Do High-fat Diets Cause Depression?
Fat-Phobia Strikes Again Earlier this month, the following headline showed up in my inbox: HIGH-FAT DIET LINKED TO ANXIETY, DEPRESSION It was distributed by Medscape (a widely-read e-news source geared towards medical professionals), as well as a variety of other media outlets, including Science Daily. The study itself 1) was published in the British Journal of Pharmacology and is entitled High fat diet-induced metabolic disorders impairs serotonergic function and anxiety-like behaviours in mice. We have been (wrongly) told for decades by public health officials that dietary fat is unhealthy, so we tend to take articles that support this belief at face value, without question. But before you clear your cupboards of all fatty foods, hoping for eternal happiness and tranquility, let me tell you why the results of this MOUSE study need not cause you any additional depression and anxiety. Of Mice and Mental Health Researchers fed one group of mice a low-fat chow and another group a high-fat chow. After twelve weeks, the mice eating high-fat chow had gained more weight. They had also developed high blood sugars, high insulin levels, and glucose intolerance. Sixteen weeks into the study, these mice also showed more signs of emotional distress. Poor meeces. Furthermore, when the high-fat mouse group was treated with the antidepressant Escitalopram (brand name Lexapro), the antidepressant failed to work. The study’s authors concluded that high-fat diets may lead to type 2 diabetes, and that type 2 diabetes may then lead to depression and anxiety symptoms which respond poorly to antidepressants. Hmmm. As a psychiatrist with a special interest in nutrition, I understand how important dietary fat is to the health of the brain, and I know that fat doesn’t cause type 2 diabetes. Continue reading >>
Carbohydrate Intake And Depression – Q&a
Question: I’m a 45 year old female. I currently weigh 221lbs. I’ve lost 30lbs in the last three months. My protein intake is roughly 120 to 130 grams per day. I’m limiting my carb intake to 180 to 200 grams a day. I suffer from life long depression and I find that when I limit by carb intake I slowly slide into a depressed state after two or three months (it’s happening to me now). My sleep is disturbed, I develop anxiety I’m bitchy as hell and I’m dragging ass. Is there a correlation between carb intake and production of neurotransmitters? If so, how can I eliminate the effect lower levels of carbs is having on me? Any information is greatly appreciated. Answer: Dieting in general tends to lower serotonin in the brain and this can cause depression in susceptible people. Interestingly, this effect seems to be more likely to occur in women than men (women being more susceptible to depression in general). In my experience, low carbohydrate/higher proteins diets tend to be even worse in this regards for reasons I’ll explain now. First and foremost, nutrient intake per se affects the production of neurotransmitters with the effects being both direct and indirect. In a very direct way, specific amino acids are the precursors for specific neurotransmitters in the brain. Tryptophan is a precursor for serotonin in the brain and the amino acid tyrosine (as well as phenylalanine which converts into tyrosine in the body) is the precursor for dopamine (and subsequently adrenaline/noradrenaline). As an extreme example of this, researchers will sometimes use something called acute tryptophan depletion (accomplished by providing an amino acid solution containing all of the amino acids except tryptophan) to drastically lower brain levels of serotonin. This is used to test Continue reading >>
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How The Ketogenic Lifestyle Reversed My Depression
I didn’t want to get out of bed, but I had to. I had to go to work, which, for me, on this particular day, meant walking 10 feet to my desk and opening up my laptop. The alarm on my phone had just gone off, so I knew it was 5 AM. By sheer force of will, I got out of bed and started my day. The previous day was the same as the one before it and the one before it and so on. But the tedium wasn’t the worst of it, the worst of it was that I had spent all of the previous day (and countless ones before it) angry, sad, and frustrated. And I knew that this day was going to be the same. I didn’t enjoy life. I didn’t enjoy anything. I didn’t know it at that moment, but in a little while, I would realize that I was depressed. And I had been depressed for a while. My job wasn’t particularly stressful, but it was unchallenging enough to make me dread it. I was also coming off a failed business start, one that I had spent way too many hours on over the past 10 months, so I was feeling like a particularly huge failure. I don’t know what was different about that day, but a couple of hours after I started work, I came to an emotional crossroads. Sitting there, I decided I had two choices, I could either give up or I could change something. I couldn’t give up, because I had a family to support. So I really only had one choice, and that was to change something. Sitting there, at my desk, with my head resting in my hands, I decided…and this may sound odd to someone who can’t relate, but I decided to change the most immediate and fundamental thing I could. I was going to change what I eat, and I was going to get back to being ketogenic. I had tried the ketogenic lifestyle before, but without any real determination or discipline. I decided that day that I was going to go Continue reading >>
