The Keto Diet’s Impact on Addiction and Neurologic Conditions

Key Points:The Keto Diet’s Impact on Addiction and Neurologic Conditions

  • The ketogenic diet, known for its effectiveness in weight loss and obesity management, is being studied for its potential positive effects on addiction, neurologic conditions, and cancer.
  • Healthcare professionals should consider prescribing ketogenic diets in specific clinical settings with proper control.
  • The diet primarily consists of high fat, moderate to high protein, and low carbohydrate intake.
  • Research suggests that ketogenic diets may have beneficial effects in alcohol addiction, food addiction, neurologic conditions, and cancer.
  • A study showed that patients with alcohol use disorder who followed a ketogenic diet required less medication during alcohol detoxification and exhibited lower alcohol cravings and altered brain metabolism compared to those on a standard American diet.
  • A small pilot study found that a very low-calorie ketogenic diet reduced symptoms of food addiction and binge eating in women, leading to weight loss and fat mass reduction.
  • The link between ketogenic diets, increased vitamin D levels, and their potential effects on diabetes and weight loss is being explored.

These studies highlight the promising potential of the ketogenic diet beyond weight loss, suggesting its possible role in curbing addiction and addressing various neurologic conditions.

Examining the Therapeutic Potential of Ketogenic Diet in Alcohol Use Disorder


In a study published in the journal Science Advances, researchers in the United States investigated whether a ketogenic diet, leading to metabolic ketosis, could provide therapeutic benefits for managing cravings and withdrawal symptoms in inpatients with alcohol use disorder undergoing detoxification. Additionally, the researchers explored the potential of a ketogenic diet to reduce alcohol consumption during acute withdrawal using a rat model of alcohol dependence.

The investigators formulated their clinical hypothesis based on the understanding that individuals with alcohol use disorder exhibit increased brain metabolism of acetate at the expense of glucose. They postulated that a shift in energy substrates during withdrawal might contribute to withdrawal severity and neurotoxicity in alcohol use disorder, and a ketogenic diet could potentially mitigate these effects. By utilizing the rat study as a preclinical model, the researchers extrapolated their findings to the human trial.

The results of the human study revealed that patients with alcohol use disorder who were randomly assigned to follow a ketogenic diet required less benzodiazepine medication during alcohol detoxification compared to participants following a standard American diet (benzodiazepines are typically prescribed to alleviate withdrawal symptoms during alcohol detox).

The authors elucidated that over the three-week treatment period, the participants on ketogenic diets exhibited reduced cravings and increased reactivity to alcohol cues in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) compared to those consuming a standard American diet. The ketogenic group also demonstrated altered dACC bioenergetics, characterized by elevated levels of ketones and glutamate, along with lower levels of neuroinflammatory markers.

Evaluating the Impact of a Very-Low-Calorie Ketogenic Diet on Food Addiction and Binge Eating

A small pilot study conducted by investigators in Italy aimed to assess the effectiveness of a very-low-calorie ketogenic diet (VLCKD) in alleviating symptoms of binge eating and food addiction among five women.

At the conclusion of the study, all participants reported the absence of food addiction or binge eating symptoms. Furthermore, the patients experienced weight loss and a reduction in fat mass, with weight loss ranging from 4.8% to 12.8% of their initial body weight.

The researchers highlighted that symptoms of food addiction and binge eating are typically associated with the consumption of high-glycemic foods rich in sugars, which are excluded from a VLCKD.

Individuals who followed the ketogenic diet reported feeling slightly less hungry, more satisfied, and fuller. While the exact mechanism of appetite suppression remains uncertain, there is evidence suggesting that ketone bodies directly influence appetite, in addition to hormonal changes involving ghrelin and leptin levels. The investigators believe that implementing a VLCKD could be a viable approach for treating binge eating and food addiction.

The researchers emphasized the importance of finding a long-term dietary strategy that effectively addresses weight loss and avoids weight regain and relapses in individuals with food addiction and binge eating symptoms.

Exploring the Relationship between Vitamin D, Diabetes, and Weight Loss

The synthesis of vitamin D within the human body plays a crucial role in overall health. A review published in the journal Metabolites examined studies investigating the impact of ketogenic diets on vitamin D levels and their subsequent effects on diabetes and epilepsy.

Based on the review, previous research has demonstrated that ketogenic diets contribute to elevated circulating levels of vitamin D. The authors also established a connection between obesity and vitamin D deficiency, which could partially elucidate the correlation between ketogenic diets and weight loss.

The authors wrote, “[V]itamin D concentration exhibited an inverse correlation with fat mass. Furthermore, studies conducted on adults primarily utilizing a ketogenic diet for weight loss consistently demonstrated increased circulating levels of vitamin D.”

In summary, the review highlights the potential influence of ketogenic diets on vitamin D status and suggests a relationship between vitamin D, weight loss, and metabolic conditions such as diabetes.

Neurological Conditions and the Impact of Ketogenic Diets

The effects of ketogenic diets on neurological conditions have been extensively researched and studied.

A thorough review published in Nutrients examined numerous studies exploring the effects of ketogenic diets on various neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, migraines, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Based on the extensive research conducted in these areas, the authors outlined several proposed physiological mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects, including:

  • Reduction in the production of reactive oxygen species.
  • Decreased neuronal inflammation.
  • Reconstruction of neuronal myelin sheaths.
  • Repair and generation of new mitochondria while addressing damaged mitochondria.
  • Provision of an alternative energy source for neurons in the form of ketone bodies.
  • Lowering of glucose and insulin concentrations.
  • Induction of autophagy.
  • Reduction of microglia stimulation.
  • Modulation of intestinal microbiota and gene expression.
  • Assistance in dopamine production.
  • Increased conversion of glutamine into GABA.

Cancer and the Role of Ketogenic Diets

Another review published in Nutrients focused on assessing the role of ketogenic diets in cancer. The authors discussed the underlying theory and potential applications in future cancer research.

The primary rationale for considering a ketogenic diet for cancer prevention or treatment is to deprive cancer cells of their primary energy source, which is glucose. By doing so, the authors suggest that the intricate processes involving nutrient sensors and other factors activated by glucose and insulin in cancer cells can be interrupted. These processes play significant roles in cancer development and proliferation.

Regarding future research, the authors acknowledge that a ketogenic diet is unlikely to cure cancer. Instead, they propose that trials should investigate whether the ketogenic diet can reduce cancer progression or recurrence in patients who have achieved remission through standard treatments.

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