How Does Ultra-Processed Food Affect Our Mental Health?

Episode 137 1h 16m


Currently, one in five Americans live with a mental illness, and these rates have been tracking alongside increases in metabolic disease. Yet, conventional psychiatric care does not typically include discussion of food or an assessment of metabolic dysfunction, obesity, or insulin resistance in the evaluation or treatment of mental health conditions.

On this episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy, I was happy to sit down and talk with Dr. Shebani Sethi about the relationship between mental health and metabolic disease, and how we are gradually coming to understand that inflammation, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance may represent important root causes of many chronic brain illnesses, including many psychiatric disorders.

We often hear about food in the context of physical health—eating for a strong heart, healthy weight, and glowing skin. But what about the other impacts of food, like how it makes us feel emotionally and mentally?

Dr. Sethi and I discuss metabolic psychiatry, a term she coined, which looks at the connection between psychiatry and overall metabolic health. Metabolic psychiatry considers how nutrition affects the brain, specifically focusing on reducing sugar, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates as a mechanism to improve mind and body health. Dr. Sethi discusses how highly refined carbohydrates and ultra-processed foods can alter brain signaling, appetite-satiety mechanisms, and reward signaling, and how the use of a ketogenic diet can be an effective intervention to address mental illness, including binge eating and food addiction.

Dr. Sethi also shares with us the single most effective intervention we can implement today to support our overall health, and prevent mental health and metabolic disorders.


This episode is brought to you by Thrive Market, BiOptimizers, and Pegan Shake. The Doctor’s Farmacy podcast works with a select group of sponsors to allow for ongoing production and allow it to be zero-cost to anyone who wishes to listen to and watch the podcast.

Topics Covered

  • How Dr. Sethi Dalai came to study and understand the need for metabolic psychiatry


  • The connection between mental health and inflammation, and how ultra-processed food affects the brain


  • Rising rates of binge eating, obesity, and addictive eating are coinciding with the rise of ultra-processed foods


  • How diet drives hormonal responses in the brain


  • Targeting inflammation to treat mental illness


  • Dr. Sethi Dalai’s experience treating eating disorders, infertility, schizoaffective disorder, and more with diet


  • Treating psychiatric issues using the ketogenic diet


  • Why American’s metabolic health is particularly problematic when it comes to COVID-19, and how to protect yourself


  • The influence of diet on attention deficit disorder (ADD) and autism


  • The prevalence of undiagnosed insulin resistance and how to test for it


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Ep. 137 - How Does Ultra-Processed Food Affect Our Mental Health?