Your Brain On Ketones
Ketogenic diets have been prescribed for seizures for a long time. The actual research diets used in the past were pretty dismal and seemed to involve drinking a lot of cream and eating a lot of mayonnaise. At Johns Hopkins, pediatric patients were admitted to the hospital for a 48 hour fast and then given eggnog (minus the rum and sugar, I'm guessing) until ketosis was achieved (usually took about 4 days). In addition, ketogenic diets were calorie restricted to just 75-90% of what would be considered a child's usual calorie intake, and often they were fluid-restricted too (1)! If we're talking soybean oil mayonnaise, you could see how someone could get into trouble with mineral deficiencies and liver problems pretty quickly. To understand "dismal," some of the latest research showed that a "modified Atkins protocol" was just as good as the classic ketogenic diet, and so much more liberating, as the patients were allowed up to 10 grams of carbohydrates daily, and they didn't begin with the fast, and they weren't calorie restricted (2)(3). While the classic ketogenic diet was 4:1:1 fat to carbs to protein. If you use MCT oil for 50% of your calories (have to add it in slowly though to prevent vomiting, diarrhea, and cramping!), you could increase the carbohydrates and proteins to a 1.2:1:1 fat:carb:protein and still get the same numbers of magical ketones circulating. And while "MCT oil" sounds nice and yummy when it is gorgeous coconut milk, this MCT Oil 100% Pure 32 fl.oz doesn't look quite as appetizing, especially when that is going the be half of what you eat for the foreseeable future (4). You can see why researchers consider ketogenic diets (especially the original versions) to be extremely difficult and unappetizing (they were), whereas seasoned low-carbers (who Continue reading >>
The Current Status Of The Ketogenic Diet In Psychiatry
Go to: Abstract Background The ketogenic diet (KD) has been used in treatment-resistant epilepsy since the 1920s. It has been researched in a variety of neurological conditions in both animal models and human trials. The aim of this review is to clarify the potential role of KD in psychiatry. Results The search yielded 15 studies that related the use of KD in mental disorders including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These studies comprised nine animal models, four case studies, and two open-label studies in humans. In anxiety, exogenous ketone supplementation reduced anxiety-related behaviors in a rat model. In depression, KD significantly reduced depression-like behaviors in rat and mice models in two controlled studies. In bipolar disorder, one case study reported a reduction in symptomatology, while a second case study reported no improvement. In schizophrenia, an open-label study in female patients (n = 10) reported reduced symptoms after 2 weeks of KD, a single case study reported no improvement. In a brief report, 3 weeks of KD in a mouse model normalized pathological behaviors. In ASD, an open-label study in children (n = 30) reported no significant improvement; one case study reported a pronounced and sustained response to KD. In ASD, in four controlled animal studies, KD significantly reduced ASD-related behaviors in mice and rats. In ADHD, in one controlled trial of KD in dogs with comorbid epilepsy, both conditions significantly improved. Conclusion Despite its long history in neurology, the role of KD in mental disorders is unclear. Half of the published studies are based on animal models of mental disorders with limited generalizability to the analog Continue reading >>
5 Compelling Reasons To Stick With A Ketogenic Diet
