About Dr. Palmer

Chris Palmer mental metabolic illnesses

Christopher Palmer, MD 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. He is currently the Director of the Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education at McLean Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

For the past 25 years, he has been an academic physician with administrative, research, educational, and clinical roles.

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).

Clinical

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.

Research

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.

Education & Training

Degrees:

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

Residency:

  • 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

Recent Articles by Chris Palmer, MD

Mclean Hospital, Harvard Medical School Affiliate

Director, Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

Assistant Professor, Psychiatry

7 Responses

  1. Charles says:

    Dr. Palmer, I am currently being treated at a VA Hospital in Martinsburg West Virginia with Parkinson’s and schizo affective bi polar type mental health problems. Have you done any research or do you know of anyone who is doing research on this kind of disease combination? The VA likes to throw pills at the symptoms, not really offering advice how to deal with the problems. Do you have any suggestions? You were recommended by a retiring Psychologist who I admire very much. I see you have been around the top Medical circles and may not have time to answer my petty problems. I just thought that I would take a chance upon you would. Nothing ventured. Good day. Charles

  2. Christine Francis says:

    I’ve read Dr. Palmer’s articles about the ketogenic diet and mental health. I see that he has studied the implications in Binge Eating Disorder. Has he also studied them with Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa? Can you point me to some resources or clinicians?

  3. Brent Walters says:

    Hello Dr. Palmer,
    I’ve been very interested in your work and just want to say I’m very grateful for you. I’m a single father to a 4 year old boy whose mother had a pretty severe case of schizophrenia that ended in suicide. She was also a very dedicated vegan that refused supplements which I feel didn’t help her condition any. Also her father and possibly grandfather were also diagnosed with schizophrenia and I can’t help but have that fear for my son. I know it’s not 100% genetic but I still have that reoccurring fear. I’m curious if you have any knowledge on prevention of schizophrenia in young children, ketosis in children, and any other helpful information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you again for all that you’re doing.

    Brent

    • Hi Brent,
      Thanks for sharing your story and for your question. I’m sorry to hear about your son’s mother and her family history of schizophrenia. You’re correct in that having a strong family history like that increases your son’s risk for developing schizophrenia himself. I wouldn’t recommend a ketogenic diet for your son at this point. However, there is evidence that children who have high levels of insulin resistance beginning at age 9 appear to be at much higher risk of developing a psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Therefore, I would watch for this as he gets older. His pediatrician can do some blood tests to check for this.
      There are many things you can do to try to protect your son from developing a mental illness. Most of them are obvious, such as helping him be as happy and healthy as possible. This includes having friends and family that he connects with and can depend upon. Diet and exercise can play a role as well. For his diet at this point, I would try to include mostly whole foods, such as fruits/vegetables, meats, fish, eggs, and dairy, and avoid processed foods as much as possible. I would also promote water or milk as the beverages of choice.
      As your son gets older, if you notice problems, such as significant mood or attention/concentration difficulties, I would seek out a consultation with a mental health professional to see if there are strategies to help manage those symptoms. Intervening before they become huge problems can go a long way in preventing more serious problems.
      I hope this is helpful. Stay tuned for a book that I’m working on — it will include many other suggestions for intervention strategies if needed as time goes on.
      For now, I wish you the best in raising your son and hope that both of you stay happy and healthy!

      Chris

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