intrusive thoughts/images, and/or disorganized thinking. Mood episodes may include depression, euphoria, irritability, rage, suicidal thoughts, and/or mood swings. As a practicing psychiatrist for more than 15 years, I can tell you that schizoaffective disorder is a particularly challenging diagnosis for people to live with and for psychiatrists to treat. Even the most potent antipsychotic and mood stabilizing medications available often don’t bring sufficient relief, and those medications come with a significant risk of side effects.

Below I’ve summarized the cases Dr. Palmer presented. More details of each story, along with Dr. Palmer’s commentary are published in the journal Schizophrenia Research(link is external).

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