Mental Health and the Healthy Keto Way


Written by Cyndi

Cyndi is about educating. Her greatest love is to teach, both in the public arena and within the large corporate food companies, to enable everyone to make better choices so they too can enjoy greater health throughout their lives. Considered one of the world's foremost experts in Nutrition, Cyndi brings over 40 years experience, research and knowledge.

April 13, 2021

I always joke to my husband that I have a new boyfriend or a new best friend (usually the author of a book I’m reading). My current boyfriend is Ross Ellenhorn.

Ross is the author of How We Change (And Ten Reasons Why We Don’t). As I’m reading this book my head is nodding wildly and I’m underlining many great quotes, statistics and ideas.

He quotes that the weight loss industry in the US rakes in $66 billion a year. While 69% quit the diet, for those who stay loyal, eight out of ten regain whatever weight was lost.

Ross says that research shows that deep and lasting change is typically the result of contemplation and the dispassionate weighing of the pros and cons of a situation. That of course does not mean advice and education is not important (this is what we do best at Changing Habits!). But, typically, if you are trying to change, staying in the sameness of your life may do you more harm (mental illness, obesity, metabolic disease, diabetes, heart disease) but the familiarity of your life feels safer. On the other hand, change may give benefits, but are the pros in your contemplation weighted toward change? (We are further addressing these psychological issues within our lifestyle programs. Watch this space.)

While reading Ross’s book I become curious about him, so I went on an internet search to find out more about him. What I found was a series of lectures he was involved in – and thus I found another new boyfriend.

This man is Dr Christopher Palmer from Harvard University. He is one of the authors in a new study published in the journal Current Opinion in Endocrinology & Diabetes and Obesity.  The name of the study is ‘Ketogenic diet as a metabolic treatment for mental illness’.1

As you can imagine this got my attention.

Medical professionals are expert in acute diseases and emergencies. Their main premise is to diagnose and treat (usually with medication/chemicals, surgery or radiation). They see the body very mechanistically. There are specialists for every system and organ in the body and once they become a specialist, their sole focus is on that particular part of the body.

So, a psychiatrist only works on the mind, and more specifically, mental illness. Lifestyle and diet are rarely prescribed for someone with anxiety, depression, bipolar or schizophrenia, instead they are prescribed a medication. That medication may help but it may also make things worse.

A friend of mine is an emergency doctor. He told me that when a family brings a severely depressed relative into emergency, he knows that the medication he may give them might only give them enough energy to end their life, rather than solving the problem.

Medicine definitely has its place, but for chronic disease and mental illness it is falling down. Its toolbox is limited and not everyone is helped.

Enter diet. Now the research firmly points at changing the metabolism of the brain to use ketones, as opposed to glucose, for increased mental health.

My program The Healthy Keto Way talks about the research that has already been shown to help with the complete eradication of seizures, if not a vast difference in seizure frequency. So to make the leap to mental illness should, in theory, be a small step.

The head and body are joined by a neck that transports food and nutrients, and links nerves (vagus and more) and blood vessels, between the two. What you eat has a huge effect on your resilience and mental health. We know that improving the food consumed – away from the SAD (Standard Australian/American Diet) and back to the foods of our evolutionary background – has an enormous effect on mental health. But to take it one step further and consume a diet low in carbohydrates and higher in quality fats to change the very metabolism of the brain truly showcases the innate intelligence of the human body.

We know that there were many times in the lives of our ancestors where a low carbohydrate diet was forced upon the population (due to lack of carbs in the wild). We also know that a low carbohydrate diet makes us more adventurous – it had to, in order for us to move to new environments for our very survival. People who have anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses are usually less adventurous and just want to stay home, or better still, stay in bed with their head under the covers.

Dr Christopher Palmer and associates’ recent findings show that mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder and binge eating disorder, are neuro-metabolic diseases that share several common pathologies. These pathologies include.

  • glucose hypometabolism (associated with brain cognition)
  • neurotransmitter imbalances (brain chemicals for communication)
  • oxidative stress (causing reactive oxygen species thus accelerated ageing)
  • inflammation (chronic).

There is strong evidence that the ketogenic diet can address these four fundamental diseases, and now complementary clinical evidence shows that the ketogenic diet can improve the symptoms. Changing the diet and thus creating a metabolic intervention provides a form of symptomatic treatment that also directly addresses the underlying disease mechanisms.1

Is that ever good news?! Mental disorders of the mind are often thought about in the theoretical rather than as a tangible diseases with identifiable underlying metabolic mechanisms. The shift from a glucose dependent brain metabolism to a fat and ketone dependent brain avoids glucose hypometabolism, rebalances neurotransmitters, reduces oxidative stress and calms chronic inflammation, potentially treating mental disorders.

Clinical trials and case studies are proving just that. For instance, one woman with a 53-year history of schizophrenia, who suffered with paranoia, auditory hallucinations and multiple suicide attempts, started a ketogenic diet in 2008. Within weeks her symptoms had markedly improved and she’s now been on the diet, symptom free and medication free for 12 years.

Another patient who had a decades-long history of schizophrenia, changed to the ketogenic diet due to gut issues, then experienced similar improvement, transitioning from depression and attempts at suicide to being symptom free, medication free and happy to be alive2.

These are not isolated cases. These improvements are not only being seen with schizophrenia, but other mental illnesses as well as ADD, ADHD and autism.

Doesn’t it make more sense to treat a disease that has four underlying factors with a diet that addresses all those factors, rather than a drug that only addresses the neurotransmitter – serotonin?

The Healthy Keto Way will help you to change the metabolism of the brain from sugar metabolism to fat and ketone metabolism. At worst it won’t hurt and at best it may just change your mental and physical health.

Circling back to the beginning of the article, it might be good to sit down and contemplate the pros and cons of changing to The Healthy Keto Way if you suffer from the mental maladies I’ve written about. Decide with full contemplation that this is what you want to do and consider the changes you must make to alter your mental health.

As Ross jokes: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: One, but the light bulb has to want to change3.

In the end, it’s up to you, but we are here to help you with coaches and nutritionists. Your call!


  1. Current Opinion in Endocrinology & Diabetes and Obesity: October 2020 – Volume 27 – Issue 5 – p 269-274 doi: 10.1097/MED.0000000000000564
  2. Case Studies with Nicolas Norwitz Oxford University
  3. How We Change (And 10 Reasons Why We Don’t) – Ross Ellenhorn



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