Plant or meat based diets for mental health?

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #21

Dr. Ede is a psychiatrist who uses a ketogenic diet to treat certain mental disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia. She is a clinician, not a researcher (Dr. Palmer is both), but she knows how to read a scholarly paper. I listen to her, because she is another one who always cites data to back up her assertions. She and Dr. Palmer both write columns for Psychology Today.

Dr. Ede eats a carnivore diet, but that’s because plant foods aggravate certain of her health conditions, not because she has any theoretical objection to them. She’s on record, in fact, as saying that she enjoys vegetables and would like to be able to eat them.

(Megan) #22

Hey Paul, I watched a youtube video of someone talking about this but forgot to bookmark it. Is this well known scientific knowledge, emerging scientific knowledge or fringe scientific knowledge?

Made me wonder about things like protein shakes and protein bars, not to mention only getting protein from plants. How many of the amino acids being consumed are able to be used by the body?

From what I’m listening to recently, the rest “going to waste” is the animo acids get de-aminated and turned into glucose, ditto all amino acids that form a complete profile but are in excess of our body’s needs. I’ve heard some folks say we just excrete the excess, but Dr Bart Kay says amino acids being excreted by the kidneys only happens in rare cases and usually means something is physically wrong with the person.

Hey @marleo. Welcome to the forums! I’ve been on an antidepressant for many years and weaned myself off it about 4 months ago. So far so good. Definitely not worse off it. I eat carnivore (zero foods from any plants). The ketones in my blood range from 0 to 0.2 (when I used to measure them). I eat a lot of protein and some days not a lot of fat. I put my very low ketone readings down to eating “too much” protein.


I am quite sure most protein shakes and bars contain complete animal proteins (okay, not necessarily only that kind).
Getting enough protein on a plant-based diet needs completing amino acids, grains and legumes are a common combo and I pretty much stopped there when I was curious. Some plants have nearly complete protein, allegedly but I never dig in seriously and simple articles just say so and that’s it. Those plants are usually fancy-schmancy and expensive and/or bad tasting to me or I have some other problem with them so I would just do some normal combos to get complete protein in the case of some weird Armageddon… (No idea which ratio is right though, I never ever saw that in any articles, they always went for being super simple, not bothering people with data or specifics.)
It’s so much easier with animal items galore for so many reasons. It was easy as a vegetarian as I had plenty of protein rich animal products while I wasn’t sensitive to anything (merely disliked therefore never ate a few things).

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #24

This is mainstream science. It gets more awareness in agriculture, because farmers can’t afford to waste feed, if they want to make a profit on their animals, but it is known to be true of human beings as well. It’s one of the problems that needs to be addressed when dealing with world hunger.

I suspect the video you saw was a talk given by Peter Ballerstedt, a forage agronomist. If you go on YouTube and search on “Ballerstedt protein,” several relevant lectures will come up.

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #25

They don’t all get turned into glucose. Some amino acids are lipogenic, some are glycogenic, and a few are both. And yes, the labile pool of amino acids has a limited capacity, so beyond that, protein is indeed wasted. This is one of the reasons a ketogenic diet is a moderate-protein diet, not a high-protein one.

Excess protein is not usually excreted by the kidneys, unless something is wrong, but it can be excreted in the other waste channel.

(Shawn Patrick Malone) #26

I don’t think it matters too much what type of WOE a person follows regarding mental health as long as they are supplementing a plant based diet with the proper amino acids that their diet is prone to leaving out and isn’t relying on processed garbage. I can speak on this topic some what first hand as my oldest daughter is vegan and in the last 5 years (around when she became vegan) has developed several issues as far as mental health (depression, anxiety…). When she first started she did fairly well with it but shortly after introducing processed plant “meat” and other fun things with a massive list of ingredients she started to have issues with depression. I understand that this could be just a normal thing that she has developed but I found the timing interesting as it was within around 4-6 weeks of leaving her relativly healthy whole foods, vegan diet and replace it with chemically processed “vegan” foods.
I think a vegan diet can be ok, as long as it’s natural and supplemented with amino acids to fill in gaps left behind. My daughter started out this way but that ended with the fake vegan food. I’m not going to say that carnivore and keto are all that for mental health, and it is easy to eat processed foods as well, but for those that do keep things natural and “clean” I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.
I personally try and eat as clean as possible, usually limiting myself to 5-6 ingredients total per meal and can quickly feel a difference if I step outside my little box of rules. Not really mentally but physically and I could see how over the longer term that adding in processed stuff with no real health value could go from having physical changes to mental issues in the long run. The whole body is connected in one way or another.