Chances are if you’re like me, you can come up with a million reasons not to do something healthy. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could come up with a million reasons to change your life for the better? Well, it won't be a million. It’ll be five, and it’ll be about the ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet is helping people all over the world lose weight, get healthy and feel better. However, like with any lifestyle change, you’re going to experience some resistance. If you’re only armed with one reason to do something, you could get overwhelmed by the horde of self-sabotage that lurks in the corners of our brains. That’s why, for me, it’s important to come up with a smorgasbord of good reasons to keep doing something healthy. If the only positive I was getting from the ketogenic diet was simply weight loss, I think I could talk myself out of it just to indulge in the fleeting pleasures of an afternoon muffin. But armed with multiple, interesting and cool benefits of the ketogenic diet, I can keep those harlot muffins where they belong: in apocalypse-proof plastic wrapping, next to the rack of children’s sunglasses near my drugstore checkout line. Smile, Baby! The ketogenic diet is low-carb and very, very low in sugar. Sugar and refined carbs are the main culprits behind tooth decay, causing certain bacteria in your mouth to overfeed and release excess acid, which causes cavities. The absence of sugar and carbs keeps these bacteria from going bananas, and as a result, you have a much slimmer chance of developing cavities and gum disease. You might think that not getting cavities is not really that great of a reason, but have you paid for a cavity as an adult? It costs more than taking an entire family to Disneyland. I’d personally prefer to go on Space Moun Continue reading >>
Although the causes of depression can vary, depression treatment programs which involve changing the diet and healing a leaky gut can be very effective. More specifically, by removing grains and high carb foods from your diet, and making sure you get the right vitamins and minerals, you can heal your gut, heal your body, resolve behavioral issues, and lift your mood. The list of supplement recommendations at right is a good place to start. I want to reiterate that depression is linked to many different triggers, and a change in diet is by no means a comprehensive solution, but it is true that depression can be rooted in biochemical issues such as micro-nutrient deficiencies and fatty acid imbalances. Environmental factors and of course, tragic events over which a person has no control (death of a family member, for instance) are also major causes of depression, and in these cases, dietary changes may have a lesser effect. Gut Health and Depression Current research is linking depression to inflammation linked to a leaking gut. Leaky gut syndrome, a condition in which the lining of the intestines has been compromised by a food substance such as gluten. The damaged lining of the intestinal tract then leaks undigested food particles into the rest of the body, causing inflammatory responses from the immune system. This inflammation then leads to neurological changes which result in mood alterations. A paper by Kiecolt-Glaser et al. discusses how this inflammation in the body drives the symptoms of disease and depression. The authors state "Depression and inflammation fuel one another...Depression, childhood adversity, stressors, and diet can all influence the gut microbiome and promote intestinal permeability, another pathway to enhanced inflammatory responses." Does Followi Continue reading >>
Why A Low Carb Diet May Not Be Best For You
Does Low Carb = Low Energy? I have yet to meet a woman on a long-term, low carb diet who is loving life. I’m here to explain why I think this may be the case. While we have, collectively, reacted to the low-fat brainwashing of the past half-century, with a defiant, “Fat rules!” attitude, this zeal may be taking us too far astray. I am passionate about the ancestral diet and everything implied by “going back to our roots”, but I also raise a brow at more rigid interpretations, assumptions, and academic flourishes about true replication of a Paleolithic diet. We’ve relinquished Darwin and redeemed Lamarck, so the truth is that we can evolve (or devolve) within one generation. Adaptations to stress and environmental exposures can change our biology and impact our grandchildren. Thanks to the work of Weston Price, we may not have to go back as far as the Paleolithic to send the body a signal of safety. As recently as the early 1900s, he found traditional cultures flourishing, many with incorporation of agricultural foods like grains and legumes. That said, we also know that the microbiome plays a powerful role in adaptation to these foods, and that some of our guts may not be up for the challenge. Back in my self-experimentation days, I spent two months on a carb-restricted diet, kicking starchy veggies, fruit, and grains to the curb. I felt great for two weeks, and not a day after. I felt cloudy, tired, and started obsessing about moisturizer and conditioner. Perhaps this is most relevant for those with a history of compromised thyroid function, as the Jaminets have discussed, but I believe it’s relevant to many women. Many Body Types = Many Right Diets I look to the Hadza whose women foster gender-distinct microbial profiles, ostensibly related to their cons Continue reading >>
This Reddit User Swears The Ketogenic Diet Made Him Less Depressed—but Is That Possible?
