This is a groundbreaking book that unifies mental health problems with physical health problems. Harvard psychiatrist Christopher Palmer presents a new way of thinking about mental health conditions as metabolic diseases rather than behavioral or brain chemistry disorders. His arguments are compelling, backed by solid science and put mental health in line with the most common health problems today including diabetes and the diseases of insulin resistance. 

Ever since Freud and others described the origins of mental illness, these disorders have been considered problems of emotions or thinking, and more recently brain chemistry. The brain is an electrochemical grid of great complexity and mental health disorders have been thought of as disorders of this unique organ.

Such thinking contains some truth, of course, but Dr. Palmer explains how mental health problems are largely disorders of mitochondria, the energy packets in each of our cells. Mitochondrial function largely depends on what nourishment we feed the cell; excess sugar and processed carbohydrates lead to mitochondrial dysfunction.

After explaining the process of brain energy and the energy imbalance around mental disorders, Palmer offers a list of causes that consider genetics and epigenetics, chemical imbalances, neurotransmitters, medications, hormones, inflammation, sleep problems, food and the microbiome, mind-altering drugs and alcohol. He then discusses solutions including the benefits of fasting, physical activity, love and other emotions, and offers a metabolic treatment plan for the brain consistent with the known healthy foods of nature. Psychiatric Daniel Amen has offered similar food lists in his books.

As a functional medicine-oriented physician, I am excited to learn of a new and internationally growing subspecialty of nutritional psychiatrists. I previously reviewed a book by Drew Ramsey, MD, Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety (May/June 2021). Patients find it very helpful along with certain supplements such as SAMe, saffron and ashwagandha. 

Brain Energy is written for general consumers and easy to read. Physician leaders in nutrition and health who have shown their support include Mark Hyman, MD, David Perlmutter, MD, Jason Fung, MD and Robert Lustig, MD. These endorsements welcome and praise Palmer for bringing mental health into whole body wellness and the functional medicine spectrum.

Dr. Scherger is founder of Restore Health Disease Reversal in Indian Wells, a clinic dedicated to weight loss and reversing chronic medical conditions. To schedule a consultation or for more information, visit or call (760) 898.9663.

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