Eating a healthy diet is a great way to fill your body with essential nutrients that it has lacked over the years. A study in Science Advances says that the trendy keto diet can be a potential tool for helping treat alcohol use disorder. The keto diet has the potential to suppress withdrawal symptoms and, combined with other treatment modalities, can be effective for a successful recovery.

The Keto Diet and Alcoholism

Nora Volkow, the senior author of the study, knew based on past work that the brain of an alcohol-dependent person uses less glucose for energy than someone not dependent on alcohol. Instead, it relies on acetate as a fuel that is made when alcohol is metabolized. When alcohol withdrawal happens, the lack of acetate leads to craving and withdrawal symptoms like nausea, sweating, anxiety, or even death. With a ketogenic diet, the brain would have more ketone bodies, like acetate, to metabolize; this would mimic the pattern made during alcohol dependence. There would also be less of a withdrawal-triggering “energy deficit,” minimizing cravings and withdrawal.

What Happened in the Study

Thirty-three human participants either stuck to a keto diet or a standard American diet for three weeks, while 36 rats ate a keto diet or standard American diet for two months. Researchers measured the ketone bodies in the human participants once a week and two markers of “neuroinflammation.” They also assessed the withdrawal symptoms and the need for benzodiazepines in the first week. Visual cues of alcohol were shown, and MRIs were used to measure cravings over three weeks.

The rats were on keto diets or standard diets for eight weeks, then put on regular diets. After the diets, the researchers exposed the rats to alcohol vapor in the air for over seven weeks and measured which group delivered more vapor to themselves after pulling a lever they were trained to use during withdrawal periods.

The Results of the Study

The study concluded that people on the keto diet needed fewer benzodiazepines to alleviate symptoms. They also scored lower in tests about “wanting” alcohol after seeing visual cues. There were also elevated ketones, more glutamate, and lower marks of brain inflammation. Rats on the keto diet also gave themselves less alcohol during the withdrawal period compared to the standard diet. This new study is the first to show that a ketogenic diet can ease the pain of withdrawal symptoms and provide future treatment methods. However, despite this new information, it is crucial for individuals to still seek medical care for alcohol detox.

The ketogenic diet is high in protein and fats but low in carbohydrates. A new study has shown that this diet can be beneficial in easing alcohol withdrawal symptoms and giving the brain more ketones to metabolize. At Alta Loma, we understand the challenges of alcoholism, and we are here to help you. Located in Georgetown, Texas, our transformative treatment center can provide you with individualized therapy, coping skills education, nutritional support and individual meal plans, a long-term continuum of care, and more. Call us today at (866) 457-3843 to learn more about our services.


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