About Dr. Palmer

Dr. Christopher M. Palmer is a Harvard psychiatrist and researcher working at the interface of metabolism and mental health. He is the Founder and Director of the Metabolic and Mental Health Program and the Director of the Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education at McLean Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. For almost 30 years, he has held administrative, educational, research, and clinical roles in psychiatry at McLean and Harvard. He has been pioneering the use of the medical ketogenic diet in the treatment of psychiatric disorders—conducting research in this area, treating patients, writing, and speaking around the world on this topic. Most recently, he has proposed that mental disorders can be understood as metabolic disorders affecting the brain, which has received widespread recognition in both national and international media outlets.

 Dr. Palmer received his medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine. He did his internship and psychiatry residency at McLean Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School.

Academic Leadership

Dr. Palmer leads McLean Hospital’s Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education. In this role, he has developed hundreds of educational conferences, workshops, Grand Rounds, and other professional educational activities, most of them under the aegis of Harvard Medical School. His leadership has transformed the department from a small, subsidized department of the hospital into a flourishing educational program that is now leading mental health education for professionals nationwide.

He has held numerous leadership positions in the continuing education field beyond McLean Hospital’s program, including serving on leadership, advisory, and strategic planning committees of Harvard Medical School, Partners Healthcare, the Massachusetts Medical Society, and the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME).


Dr. Palmer has been involved in psychiatric research for over 23 years. He has served as a research physician in the Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory and the Sleep Research Laboratory, both at McLean Hospital, where he worked with teams pursuing wide-ranging research in the areas of addiction and sleep.

Most recently, his research interests have turned to the areas of metabolism, metabolic disorders, and their connection to mental disorders. Interestingly, the connections are widespread and span across numerous mental and metabolic disorders. He is focused on combining and understanding epidemiological data, basic science research, and clinical studies in order to better understand what role metabolism plays in mental illness.

Dr. Palmer has been pioneering the use of the ketogenic diet and its applications in psychiatry. The ketogenic diet is an evidence-based treatment for epilepsy, and can work in treatment-resistant cases, even after numerous medications and even surgery fail to control seizures. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it does work for a significant percentage of people. It turns out that many anti-epileptic treatments are used routinely in psychiatry, so this dietary intervention should at least be considered in the treatment of mental disorders. Interestingly, the ketogenic diet is a metabolic intervention and has been shown to have profound effects on brain metabolism. These changes may correct some of the metabolic abnormalities found in people with mental disorders. Dr. Palmer has published case studies, pilot clinical trials, and is actively conducting research in this area. He is also working with researchers from around the world to further explore this treatment in clinical populations as well as pursuing more basic science research.

In 2023, Dr. Palmer became the Founder and Director of the McLean Hospital Metabolic and Mental Health Program. This new and innovative program will conduct research exploring the role of metabolism in mental health and the use of metabolic treatments for people with mental health conditions, offfer consultations to McLean Hospital patients who are interested in a metabolic approach, and develop education for healthcare professionals, 



Dr. Palmer’s clinical practice has focused on helping people suffering from treatment-resistant mental illnesses, including mood disorders, psychotic disorders, and personality disorders. His treatment approach has been comprehensive and has included psychopharmacology, psychotherapy, and complementary and alternative treatments. However, he has always been looking for better treatments and outcomes because far too many people do not get better with our current approaches.


The Brain Energy Theory of Mental Illness

In November 2022, Dr. Palmer published the groundbreaking book, Brain Energy, in which he argues that mental disorders are metabolic disorders of the brain. Based on decades of clinical, epidemiological, neuroscience, genetic, psychological, social, and metabolic research, this unifying theory integrates the mental health field with the rest of the medical field. The Brain Energy theory challenges the current diagnostic categorization of mental disorders (DSM-5-TR), provides long-elusive answers to questions that have plagued the mental health field, and details numerous lines of evidence connecting mental illness with disorders linked to metabolism, such as diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, pain disorders, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and epilepsy. This theory offers new treatment options, ones that come with the hope of long-term healing as opposed to just symptom reduction. Brain Energy has been endorsed by leading psychiatrists, neuroscientists, and other physicians and holds the potential to transform the mental health field.

Education & Training


  • 1991 BS, Purdue University
  • 1995 MD, Washington University, St. Louis


  • 1995-1999 Internship and Residency in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, McLean Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital

Board Certifications:

  • 2000 Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology

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