People swear by the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet for plenty of reasons—they say it can help lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease, and help you lose weight. But now one Reddit user says the ketogenic diet helped fight his depression, too. Under the title “Depression is gone,” Redditor willilikeit writes, “Six months on keto. Have lost 40 pounds. But the best result is how I feel. I've gone from waking up with dread and fighting suicidal thoughts off and on most days, to feeling energetic, positive, and only a rare, passing, suicidal thought. It is night and day! Omg. Thank you for all of your posts and support!" Several other people said in the comments that they experienced similar results with ketogenic diets. “So true, I sleep less, wake up ready for the day instead of dreading it. I have energy and want to actually do things now. So glad you feel it too!” Sea_Hag wrote. “I’m right there with you,” writes EffectedCat. “I don’t constantly think of how much I suck or constantly ask what I’m going to screw up today. …Anger and sudden emotional outbursts have dramatically decreased and everyone around me can notice the difference in my mood. This diet has changed my life.” Does the Keto Diet Really Fight Depression? It actually might, says women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D. “Your diet can absolutely have an effect on your mood,” she says. “Many studies have shown a clear link between diet and a person's state of mind.” The keto diet in particular may cause certain bodily processes that can help fight depression, she says. I Tried It: Keto Diet Here’s how it works: For some reason, when you're on a ketogenic diet, your body produces more GABA, a major neurotransmitter that helps the brain function Continue reading >>
The Ketogenic Diet And Mental Health
Inflammation is one of the most powerful factors which determines health and illness. Levels of inflammation in the body are very strongly influenced by dietary choices. In my holistic practice of psychiatry, one of the most important conversations which I have repeatedly with my patients, is the fundamental importance of following a non-inflammatory diet. This conversation must be had repeatedly, because diet is one of the very hardest things for most people to change. For optimum health, I believe that a Ketogenic Diet, one that is high in fat, adequate in protein and low in carbohydrate, exerts the most anti-inflammatory effect. This combination changes the way energy is used in the body; instead of deriving energy from carbohydrates which convert to glucose, energy is sourced from fats which convert in the liver into fatty acids and ketone bodies. An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood, a state known as ketosis, is correlated with myriad health benefits. In contrast, elevated levels of glucose leads to inflammation, insulin resistance and accelerates aging. Research on the impact of a ketogenic diet for Cancer, Autism, Alzheimer’s Disease, ALS, Parkinson’s Disease, Traumatic Brain Injuries, Sleep Disorders, Headaches, Bipolar Disorder, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease is emerging, and I anticipate that we are going to be hearing much more about its health benefits and novel applications. The ketogenic diet was used very effectively to treat epilepsy in the 1920’s, until anti-convulsant drugs were introduced in the 1940’s, when it fell out of favor. It’s easier to take pills than to follow a restrictive diet, and the pharmaceutical industry’s lobby is very influential. Pharmaceuticals, as opposed to dietary changes, remain the standard of care Continue reading >>
Quieting The Bipolar Mind: Can A Ketogenic Diet Stabilize Mood?
Disclaimer: Please note that I am in no way endorsing nutritional ketosis as a supplement to, or a replacement for medication. There is very little data actually supporting the use of a ketogenic diet as a treatment for bipolar, and a well-documented case where a bipolar patient on valporic acid developed full-blown mania with psychosis after starting a ketogenic diet (thanks to @neurocritic for pointing me to this report; read about it below). This post talks about the theory behind using keto for bipolar disorder and a few recorded clinical cases. Bipolar disorder is often described as a dizzying, sinister and emotionally draining roller-coaster ride. It is marked by dark periods of severe depression interspersed with mania or hypomania – insane energy levels, difficulty concentrating, distorted thinking, euphoria and thoughts that tumble around and around in the brain. To date there is no cure for bipolar disorder, but mood swings can be managed effectively with lithium or anti-seizure medication, such as valporic acid. While effective in many cases, these drugs unfortunately come with a price: in some women lithium may lower thyroid levels causing rapid cycling of depressive-maniac cycles; valporic acid may increase the level of testosterone in young women leading to disruption of menstrual cycles and excess body hair. Many drugs also suffer from the “rebound effect”, where suddenly stopping the medication may worsen bipolar symptoms. In many cases, using a lower drug dose may minimize side effects, but sometimes at the cost of decreased efficacy. What if there’s an alternative way –say, a diet – to stabilize mood in conjunction with drugs? Lucky for mood clinicians, there is in fact a successful pre-existing case: the use of the ketogenic diet to treat Continue reading >>
Curcumin Extends Lifespan And Fights Depression
Curcumin fights depression Recently itâ€™s also been found that curcumin may have an antidepressant action: Curcumin for the treatment of major depression: A randomised, double- blind, placebo controlled study. (Co-author is Michael Maes, who has been key in showing links between inflammation and oxidative stress, on the one hand, and depression on the other.) The fact that experimental animals treated with curcumin have decreased levels of oxidative stress would seem to shed some light on the antidepressant action of curcumin. It stimulates the expression of Nrf2, a master regulator of antioxidant genes: Alteration of the Nrf2â€“Keap1 interaction enables Nrf2 to translocate to the nucleus, bind to the antioxidant-responsive element (ARE) and initiate the transcription of genes coding for detoxifying enzymes and cytoprotective proteins. This response is also triggered by a class of electrophilic compounds including polyphenols and plant-derived constituents. Recently, the natural antioxidants curcumin and caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE) have been identified as potent inducers of haem oxygenase-1 (HO-1), a redox-sensitive inducible protein that provides protection against various forms of stress. Here, we show that in renal epithelial cells both curcumin and CAPE stimulate the expression of Nrf2 in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. This also supplies some evidence, in my opinion, that people with depression suffer from a lack of hormesis. For instance, exercise has been shown to have profound effects on depression, and low intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with depression. And obesity is strongly linked to depression. So curcumin likely influences lifespan and depression by virtue of hormesis. Both ill health in aging as well as depres Continue reading >>
Is The Ketosis Diet The Most Powerful Aid For Depression?
