For anyone looking to lose weight and improve their health, the “keto diet” has gained notoriety for its ability to minimize carbohydrates and convert fats into energy. But could it also be used as a tool for people looking to get sober? New research points to yes.
Officially known as the ketogenic diet, these unique eating habits have been around since the 1930’s but grew in popularity over the last 10 to 15 years thanks to celebrity endorsers like Halle Berry and Savannah Guthrie. Interestingly, it has also been called out as a way to help people dealing with epileptic seizures.
In regards to addiction recovery, though, the popular website Inverse.com highlighted its increasing appeal. Sharing data published by Science Advances, it appears as though alcohol-dependent rats who were subjected to it were able to suppress their withdrawal symptoms.
Nora Volkow, who is a lead researcher at The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), spoke to Inverse about the findings. “This is not a medication, this is a diet,” she explained. “Through the use of diet, we’re actually able to improve outcomes on a very devastating pathology.”
The actual study put the alcoholic rats on the keto diet for eight weeks. The researchers discovered that during the first week, the ones on the diet needed significantly fewer benzodiazepines to alleviate their withdrawal symptoms. They also scored lower in tests that assessed their alcohol cravings after seeing visual cues.
It is interesting to note that the rats showed less irritability and rigidity during withdrawal while on the keto diet. So the question then becomes, could keeping a diet like this be an added benefit when trying to recover from alcoholism?
As Volkow correctly points out, there is little risk involved with the keto lifestyle. It has been shown to improve health and is embraced by many leaders within the wellness community. So it certainly seems like there’s no harm in trying it out as part of a recovery regimen.
“The risks associated with ketogenic diets are very minimal,” Volkow concluded. “So I predict that physicians are going to start to prescribe it, even though it’s just one study. But they may say, ‘well, what do we have to lose?’”
As far as next steps go, Volkow and her team do plan to conduct more of these tests with human subjects. Let’s hope that they continue to see more of these positive results.