The antidepressant properties of the ketogenic diet

Biol Psychiatry. 2004 Dec 15;56(12):981-3. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2004.09.019.


Background: The ketogenic diet is used to treat epilepsy refractory to anticonvulsant medication. Individuals with epilepsy often have behavioral problems and deficits in attention and cognitive functioning. The ketogenic diet has been found to effect improvements in these domains. It has also been suggested that the ketogenic diet may act as a mood stabilizer.

Methods: The present research used the Porsolt test, an animal model of depression, to determine whether the ketogenic diet has antidepressant properties. Porsolt test scores of rats on the ketogenic diet were compared with those of rats on a control diet.

Results: The rats on the ketogenic diet spent less time immobile, suggesting that rats on the ketogenic diet, like rats treated with antidepressants, are less likely to exhibit "behavioral despair."

Conclusions: It is concluded that the ketogenic diet may have antidepressant properties.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid / blood
  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Depression / chemically induced
  • Depression / diet therapy*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / therapeutic use*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Handling, Psychological
  • Ketones / therapeutic use
  • Ketosis / metabolism
  • Male
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Ketones
  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid