How A High Fat, Low Carbohydrate Diet Could Help Treat Schizophrenia [Study]

According to research conducted by James Cook University, a high-fat, low carbohydrate diet may be key in treating schizophrenia.



Did you know? The foods you consume affect your well-being and happiness and, according to recent research, may even play a role in treating conditions such as schizophrenia.

According to research conducted by James Cook University, a ketogenic diet, which is favored by bodybuilders, may be key in healing schizophrenia.

When Associate Professor Zoltan Sarnyai and his research group from JCU’s Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) experimented by feeding mice a ketogenic diet, they discovered that a high-fat, low carbohydrate (sugar) diet leads to fewer animal behaviors that resemble schizophrenia.

For many researchers, this news isn’t surprising. A ketogenic diet has been used since the 1920’s to manage epilepsy in children. Most recently, the diet has been relied on by bodybuilders as a preferred way to lose weight.

When a person goes into ketosis, their body begins burning the products of fat breakdown (ketones) for fuel rather than carbohydrates. 

Dr. Sarnyai believes this diet may help treat Schizophrenia because the alternative energy source (ketones) helps to circumvent abnormally functioning cellular energy pathways in the brains of those who suffer from the condition. 

He said:

“Most of a person’s energy would come from fat. So the diet would consist of butter, cheese, salmon, etc. Initially it would be used in addition to medication in an in-patient setting where the patient’s diet could be controlled.” 

Schizophrenia is a devastating, chronic mental illness that affects nearly one percent of people worldwide. Reports James Cook University, there is no cure and medications used to alleviate the condition can produce side effects such as movement disorder, weight gain and cardiovascular disease.

If the discovery can be applied to an effective treatment for schizophrenia in humans, there might be additional benefits along the way too: lower body weight and lower blood glucose levels.

The findings showed that mice on a ketogenic diet weigh less and have lower blood glucose levels than mice fed a normal diet. Weight gain and cardiovascular issues associated with high glucose levels in the blood are side effects usually linked to traditional treatments of schizophrenia – something the new approach could cut out.

“It’s another advantage that it works against the weight gain, cardiovascular issues and type-two diabetes we see as common side-effects of drugs given to control schizophrenia,” said Dr. Sarnyai.

The JCU researchers say they will now test their findings against schizophrenic behavior in other animals before exploring the possibility of a clinical trial with people. Their work has been published in the journal Schizophrenia Research.

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