(Megan) #27

Awesome info, as always @PaulL! Thanks for the clarification. I was just parroting what I heard Bart Kay say. He said gluconeogenesis is partly supply driven for this reason.


Hi Mario, My MH improves when fasting for a day +. The physical changes make me more relaxed and I’ve had lifted spirits and a few Eureka type euphoric moments realising improvement in mood and Well Being.

My mates best Yoga session was whilst fasting and I’ve just done the same.

The wife agrees I’m better fasted and I do notice a reduction in Stress that helps me function better cognitively.

However you do it getting fat adapted and starting fasting is worth the investment. It’s important to be able to moderate thought and understand the danger signs.

Intermittent Fasting is less effective for me but it might work better if only I could moderate food intake and the eating window to finish at 1800.

Good luck Mario!

(Megan) #29

I was wondering about amino acid balance, not whether they contain any complete proteins or not

(Mario) #30

Thanks for the welcome and for the continued insight. And hope! The answer from the medical community is always anti-depressants and “augmented” medicines such as Lithium. And in the case of my son they didn’t work at all.

So we are very interested in what we are learning about keto and the impact on mental health.

It is all so very confusing based on who you listen to and what you read. I am getting Chris Palmer’s book tomorrow and looking forward to reading it.

(Mario) #31

Paul, thank you so much for all your responses! Very insightful and appreciated.

I am not familiar with Dr Ede and will definitely look her up!

(Mario) #32

I am sorry to hear about your daughter. I am arriving here because of my 21 year old son. Brilliant mind academically and musically, but had to stop college because of depression and suicidal ideation. Has been home for over 1 1/2 years now, we have tried several meds, talk therapies, ketamine, hypnosis, TMS (a trial so possible he was in the control group), psilocybin. Nothing has moved the needle.

Learning about ketosis and the benefits to all kinds of serious mental health conditions kind of woke me up. Of course the brain is affected by what you eat. Makes perfect sense. I mean, why didn’t I think about that earlier? So here we are.

Unfortunately he tried to switch to keto and he ended up throwing up over and over that first day. So he quit. We want him to try it again (he does too), but we would like to understand why his body gave such a violent reaction and what to do to avoid it.

(Mario) #33

Thank you. Yes I want my son to try it but I am educating myself and realizing I don’t sleep well and I could use a lower stress level too. So I am with you. I need to try it as well.

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #34

Any diet that involves whole, real food instead of processed crap is going to be better for people. But I think a whole-food vegan diet might get awfully tricky to implement. (I don’t really know, however, since I’ve never looked into it.) There are two issues involved here: the first is how best to get proper nutrition, and the second is the point of the thread, mental health.

The protein concerns I raised affect the first issue only. I don’t see our protein intake as having a direct effect on mental health.

As far as the second issue is concerned, however, I see two factors we need to bear in mind. The first is an adequate fat intake, and the second is phytochemicals.

An adequate fat intake is essential, in order to provide the brain with the proper source of energy. Dr. Palmer’s hypothesis is that a high-carbohydrate diet glycates the brain and damages mitochondria in brain cells, and this metabolic damage is the cause of many different types of brain problems, ranging from the strictly mental (schizophrenia, depression) to the strictly physical (Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy).

The therapeutic ketogenic diet for epilepsy was formulated to be extremely high in fat and deficient in protein, but there is recent research to suggest that including an adequate amount of protein does not affect the therapeutic value of the diet in preventing seizures. Fatty acids do not directly reach the brain, being too large to pass the blood-brain barrier, but ketones are small enough to pass through. And this is why Alzheimer’s patients who refuse to eat a ketogenic diet can still benefit to some extent from MCT oil and exogenous ketone supplements.

But even on a diet with adequate fat in it, some people simply have mental troubles for as long as they continue to eat plant foods. The reason is that plants contain many different chemicals, many of which, such as caffeine, evolved to protect the plants from damage (caffeine is an insect repellent).

Now, if we like these chemicals, we call them “phytonutrients,” and those we don’t like are called “phytochemicals.” But regardless, these chemicals have effects, and some people are more sensitive than other people to these effects. So really, whether something counts as a phytochemical or as a phytonutrient depends to some degree on individual biochemistry.

Our own Amber O’Hearn, a prominent carnivore, is an example. She became a carnivore because of drug-resistant Type II bipolar disease (I think I have that right; she talks about it in some of her lectures available on YouTube). If she eats any plant matter, her bipolar symptoms return. As long as she stays away from plants, she is fine. This is a separate effect from whether or not she’s getting enough fat, apparently. (Dr. Ede also has symptoms that stay in remission so long as she avoids plant foods, but I don’t know whether those symptoms are mental or physical.)

The other end of the spectrum is an internist in the midwestern U.S., whom Gary Taubes interviewed for his last book. She, apparently, has to eat a vegan keto diet, because she has problems that stay in remission only if she doesn’t eat meat.

In sum, the conclusion I draw from all this is that probably the majority of people are going to see a big improvement in their mental condition simply from reducing carbohydrate intake and stimulating ketogenesis. But some people are going to need to go either meat-free or plant-free to see the further benefit that they are in need of. For various reasons having to do with what we know of human evolution, I suspect that the people who will need to give up meat are rare; it’s more likely that people will have to head towards the plant-free/carnivore end of the spectrum. And I hope that’s an objective statement, and not simply my biases showing. At any rate, however, it’s clear that people are going to have to be prepared to try both options and see which works best for them.

(Megan) #35

It most certainly is! My best advice is to pick a way of eating that fits with what is possible for you (all ways of eating need to be sustainable) and is backed by science that makes sense to you and you “trust”. Then eat that way for a good chunk of time and assess how your body responds. In the end it’s all about n=1. It needs to work for us, individually. Looking forward to reading about your journey! Best of luck!

I, personally, am doing very well on the way I do carnivore so far. I eat from the list of carnivore foods I enjoy eating (beef, pork shoulder and belly, bacon a couple of times a week, eggs, some dairy), in whatever quantity I want and whatever frequency and time of the day I want. My only rule is the food needs to be carnivore, tho yes, I do drink coffee :innocent: I’ve lost a good chunk of weight and continue to steadily lose, and I just feel good. I’ve “slipped” a couple of times (a lot of birthday cake one time, adding some nuts and seeds to my yoghurt a few times) and my body tells me it doesn’t like it. Nothing major, I just didn’t feel good. Very out of sorts, physically and emotionally.

(Megan) #36

Hi again Mario, I’m sorry to hear about the struggles your son is having. What did he eat and in what quantities? That is an extreme physical response.

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #37

Well, as I mentioned, not every deaminated amino acid can be turned into glucose, so it’s not as simple as saying “all extra protein gets turned into glucose.” We know that simply isn’t the case. But could some extra protein get changed into glucose (if it’s the right type of amino acids), just because it’s there? Well, possibly. But just how likely that would be, I have no idea. To assess how right Dr. Kay is, we’d have to know just what he means by “partly supply driven.” And I’d like to see the data he’s basing his thoughts on.

It’s certainly plausible that some gluconeogenesis is supply driven, but it is clear that it’s not entirely supply-driven.

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #38

I’ve seen a couple of recent interviews with him, and he seems to know his stuff.

(Mario) #39

Agreed. Knows his stuff, comes across as very genuine, and has what he proposes backed up by science as much as science can back it up today. He mentions several studies that are in flight, pulls from the extensive research around epilepsy and even pulled in an alcoholics study that was fascinating.

When we started this whole new world with my son and paraded him in front of psychiatrists, I was amazed how these very well educated medical professionals were only interested in prescribing drugs, in a “throw spaghetti against the wall and let’s see what sticks” kind of approach. Listening to Dr Palmer, I am starting to see the big blinders most have on.

Sounds like Dr Ede is also someone who is looking a bit broader.

(Mario) #40

Thanks Megan. Yes it was rough.

He ate peanut butter, almonds, cheese and olive oil. Don’t know the exact quantities but nothing too extreme. And he drinks water.