Can the Ketogenic Diet Help with Depression?
Our ever-increasing need to rely on technology to accomplish our tasks and work duties have led to inactivity and lack of exercise. This is among the reason why a large chunk of the population is affected by various health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
In response to health predicament, people have started looking into different diets and healthy lifestyle options. One of the more popular diets is the ketogenic diet. It is a low-carb diet that may result in weight loss when done properly. Aside from weight loss, the keto diet also offers various health benefits. Some even claim it may help people deal with depression. In this article, we’ll explore how the keto diet might benefit those with depression.
The Ketogenic Diet
As mentioned earlier, the ketogenic diet is a low carbohydrate diet that aims to achieve weight loss in the quickest time possible. This can be achieved by strictly consuming low carbohydrate planned meals that will force the body into ketosis. This state of ketosis should ideally shift the body’s consumption of consumed glucose to consumption of stored fats. This, in essence, will result in weight loss and improved health. However, can this low carbohydrate and supposedly healthier way of eating really help individuals suffering from depression?
Why Study the Relationship Between the Ketogenic Diet and Depression?
The ketogenic has been around for quite some time. Since the 1920s, it has been studied for its supposed health benefits particularly increased metabolism or the faster burning of body fats.
The search for the link between depression and the ketogenic diet can be traced back to the observation that patients suffering from epilepsy suffered fewer seizures while under the ketogenic diet. This observation points to the beneficial effects of the ketogenic diet to the chemistry of the brain, leading them to explore other areas beyond epilepsy like depression. The results were promising and evidence suggest that the ketogenic diet positively affected patients suffering from depression.
How Does the Ketogenic Diet Impact Depression?
The ketogenic diet can positively affect individuals suffering from depression. Some of these benefits are:
1. Helps stabilize a person’s mood
Eating regular foods that are considered non-ketogenic may trigger energy crashes and sugar rush. These ups and downs in the body’s internal response to fuel may result in anxiety and depression. In fact, a similar trend has been observed in patients suffering from type 2 diabetes. Those with unstable blood sugar have a higher chance of feeling depressed than those with more stable blood sugar levels.
2. Reduces inflammation
Eating ketogenic food items means avoiding processed foods which are the primary cause of inflammation. The keto diet requires eating whole foods which contribute to better nutrients and less inflammation. It has been observed that individuals who consumed less inflammatory substances also less likely to experience feelings of depression. In addition, people with depression have higher levels of proinflammatory cytokines which trigger the body’s inflammatory response.
3. Improves the body’s ability to create new brain cells
Neurogenesis, the body’s ability to create new brain cells, has been linked to better moods and emotions. An individual with a lower neurogenesis rate may have an increased chance of being depressed compared to someone with a higher level of neurogenesis. The ketogenic diet has been shown to increase neurogenesis and may contribute to helping people develop more stable moods and emotional resilience.
4. Boosts the mood with healthy fat
The ketogenic diet requires dieters to consume healthy fats which are used up by the brain as fuel. With the brain getting healthier fats to consume as fuel, an individual’s mood becomes more stable and positive. Examples of fatty acids common in ketogenic meals would be omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA which both aid in the production of serotonin, a substance that helps control and stabilize a person’s mood.
How the Ketogenic Diet Can Also Lead to Depression?
There are a number of health benefits associated with the ketogenic diet in terms of fighting anxiety and depression. The ketogenic diet, however, can also cause depression if implemented haphazardly. Below are some of the possible causes of depression during keto:
Lack of Nutrient Dense Foods
Some keto dieters may follow the low caloric requirements of the ketogenic diet without looking at the source of their nutrients. Dirty keto occurs when food items consumed during the ketogenic diet consists of low calories items that are bereft of any nutritional value such as a bunless bacon burger with sugar-free soda. This lack of nutrients limits the body’s ability to create neurotransmitters and may result in unstable moods or mood swings which may consequently lead to depression.
Lack of Electrolytes
During the first few weeks of the ketogenic diet, the body may excrete more water as it shifts from the consumption of glucose to ketones for energy production. This water loss has a disadvantage as it will usually mean the loss of valuable electrolytes as well. Low levels of electrolytes have been shown to contribute to depression.
The feeling of being isolated
Going on the ketogenic diet will require carefully planned meals and food items and this may affect your social life. Sudden invites to social functions or eating out at restaurants with friends may have to be turned down or modified making the dieter feel left out and isolated. This feeling of being one with the group or the community is important for a person’s mental health and with the restrictive diet of keto, some dieters may feel isolated and even depressed when they can no longer join their friends for a night of partying and eating out.