#633: Chris Palmer, MD, of Harvard Medical School — Optimizing Brain Energy for Mental Health, The Incredible Potential of Metabolic Psychiatry, Extraordinary Case Studies, and Harnessing Mitochondria for Anxiety, Depression, OCD, PTSD, and More

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Dr. Christopher M. Palmer (@chrispalmermd) is a Harvard psychiatrist and researcher working at the interface of metabolism and mental health.

Dr. Palmer is the director of the Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education at McLean Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. For over 25 years, he has held administrative, educational, research, and clinical roles in psychiatry at Harvard. He has been pioneering the use of the medical ketogenic diet in the treatment of psychiatric disorders—conducting research in this area, treating patients, writing, and speaking around the world on this topic.

He has developed the first comprehensive theory of what causes mental illness, integrating existing theories and research into one unifying theory—the brain energy theory of mental illness. You can learn more in his new book Brain Energy: A Revolutionary Breakthrough in Understanding Mental Health—and Improving Treatment for Anxiety, Depression, OCD, PTSD, and More.

Please enjoy!

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This episode is also brought to you by Levels! I wrote about the health benefits of using continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) more than ten years ago in The 4-Hour Body. At the time, CGMs were primitive and hard to use. Levels has now made this technology, and the unique insights that come from it, easy and available to everyone. Levels is making glucose monitoring simple, helping you see how food affects your health through real-time feedback. I started tracking my glucose years ago to learn more about what I should and shouldn’t be eating (including quantities, time of day, etc.), based on objective data from my own, unique physiology. Keeping my blood sugar stable is critical to my daily and long-term health and performance goals. Furthermore, poor glucose control is associated with a number of chronic conditions like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and obesity. It’s important.

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[07:14] How a woman overcame her 53-year streak of chronic paranoid schizophrenia.

[11:16] The backstory of Brain Energy‘s dedication.

[16:31] Chris’ thoughts on DSM-5 diagnostic categories.

[21:51] Chris’ first exposure to the ketogenic diet.

[28:35] Metabolic psychiatry.

[30:33] How ketosis affects the human body (e.g., sleep, mood, weight).

[39:35] Examining the mood elevation of ketosis on a bio-cellular level.

[44:24] When ketosis can be dangerous.

[46:44] How mitochondrial dysfunction can trigger a host of ailments.

[58:07] Dietary methods for sustaining ketosis over the long term.

[1:04:54] Common ketosis mistakes.

[1:07:53] Psychiatric medications, metabolism, and controversy.

[1:15:29] Indications that a medication impairs more than improves a patient’s condition.

[1:18:06] Resources to share with doctors open to conversation about these issues.

[1:20:41] Why quitting psychiatric medication cold turkey is a bad idea.

[1:23:20] Thoughts on the efficacy of exogenous ketones.

[1:30:32] Ketogenic diet as treatment for schizophrenia.

[1:38:34] Why you need to take radical ownership of your own health advocacy.

[1:40:33] Physical exercise for optimizing mitochondrial health.

[1:44:59] A cautionary note for people using medication for off-label results.

[1:48:49] Parting thoughts.

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