The ketogenic diet (KD) is characterized by a diet ratio of 4:1 fat to non-fat energy sources. For decades KD has been successfully used to control seizures in epilepsy patients. Investigations into its mechanism of action suggest that it may have an effect on the metabolic, nervous, immune, and digestive systems. In this review, we postulate that KD may also improve depressive symptoms – for that, we highlight the similarities between depression and epilepsy, describe the extent to which body systems involved in both conditions are affected by the KD, and ultimately hypothesize how KD could improve MDD outcomes. Research into animal models and human patients have reported that KD can increase mitochondrial biogenesis and increase cellular resistance to oxidative stress both at the mitochondrial and genetic levels. Its effect on neurotransmitters alters cell-to-cell communication in the brain and may decrease hyperexcitability by increasing Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) and decreasing excitatory neurotransmitter levels. Its anti-inflammatory effects are mediated by decreasing chemo- and cytokine levels, including TNF-alpha and IL-1 levels. Finally, KD can alter gut microbiota (GM). Certain strains of microbiota predominate in major depressive disorder (MDD) when compared to healthy individuals. Recent evidence points to Bacteroidetes as a potential treatment predictor as it seems to increase in KD treatment responders for epilepsy. Each of these observations contributes to the presumed modulatory effects of KD on mood and supports its potential role as antidepressant.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a highly prevalent and disabling condition for which the currently available treatments are not fully effective. Existing unmet needs include rapid onset of action and optimal management of concurrent agitation. Dexmedetomidine (DEX) is a selective and potent α2-adrenergic receptor (α2-AR) agonist, with unique pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties. In this review, we discuss pre-clinical and clinical studies which focused on DEX in the context of its putative antidepressant effects for the management of MDD. Preliminary data support DEX as an antidepressant with fast onset of action, which would be especially helpful for patients experiencing treatment resistant depression, and agitation. We further explore the mechanistic and clinical implications of considering DEX as a putative antidepressant agent, and the next steps to explore the efficacy of low dose DEX infusion among patients with treatment resistant depression.