The keto diet exerts some positive effects on the brain and nervous system.
It not only appears to have beneficial effects for epilepsy, but also migraine, other seizure disorders, and Alzheimer’s dementia.
What’s more, some scientific evidence supports the use of the keto diet to help treat mood disorders, including depression, as the diet may positively affect your brain and nervous system in several ways.
Here are some of the ways in which a ketogenic diet may improve depression, according to studies:
Keto May increase G A B A
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that plays key roles in managing stress, anxiety, and mood. Low GABA levels have been linked to clinical depression.
Studies have found that following a ketogenic diet may increase circulating levels of GABA, potentially improving depressive symptoms.
Keto May improve mitochondrial function
Mitochondria are cellular components that generate the energy cells need to function. Mitochondrial dysfunction — such as producing inadequate amounts of energy for the cell to function properly — has been implicated in depression.
People with depression have lower levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — an energy-providing compound — in their brain than people without depression.
However, ketogenic diets may make it easier to produce A T P in people with mitochondrial dysfunction.
Keto May decrease oxidative stress
Oxidative stress refers to cellular damage caused by free radicals. These are unstable compounds you’re exposed to in your daily life, and they can damage cells if they build up in your body.
Oxidative stress is associated with numerous diseases and health conditions. High levels of this stress have also been noted in people with depression.
However, following a ketogenic diet may improve markers of oxidative stress, improve your antioxidant status, and help reverse some of the damage caused by free radicals — potentially helping improve depressive symptoms.
Keto May regulate insulin function
Insulin, a hormone that helps manage your blood sugar levels, may also play a role in depression and mood.
Some people, especially those who eat a diet that’s high in sugar and refined starch, can develop insulin resistance — which is when their body doesn’t respond to insulin as well as it should.
Insulin resistance is not only linked to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease but also depression.
However, following a ketogenic diet, which limits sugar and starch and helps keep your blood sugar levels stable, may improve your insulin sensitivity.
Keto May decrease inflammation
Chronic inflammation has been linked to depression. It’s a dysfunctional immune response that can make you susceptible to many other problems, including insulin resistance, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and GABA suppression.
However, the ketogenic diet has some anti-inflammatory properties and may improve chronic inflammation. This may be because using ketones for energy generates fewer pro-inflammatory compounds called reactive oxygen species than using glucose for energy.
A ketogenic diet may provide many health benefits, especially with metabolic, neurological, or insulin-related diseases.