70 minutes | Jul 27, 2022

A Harvard Psychiatrist Rethinks Mental Health As A Metabolic Disease with Dr. Christopher Palmer

This episode is brought to you by ButcherBox, InsideTracker, and Cozy Earth.


The common medical approach to psychiatric disorders is to treat the symptoms. But the truth is that we just don’t know how the biological, psychological, and social risk factors and symptoms of these problems fit together. We don’t know what the underlying pathology is. I was excited to talk to Dr. Christopher Palmer who is disrupting the paradigm of psychiatry, about new ways of treating psychiatric disorders, specifically with the ketogenic diet and mitochondrial repair. 


Dr. Palmer is a psychiatrist and researcher working at the interface of metabolism and mental health. He 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 leadership roles in psychiatric education, conducted research, and worked with people who have treatment-resistant mental illnesses. He has been pioneering the use of the medical ketogenic diet in the treatment of psychiatric disorders—conducting research, treating patients, writing, and speaking around the world on this topic. 


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Here are more details from our interview (audio version / Apple Subscriber version):

  • Why mental illness happens and is so hard to treat (6:33 / 3:51) 
  • The patient who changed the way Dr. Palmer treats mental illness (11:06 / 8:08) 
  • The ketogenic diet as a treatment for epilepsy, seizure disorders, and mental health disorders (17:03 / 14:09) 
  • Getting to the root cause of inflammation in the brain (20:16 / 17:26) 
  • Viewing mental disorders as metabolic disorders of the brain (27:37 / 23:20)
  • Mitochondrial energy deficits in children with autism (34:28 / 30:03) 
  • Improve mitochondrial function (35:14 / 31:20) 
  • Addressing inflammation in the body (42:16 / 38:00) 
  • Validating a multifaceted approach to treating mental health disorders (47:55 / 44:39) 
  • Dr. Palmer’s experience treating a child with ADHD (57:23 / 52:52) 
  • Children with high levels of insulin resistance and associated risk for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression (59:05 / 54:42) 


Referenced in this episode: Before & after handwriting from Dr. Hyman’s patient


Learn more about Dr. Palmer here. Get his book, Brain Energy: A Revolutionary Breakthrough in Understanding Mental Health—and Improving Treatment for Anxiety, Depression, OCD, PTSD, and More, here.

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