By manipulating the hardwiring in a person's brain, the bodybuilding regimen known as the ketogenic diet can actually help treat patients who are diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to a new study in Australia.
The high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet is favored by bodybuilders as it allows them to produce muscle mass without gaining weight. Previous research has also shown that the ketogenic diet can help manage epilepsy in children.
Now, a team of scientists from James Cook University found that as the ketogenic diet imposes the body to burn up breakdowns of fat known as ketone bodies, the brain is forced to find alternative sources of energy, thus circumventing the abnormally functioning pathways which are linked to schizophrenia.
Dr. Zoltan Sarnyai, the lead author of the study, said that these abnormally functioning pathways are associated with hallucinations, muddled thoughts and delusions in patients with schizophrenia.
The study, which is featured in the journal Schizophrenia Research, found that when tested in mice, the result is astonishing. Mice that were given a ketogenic diet displayed fewer behaviors resembling schizophrenia, compared to mice that were given a normal diet. Some of these behaviors were social withdrawal, hyperactivity, and memory deficits.
Meanwhile, Sarnyai said the ketogenic diet would possibly be added to medication in an in-patient setting where the diet can be controlled.
He also explained that as most of an individual's energy comes from fat, the ketogenic diet would typically consist of food such as cheese, salmon, butter, among others.
Sarnyai and his colleagues believe that the possible effects of the diet on schizophrenia patients may only be secondary. The diet can also benefit patients by reducing body weight and lowering levels of blood sugar.
"It's another advantage that it works against the weight gain, cardiovascular issues and type-two diabetes we see as common side-effects of drugs given to control schizophrenia," added Sarnyai.
Schizophrenia affects nearly one percent of the world's population. There is no known cure for this mental disorder. There are medications used for managing it, but these drugs can cause a lot of unwanted side effects. A new strategy in treatment would definitely change how the disorder affects patients, researchers said.
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