How the Ketogenic Diet Helps Schizophrenia

How the Ketogenic Diet Helps Schizophrenia

November 2, 2019 38 By Jose Scott


– Hi, I’m Dr. Tracey Marks and I make mental health education videos. There’s been recent studies
showing that a ketogenic diet improves psychotic symptoms
in people with schizophrenia. In a previous video that I did, I talk about how the Mediterranean diet is being shown to improve depression and I have a link to
that video in the corner and in the description. The ketogenic diet and Mediterranean diet couldn’t be more different, but they are addressing different problems which then leads to the question what is it about schizophrenia that makes this specific
diet more helpful? We don’t have a clear understanding of what causes schizophrenia. The fact that this diet
helps though and how it helps gives us more information
about what goes wrong in the brain that causes schizophrenia. I explain schizophrenia in this video and you can watch it after this one. I’ll also have a link in the description. First I’ll explain what
the ketogenic diet is and then I’ll explain
how it was shown to help the brains of people with schizophrenia. The ketogenic diet is a high
fat, low carbohydrate diet. Normally your body uses
carbohydrates to burn energy. The carbohydrates are broken down into the simple sugar glucose. Your brain especially needs glucose and that’s why if your sugar
levels drop for whatever reason like you didn’t eat for an entire day and then you go on a run, a sign of your glucose being low is becoming lightheaded
or losing consciousness. When you restrict how much
carbohydrates you eat, your body will turn to
fat as your fuel source so your liver will take
the fat and break it down into fatty acids that are
converted to ketone bodies. These ketone bodies then
become the fuel source instead of glucose. When you have elevated
ketone bodies in your blood, you’re considered to be
in a state of ketosis so this is where the name
ketogenic diet comes from. Ketosis is not the same as ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a
dangerous metabolic state that we usually see in
people with diabetes. In this scenario you’re
producing ketone bodies in an uncontrolled way. What normally happens is
when you produce ketones, you simultaneously produce
small amounts of insulin that cause glucose to be produced from other sources in your body. We call this basal insulin secretion. It works in the background to keep you from completely depleting
your glucose stores, but in people with type 1 diabetes and some people with type 2
diabetes who require insulin, they lose the ability
to produce that minimal acceptable level of glucose in the body. In that case once you trigger the production of ketone bodies, it’s like an avalanche of
ketones that overwhelm the body and put the person in a
state of metabolic acidosis because ketones are acidic. Ketosis from carbohydrate restriction doesn’t lead to ketoacidosis in someone who has normal
insulin production. The ketogenic diet can help
with blood sugar control in people with diabetes, but you have to be careful and
should talk with your doctor about whether or not it’s a
good idea for you to follow. It may be that you do
a modified form of it. This diet is not new. It’s been studied in other
conditions like seizure disorder, Alzheimer’s disease,
Parkinson’s disease and others. It also’s become a popular lifestyle diet because of the fat-burning mechanism causes a lot of weight loss. Here’s an example of
what a day in the life can look like eating a keto diet. For breakfast you could
have scrambled eggs in a cream sauce with bacon. Lunch could be a chicken
breast with sliced avocado and broccoli with butter. And for dinner you could have
salmon in a lemon cream sauce, salad greens with high fat dressing. Here’s what we understand
so far about what happens in the brain of a person
with schizophrenia. We believe that it’s
related to three things, abnormal energy metabolism of the neurons, abnormal function of the mitochondria and mitochondria is an
organelle inside of your cell that acts like a power station. And the third contributor
is oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is damage to the cells at the gene level from free radicals. Lots of things that we
do, eat and are exposed to create excess free radicals
that cause oxidative stress and this is where consuming
antioxidants are helpful. Your brain relies heavily
on glucose to function, but with schizophrenia the neurons don’t
process glucose properly. Then you get abnormal
communication between the neurons. We call this impaired synaptic activity. The synapse is a gap between the cells. Think of the cells as an engine
that’s choking or sputtering because it doesn’t have enough fuel. Because the ketogenic diet provides another source
of fuel for the brain, it restores the metabolic
activity of the cell so that they function in the
way that they’re supposed to. So in our analogy the engine stops choking and runs smoothly. The evidence that we have
on the ketogenic diet is several case studies. We still don’t have any
randomized control studies testing groups of people with
schizophrenia with the diet and see who does better. Randomized control studies
are the highest level of evidence that we look for to conclude that a finding
is valid and reproducible. So we’re not there yet
as far as seeing this as a definite intervention
for schizophrenia, but we’re getting there. It’s still a positive thing to see because not only can the
diet improve symptoms, but it can also improve the weight gain that comes with the medications we prescribe to treat the symptoms. So that’s a twofold benefit. It’s not an easy diet to follow though and it takes a lot of discipline, but it’s something to look
into as a non-medication option to benefit schizophrenia. If you wanna know more
about schizophrenia, watch this video. See you next time.