Ketogenic Diet Boosts Mental Health: Study Reveals Reduced Stress and Improved Mood

by Ella

In a groundbreaking study published in the journal Nutrition, researchers at Northumbria University, UK, have delved into the association between adherence to a ketogenic diet and various aspects of mental health. The study, which focused on calmness, contentedness, alertness, and emotional well-being in the general healthy population, has revealed promising results.


The ketogenic diet, characterized by high fat and low carbohydrate intake, shifts the body’s metabolism from glycolysis to fatty acid oxidation. This metabolic switch provides alternative energy substrates for both the body and brain. Originally developed to treat epilepsy, the ketogenic diet has also been explored for its potential benefits in managing neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental conditions. However, its effects on the general population, particularly in terms of psychological well-being, have not been extensively studied. This research aims to fill that gap and provide insights into the long-term psychological impacts of the ketogenic diet across diverse populations and conditions.


About the Study

The study consisted of two cohorts, recruited through social media platforms, adhering to ethical standards set by Northumbria University and the Declaration of Helsinki. All participants provided informed consent before data collection commenced.


Cohort 1

From February to October 2021, the first cohort was assembled. Participants completed two online assessment tools: the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10) and the Bond-Lader visual analog scales (BL-VAS). The PSS-10 measured general perceptions of stress on a scale from 0 to 40, reflecting varying levels of stress. The BL-VAS assessed mood through 16 opposing mood pairs, scoring alertness, contentedness, and calmness on a sliding scale from 0 to 100.


Cohort 2

The second cohort, recruited from January to July 2022, utilized different psychological assessment tools: the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS-21) and a 3-item loneliness scale. The DASS-21 includes subscales for depression, anxiety, and stress, each scored on a severity scale from 0 to 3. The loneliness scale, rated from 1 to 3, helped identify levels of loneliness among participants.


Both cohorts used an online platform for data collection, encompassing demographic, socioeconomic, and dietary information. Participants reported their dietary habits via a short-form food frequency questionnaire, allowing comparison between those on ketogenic diets and other dietary patterns.

Study Results

Cohort 1

Initially, 361 participants were recruited, but due to exclusions for lack of consent and incomplete data, 260 participants completed the PSS-10. Further reduction occurred during the transition between survey platforms, leaving 147 participants who completed the BL-VAS. The findings indicated that participants on a ketogenic diet reported better mood and lower stress levels compared to those on other diets, with significant differences in alertness, contentedness, and calmness.

Cohort 2

Starting with 399 participants, the second cohort was reduced to 276 after similar exclusions. The DASS-21 and the 3-item loneliness scale results showed that those on a ketogenic diet reported lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. However, improvements in loneliness were not statistically significant when adjusting for covariates.

Demographic and Health Insights

Cohort 1 revealed significant age and Body Mass Index (BMI) differences between the ketogenic and other diet groups, with ketogenic participants being generally older and having higher BMIs. They also reported higher instances of high blood pressure. Cohort 2 showed similar age distinctions but no significant differences in BMI. In both cohorts, ketogenic diet participants reported better subjective health and adhered more strictly to ketogenic food guidelines.

Psychological Benefits and Adherence

The length of adherence to the ketogenic diet showed positive correlations with psychological benefits in both cohorts. However, the actual level of ketosis did not significantly correlate with psychological outcomes, suggesting that the duration of dietary consistency might be more influential than the immediate metabolic state.


The study hypothesized that a ketogenic diet would enhance psychological well-being, a hypothesis supported by the findings. Participants adhering to the diet reported significantly better calmness, contentedness, alertness, and reduced stress, depression, and anxiety. Although improvements in loneliness were not significant after adjusting for demographic factors, the length of adherence to the diet correlated with increased psychological benefits. The study suggests that the ketogenic diet may improve mental health through mechanisms similar to those of anxiety medications.

This research provides a compelling case for further exploration of theketogenic diet’s potential to enhance mental health, highlighting its promise not only as a dietary intervention but also as a possible adjunctive treatment for psychological well-being. As always, individuals should consult healthcare professionals before making significant dietary changes.



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