Is Fat a Better Prescription for Mental Illness?

Shootings, bombings and gun control are often in the news these days. There are many different opinions and views on this, but one thing that I do not think is getting enough attention is the mental stability of the perpetrator. It makes sense that mental illness is involved, but many people have a diagnosis of mental illness and don't carry out violent crimes. What's the difference? I think we need to look closer to try to find out what causes a person to carry out a violent crime?  

Here is my hypothesis for testing:

What connection do diet and the use of anti-psychotic drugs have to do with these unprovoked acts of violence?

Could it be that we are prescribing the wrong treatment for mental illness?

What diet has to do with the brain:

The gray matter of the brain is made up of an estimated 50% fatty acids. Our hormones and neurotransmitters are partially composed of lipids, and lipids are needed for several different cellular functions, including neuron growth and signaling, cell movement, and lymphocyte activation (2).

If lipids and cholesterol are involved in so many aspects of brain function, doesn’t it make sense that a low-fat diet would cause brain function problems? If it is fat deficiency that is causing the disease, then we would expect the results of a treatment that addresses down-line symptom (chemical imbalance) rather than the root cause (fat deficiency) would have limited effectiveness.

Isn’t that what we are observing?

Only a percentage of people who take medications for anxiety or depression see improvement.

When Consumer Reports asked 1,386 people who took medications for anxiety, depression, or both (SSRIs, SNRIs, Bupropion), they found that 48-53% people said it helped a lot, and 35-38% said it helped somewhat, and in each grouping 13-15% of people said it helped less than somewhat (or none) (1).

If depression and anxiety were caused by a simple chemical imbalance, shouldn’t we see a much higher response rate to treatment?

Not only are these medications largely ineffective, but they also come with a high risk of side effects. When the same group (above) were surveyed, 12-31% of those people experienced one or more side effect: loss of sexual interest or ability, weight gain, dry mouth, or sleep problems (1). That means up to 1/3 of the people on these medications experience side effects! And they may not even see any benefit from them!

Other side effects listed for these medications are nervousness, agitation or restlessness, headache, blurred vision, dizziness, dry mouth, digestive system problems (4, 5). Bupropion is listed to have the additional potential side effects include: trouble concentrating, hyperventilation, irregular heartbeats, irritability, paranoia, hallucinations, seizures, fainting, anger, assaulting others, being aggressive or impulsive, actions that are out of control, inability to sit still, or talking, feeling or acting with excitement (3). That’s a scary list!

And don’t some of them sound familiar in light of the shootings?

Avoiding the side effects:

Finally, talk alone may be as (if not more) effective than medications. A survey of 1,544 people showed that talk therapy alone was as much, if not more successful than a medication treatment (1).

So... maybe medications aren’t the answer? Then what is?

What if we correct the underlying imbalance?

What if we prescribe a diet high in the building blocks needed for the brain?

This includes omega-3 and -6, but also cholesterol and saturated fats from animals, which are necessary for our cell membranes and other parts of our brain and nervous system.

Put simply, we need fat because fat:

  • Balances hormones

  • Helps make “happy” neurotransmitters

  • Is necessary for mentation (thinking)

  • Is a needed part of the myelin sheath (fast nerve impulses)

  • Decreases inflammation

  • Help in brain damage repair

  • Detoxifies the body and brain

  • Feeds and supports the immune system

  • Is used in every cell of the body

  • And more!

When we look at a tragedy like a shooting, there are many factors at play. But how many of those factors are related to the balance and health of the shooter’s body?

If, as an old advertisement stated “They’re happy because they eat butter!” then perhaps a lack of saturated fat in the diet is a large contributor to the unimaginable mental state of people who treat human life so carelessly.

Eat more fat!

This is why the first and most important thing I recommend is to eat more fat! Animal fat, specifically.

If you have prescribed to the low-fat diet for a while, or had your gallbladder removed, you need to increase your fat consumption gradually, and perhaps look at supplementing with something like ox bile during your transition. Work up until you are eating at least ½ cup of added animal fat a day. This includes children—they have fast-growing bodies and brains!

Common sources of animal fat are:

  • Butter and ghee

  • Sour cream (crème fraische)

  • Lard (rendered pig fat)

  • Tallow (rendered beef, buffalo, elk, deer fat)

  • Chicken, duck, goose, etc fat

  • Bacon (not turkey bacon!)

You can eat much more than ½ cup a day! Just listen to what your body is asking for.

And to learn more about why we should eat fat alongside every food group, check my The One About Fat post.

What do you think?


  1. Consumer Reports. (July 2010). Best Antidepressant for Anxiety According to Our Readers: Readers Revealed the Therapists and Drugs that Helped.

  2. Ding, Z. and Zajac, J.-M.. (2016). Cholesterol-rich lipid rafts are involved in neuropeptide FF anti-nociceptin/orphanin FQ effect. J. Neurochem., 136:778-790. Doi:10.1111/jnc.13450

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