There is a growing field focused on the relationship between diet, nutrition, neurocognition, and psychiatry. I’ve written about this previously (The Agricultural Mind; Ketogenic Diet and Neurocognitive Health; & Fasting, Calorie Restriction, and Ketosis). It is sometimes referred to as nutritional psychiatry or orthomolecular psychiatry, and it is a fast growing field. But there aren’t many well known experts in this area. Most people turn to diet and nutrition for physical health reasons, typically for metabolic issues: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. Interestingly, there is emerging evidence from research on the close link between the metabolic and the psychiatric.
One of the better known figures in this convergence of fields is Dr. Georgia Ede, a psychiatrist with a medical degree and a B.A. in Biology. She has completed a graduate course in nutrition at Harvard where she also completed her residency. Besides psychiatry, her employment includes as laboratory research assistant, psychopharmacologist, and nutrition consultant. Her writings regularly appear in Psychology Today. She has had immense influence on many others, one of the rare psychiatrists heard outside of psychiatry.
Another major expert is Dr. Ann Childers. She is a psychiatric physician for children and adults. Besides being a lecturer and podcaster, she has written chapters for textbooks. She is a member of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, the Nutrition and Metabolism Society, Obesity Medicine Association, and Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.
There is yet another influential authority in this area, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. She holds a degree in Medicine and Postgraduate degrees in both Neurology and Human Nutrition. After years working as a neurologist and neurosurgeon, she now practices as a nutritionist and used to run the Cambridge Nutrition Clinic. She is the founder of the widely used Gut and Psychology (GAPS) Diet. There are several books she has authored, one of which is specifically about mental health as part of physical health, Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
One more that has come to our attention is Felice Jacka: Professor of Nutritional Psychiatry, Director of the Food & Mood Centre at Deakin University, and founder and president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research. She is known for her work with the SMILES trial: A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial); and The SMILES trial: an important first step. Also, she has authored a book about the topic, Brain Changer: How Diet Can Save Your Mental Health – Cutting-edge Science from an Expert. The dietary intervention she studied and promotes is not ketogenic, but as a modified Mediterranean diet — restricting sugar and refined grains — it does end up being much lower carb.
I’ll mention some other names. Carol Simontacchi was a certified clinical nutritionist and hosted a nationally syndicated radio show. She was also a writer, including a book on this topic, The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry Is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children. Last but not least, there is L. Amber O’Hearn. By education, she is a data scientist. In dealing with her own physical and mental health issues, she tried a ketogenic diet and then a carnivore diet. She is a major figure and speaker in the low-carb community.
An up-and-comer is Dr. Paul Saladino, a convert to the carnivore diet and emphasizes the importance of nutrition. He has a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a Master of Health Science and Physician Assistant degree. He worked as a PA in cardiology, but got frustrated with the inadequacies of conventional medicine. He went back to school to get his MD with a focus on integrative and functional medicine, during which time he studied under the famous Dr. Andrew Weil. At this time, he also got certified as a functional medicine practitioner. He recently completed his residency in psychiatry and has had a private practice for a while. Besides being a popular video maker, he has his own website and an animal-based supplement company, Heart & Soil. Also, he has one book, The Carnivore Code, although unfortunately it isn’t about psychiatry.
Anther psychiatrist is Dr. Christopher M. Palmer. He “received his medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine. His internship and psychiatry residency were at McLean Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School. He’s currently the director of the Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education at McLean Hospital. In addition he is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.” He does many talks and interviews. In a discussion with Dr. Saladino, they explored the connection of metabolic health and mental psychiatric conditions (Paradigm shiftng treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar with Ketogenic diets. Chris Palmer, MD). Along with published papers, he writes for Psychology Today and he is just now publishing his first book, Brain Energy: A Revolutionary Breakthrough in Understanding Mental Health–and Improving Treatment for Anxiety, Depression, OCD, PTSD, and More.
Heck, while I’m at it, I’ll also give honorable mention to some others: registered dietitian nutritionist Vicky Newman, psychiatrist Drew Ramsey (Eat To Beat Depression and Anxiety), and psychiatrist Rachel Brown (Metabolic Madness: Understand Why Metabolic Health Is Key to Mental Health). Then there is the research psychologist Bonnie Kaplan and the clinical psychologist Julia Rucklidge, co-authors of a new book, The Better Brain: Overcome Anxiety, Combat Depression, and Reduce ADHD and Stress with Nutrition. All of these support their views with scientific evidence. Newman basically recommends a low-carb diet without ever explicitly calling it that. She also takes a fairly holistic approach with more knowledge that is common in alternative health, such as the importance of pastured and grassfed livestock. Ramsey, on his website, has info on ketosis, animal-based nutrition, etc. Brown advocates low-carb/high-fat (LCHF), but personally practices a carnivore diet.
Kaplan and Rucklidge seem to be somewhat more conventional in their recommending a Mediterranean diet, an almost meaningless category (a traditional Mediterranean diet is lower-carb, higher-fat, and animal-based; but in research it’s often formulated as the complete opposite). From what I can tell, they aren’t necessarily conversant in-depth about functional medicine, traditional foods, paleo, low-carb, keto, carnivore, etc; if they do briefly mention in passing a few of these in their book. On the other hand, they get extra credit points for talking about how good nutrition improves the psychological and behavioral outcomes among depressives, autistic children, ADHD adults, trauma patients, prisoners, etc; not to mention having done their own scientific research in the area.
For good measure, let me also recommend Dr. Eric Berg, a chiropractor. He has no particular specialty in psychology, psychiatry, or anything similar. But for the average person, he is is one of the better presenters on useful knowledge for diet and health. His talks are always clear and concise and he occasionally focuses on neurocognitive health.
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Ketogenic Diets for Mental Health: A Guide to Resources
by Georgia Ede
Your Brain on Plants: Micronutrients and Mental Health
by Georgia Ede
Affects of Diet and Mental Health
by Georgia Ede
Schizophrenia, Depression, and the Little-Known “Mental Heatlh”/DietaryLink
interview with Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
A Carnivore Diet for Physical and Mental Health
interview with L. Amber O’Hearn