Keto and Bipolar Disorder: What Scientists Say

What scientists say about ketogenic diets and bipolar disorder.

It might sound odd to hear keto and bipolar disorder mentioned in the same research papers, social media posts, or even in the same sentence. However, researchers, doctors, and patients have all grown increasingly interested in ketogenic diets as a way to relieve the symptoms of bipolar and other mood disorders. If you or a loved one need help managing symptoms of this challenging mental health issue, this summary of scientific research and conclusions should help inform your decisions.

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Is There a Link Between Keto and Bipolar Disorder?

According to research published on the National Institute of Health website, Researchers first noticed a possible link between seizures and bipolar disorder because of overlapping medication profiles used to treat these two medical problems. Low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diets emerged as one of the first treatments for seizure disorders about a century ago. If some of the same drugs treat seizures and bipolar, and a ketogenic diet may help with seizure disorders, it made sense to pursue it as a potential treatment for bipolar disorder.

The researchers noted that people who already struggled with psychiatric symptoms might have a hard time sticking to a new diet. On the other hand, they also noticed problems getting patients to adhere to medical treatment protocols.

Thus, the study offered participants a somewhat less-restrictive diet and the addition of supplemental ketone esters in order to mimic a keto diet. In other words, the diet included few carbs than an average diet, but it did not limit carbs as much as a typical ketogenic diet. The particulars of the study diet seem important to note because it did allow for more carbohydrates than the typical 20-50g associated with a typical ketogenic diet.

Keto-Mimicking Diet Outcome

The researchers planned a three-year study with 34 adults, who were functional enough to offer their informed consent. Participants also had to have a prior bipolar disorder diagnosis of any of the sub-types.

They hoped at least 24 people would adhere through diet and keto ester supplementation. Unlike a strict keto diet, this regime allowed for typically restricted items, like bread and rice, only they had to be the whole-grain versions. The diet did not allow simple carbs, like candy or sodas. The researchers hoped the supplementation would make up for the laxer rules.

The researchers evaluated participants with sensors, lab tests, and interviews. They did see positive outcomes for various criteria, including mood stability, neural network stability, brain uptake of ketones, and blood glucose. The scientists also admitted that limited funding precluded a broader study that included control groups and more participants.

Thus, like many of these studies about keto and mental health, the results provided plenty of encouragement to perform more studies, but the researchers could not offer absolute conclusions. It will help to read the study (linked near the top) to understand the exact methodologies, results, and theories the researchers published. However, just as with seizure disorders, a conversation with your doctor about keto and bipolar disorder may prove fruitful.

3 thoughts on “Keto and Bipolar Disorder: What Scientists Say

  1. Thanks for contributing this update. All of the studies use fairly low populations. As you know, transitioning to this lifestyle takes some time and effort, so people who are struggling with symptoms probably need support. I wonder if this therapy will ever become more mainstream.

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