Ketogenic therapy in neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders: From mice to men

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2020 Jul 13:101:109913. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2020.109913. Epub 2020 Mar 6.


Ketogenic diet is a low carbohydrate and high fat diet that has been used for over 100 years in the management of childhood refractory epilepsy. More recently, ketogenic diet has been investigated for a number of metabolic, neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental disorders. In this comprehensive review, we critically examine the potential therapeutic benefits of ketogenic diet and ketogenic agents on neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders in humans and translationally valid animal models. The preclinical literature provides strong support for the efficacy of ketogenic diet in a variety of diverse animal models of neuropsychiatric disorders. However, the evidence from clinical studies, while encouraging, particularly in Alzheimer's disease, psychotic and autism spectrum disorders, is limited to case studies and small pilot trials. Firm conclusion on the efficacy of ketogenic diet in psychiatric disorders cannot be drawn due to the lack of randomised, controlled clinical trials. The potential mechanisms of action of ketogenic therapy in these disorders with diverse pathophysiology may include energy metabolism, oxidative stress and immune/inflammatory processes. In conclusion, while ketogenic diet and ketogenic substances hold promise pre-clinically in a variety of neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders, further studies, particularly randomised controlled clinical trials, are warranted to better understand their clinical efficacy and potential side effects.

Keywords: Glucose metabolism; Inflammation; Neurodegenerative disorders; Oxidative stress; Psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods
  • Diet, Ketogenic / methods*
  • Diet, Ketogenic / psychology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diet therapy*
  • Mental Disorders / metabolism*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mice
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / psychology