Although the exact role of the keto diet in mental and brain disorders is unclear, there has been proof of its efficacy in patients with schizophrenia. And, to boot, it works to reverse many conditions that develop as a side effect of conventional medications for brain disorders, like weight gain, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular risks. More research is needed to understand the role of the ketogenic diet in treating or improving schizophrenia, as the current available studies are either animal studies or case studies, but the benefits of a low carbohydrate, high-fat diet in neurology is promising.
Recently, many of my patients have been asking about a ketogenic diet. Is a ketogenic diet safe? Would you recommend it? Despite the recent hype, a ketogenic diet is not something new. In medicine, we have been using it for almost 100 years to treat drug-resistant epilepsy, especially in children. In the 1970s, Dr. Atkins popularized his very-low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss that began with a very strict two-week ketogenic phase. Over the years, other fad diets incorporated a similar approach for weight loss.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL – the "good" cholesterol) ordinarily transports excess cholesterol from the tissues back to the liver. In the liver, the cholesterol is either recycled for future use or excreted into bile. HDL's reverse transport is the only way that cells can get rid of excess cholesterol. It helps protect the arteries and, if there is enough HDL present, it can even reverse the build up of fatty plaques in the arteries. When there are excessive amounts of VLDL and triglyceride present, however, HDL concentrations in the blood decrease.
The notion that metabolic syndrome, or its surrogate markers hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance, antedate and contribute to the pathogenesis of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and at least some cases of hypertension was proposed many years ago.21,35 Coronary heart disease in the setting of metabolic syndrome can to a great extent be attributed to dyslipidemia (increased dense LDL cholesterol, diminished HDL cholesterol, and hypertriglyceridemia)231 as well as to elevations in blood pressure and blood glucose and the presence of a procoagulant, proinflammatory state.22,228 In addition, some studies suggest that hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance, as well as hyperglycemia, may be independent risk factors.51 Whether elevated FFA levels or a dysregulation of intracellular fatty acid metabolism contribute to atherosclerosis by directly altering the function of endothelium (see the section entitled “Vascular Endothelial Cells and Atherogenesis”) or other cells in the vascular wall remains to be determined. Relevant to this discussion, low levels of adiponectin are associated with an increased risk for coronary heart disease in humans,155 whereas, as noted earlier, overexpression of adiponectin or its globular subunit diminishes the severity of atherosclerosis in ApoE–/– mice.232,233
Early studies reported high success rates; in one study in 1925, 60% of patients became seizure-free, and another 35% of patients had a 50% reduction in seizure frequency. These studies generally examined a cohort of patients recently treated by the physician (a retrospective study) and selected patients who had successfully maintained the dietary restrictions. However, these studies are difficult to compare to modern trials. One reason is that these older trials suffered from selection bias, as they excluded patients who were unable to start or maintain the diet and thereby selected from patients who would generate better results. In an attempt to control for this bias, modern study design prefers a prospective cohort (the patients in the study are chosen before therapy begins) in which the results are presented for all patients regardless of whether they started or completed the treatment (known as intent-to-treat analysis).[19]
Although metabolic syndrome is a serious condition, you can reduce your risks significantly by reducing your weight; increasing your physical activity; eating a heart-healthy diet that's rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and fish; and working with your healthcare provider to monitor and manage blood glucose, blood cholesterol, and blood pressure.