The western world is in the grip of a terrible malaise. Depression has been earmarked by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the fastest growing health problem right now and expects it to be that way for many years to come. But why? What gives? Do they know something we don’t? Or is it, in fact, that people just don’t really understand Depression and are blithely wandering into its clutches because they just can’t see it coming? Well, I obviously don’t have all the answers, but I’m going to tell you what I’ve learned over the years with my research into food and health matters. The first piece of information worth considering is the old quote “You are what you eat”. Or the version attributed to the “Father” of Western medicine “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food”. Now, I remember my A-Level chemistry, and I was pretty good at it, and I remember that the bottom line is that you can’t make certain compounds if the ingredients for those compounds are not present in the reaction vessel. Your body is the reaction vessel in this instance, and therefore it stands to reason that if you don’t get enough, say, Iron in your diet, you will find your body exhibiting symptoms which are caused by a lack of Iron. Pretty simple stuff, right? Right. Except that during the whole time that Depression has been becoming the world’s number one disease, the ‘official line’ on dietary recommendations has stressed the importance of not eating too much fat. Low-fat carbs have been the order of the day, and we have probably all seen one version or another of that Special K woman on our screens literally thousands of times. She seems to be doing alright on it… what’s the problem? Well, my money is on the fats. It takes a bit of hea Continue reading >>
Your Food And Your Mood: Carbs, Depression, And Cognitive Decline
We are all too familiar with the obesity and diabetes epidemics that plague our society. These are not the only epidemics we are facing. The United States spends about $215 billion annually on orthopedic surgeries, cancer is catching up to heart disease as the number one killer in the U.S., and we also suffer from chronically low moods and neurodegeneration as we age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of antidepressants is up 400% when compared to the last couple decades, and Alzheimer’s disease costs this country $100 billion annually. That is not a typo - 400% and $100 billion. Could it be that our current recommended dietary guidelines are a contributing factor to this epidemic? The answer is most definitely yes. Disclaimer: I do not think that diet is the only underlying issue here. We are chronically overstressed, sleep deprived, vitamin D deficient, sedentary, and tend to spend a lot of time alone. Those are all contributing factors to the decreased mood seen in this country. However, for today we are going to focus on nutritional aspects that are major contributing factors. The Possibilities of Eating Low Carb We are encouraged by the USDA to eat a diet high in carbohydrates and low in fat. A study performed in 2012 and published in the Journal of Neurobiology and Aging put 23 older adults on a six-week diet that was either low carb or high carb. Although depressive mood was unchanged, there were reductions in weight, fasting glucose, waist circumference, and fasting insulin, as well as improvements in the verbal memory test of the low-carbohydrate group.1 This study lasted only six weeks, yet showed increased cognitive ability for an older population with mild cognitive decline. What would happen if we ate like this al Continue reading >>
Low-carb Diet = Depression??? Not So Fast!
I’ve noticed a few blogs on the internet recently and posts within our Community from people asking about the effects of Atkins on their sleep or whether doing Atkins would increase their risk of depression. I’ve addressed this topic before, but I thought it would be a great time to revisit it. One study that was well publicized in the past followed a group of adults who were separated into two weight-loss groups: a very low-carb plan and a restricted-calorie, moderately high-carb plan. Both groups lost about the same amount of weight over a year—30 pounds. But, according to the researchers, the low-carb group reported higher levels of anger, depression and confusion vs. the higher-carb group. The researchers suggested a link to better serotonin (a neurotransmitter involved in mood) synthesis with the higher-carb group while the low-carb group had lower levels of serotonin. Concluding that higher carbohydrate intake can increase serotonin concentrations in the brain, while fat and protein reduce concentrations. But it’s just not that simple. Even the researchers suggest that more studies need to be done to support this theory. Let’s start with this indisputable fact: The body needs tryptophan to make serotonin. No one denies this—tryptophan is an essential amino acid, and we need it for all sorts of things, including making serotonin. Tryptophan is a good guy. But no one knows just how much is needed; nor does anyone know exactly how much serotonin we need to make in order to “not be depressed”. What we do know: Depression is a function of an Internet-like maze of interrelationships between serotonin, dopamine, beta-endorphins and other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and epinephrine. The making of any of these chemical messengers can be influenced Continue reading >>