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The Link Between Diet and Mental Disorders | Dr. Chris Palmer

The Link Between Diet and Mental Disorders | Dr. Chris Palmer

Podcast Episode Banner - The Link Between Diet and Mental Disorders

There’s no doubt that a healthy diet and exercise help you feel better mentally. But is there a deeper link than that? What if most mental health disorders were a metabolic problem in the brain? Could certain diets improve or even eliminate mental disorders?


Dr. Chris Palmer accidentally discovered a link between diet and mental illness. Episode Quote - “Obesity is a symptom of metabolic dysfunction in the brain.”

Christopher M. Palmer, M.D., is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He’s also the Director of the Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education at McLean hospital. For the past 25 years, Dr. Palmer has been an academic physician with administrative, research, educational, and clinical roles. He just released an enlightening book called Brain Energy: A Revolutionary Breakthrough in Understanding Mental Health and Improving Treatment for Anxiety, Depression, OCD, PTSD, and More.

Perhaps the most unique thing about Dr. Palmer’s approach to treating mental illness is that instead of focusing on medication, he explores diet and nutrition. It all started when while treating a patient with schizophrenia, he recommended the ketogenic diet for weight loss. Surprisingly, along with losing weight, the patient began to see his mental illness symptoms decrease in intensity. Before long, the patient was doing things he never thought possible. His hallucinations had stopped, and he was no longer experiencing paranoia. While Dr. Palmer could have written these changes off as coincidental, or even miraculous, he knew there was something else there.

What is the Brain Energy Theory?

With the increase in cases of mental disorders in the world, we should be seeing an increase in the effectiveness of mental health treatments, right? Well, we’re not– in fact, it’s pretty much the opposite. Most people that suffer from mental illness do not see relief from their treatments. As a psychiatrist, this was incredibly frustrating to Dr. Palmer. That’s why when the ketogenic diet seemed to lessen or even eliminate the symptoms of mental disorders, he needed to figure out why. His subsequent research has led him to theorize that all mental disorders are caused by a metabolic disorder of the brain. He explains all this in what he calls The Brain Energy Theory of Mental Illness.

Now, you guys know I don’t often promote the ketogenic diet. However, I have seen some fascinating research on what it can do for certain disorders and illnesses. So trust me, this isn’t an episode about convincing you to go keto. This conversation was all about the lack of research and focus on diet and mental illness, and what we can do to change that. Dr. Palmer’s findings and experience are absolutely fascinating– and it parallels a lot of what I focus on in the podcast and Fatal Conveniences. As Dr. Palmer says, once we understand the connections, the solutions become obvious. I hope you listen to this episode with an open mind, and that we continue to push awareness for mental health and mental disorders.


[00:04:52] Treatment-resistant mental illness

[00:11:02] Accidently finding a link between a ketogenic diet and mental disorders

[00:14:35] The Brain Energy Theory of Mental Illness

[00:21:45] What is ketosis?

[00:29:00] Mental disorders are metabolic disorders of the brain

[00:38:48] Children and mental illness


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