Lillian Wilson

Brain Energy by Christopher M. Palmer

Discover what causes mental illnesses with a new revolutionary approach of Dr. Palmer in his book ‘Brain Energy.’

Brain Energy
“This is the book that will forever change the way we understand and treat mental health.”

Almost one billion people suffer from mental disorders. There are various theories linking their occurrence with genetic predisposition, alcohol and drug use and trauma.

Dr. Palmer has a different point of view on the issue. He considers mental disorders to be metabolic disorders of the brain. In his book ‘Brain Energy,’ Harvard psychiatrist Palmer presents a revolutionary new understanding of mental disorders.

In this review, we will take a closer look at Palmer’s theories that promise to reshape our understanding of mental health and pave the way for innovative solutions.

Author’s background

Christopher M. Palmer, MD, is a psychiatrist with extensive experience in treating treatment-resistant cases.

Christopher M. Palmer (r)

He received his medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine and completed his residency at McLean Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Palmer currently serves as the director of the Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education at McLean Hospital and is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is a pioneer in using the ketogenic diet in psychiatry, particularly for treatment-resistant mood and psychotic disorders.

What is the book about?

In ‘Brain Energy’, Dr. Christopher Palmer puts forward a theory that mental disorders are linked to problems in how our brain cells process energy. He emphasises the importance of mitochondria in brain cells for this process. Dr. Palmer explores how various factors, such as genetics and traumatic experiences, can influence metabolism and contribute to mental illness symptoms.

The book is divided into three parts, with the first one overviewing of the current state of the mental health field and its challenges.

Part II explains why mental disorders are metabolic disorders, why mitochondria are a common pathway to mental and metabolic disorders and what is a brain energy imbalance.

Part III focuses on the contributing causes of mental diseases and the solutions to help alleviate them. It raises the topics of genetics, chemical imbalance, inflammation, sleep, food, smoking, drugs, love, life purpose and and how they affect our mental well-being. The book ends with a Metabolic Treatment Plan that presents a step-by-step program for alleviating mental conditions.

Table of contents

  • Introduction
  • CHAPTER 1 What We’re Doing Isn’t Working: Mental Health Today
  • CHAPTER 2 What Causes Mental Illness and Why Does It Matter?
  • CHAPTER 3 Searching for a Common Pathway
  • CHAPTER 4 Could It All Be Related?
  • CHAPTER 5 Mental Disorders Are Metabolic Disorders
  • CHAPTER 6 Mental States and Mental Disorders
  • CHAPTER 7 Magnificent Mitochondria
  • CHAPTER 8 A Brain Energy Imbalance
  • CHAPTER 9 What’s Causing the Problem and What Can We Do?
  • CHAPTER 10 Contributing Cause: Genetics and Epigenetics
  • CHAPTER 11 Contributing Cause: Chemical Imbalances, Neurotransmitters, and Medications
  • CHAPTER 12 Contributing Cause: Hormones and Metabolic Regulators
  • CHAPTER 13 Contributing Cause: Inflammation
  • CHAPTER 14 Contributing Cause: Sleep, Light, and Circadian Rhythms
  • CHAPTER 15 Contributing Cause: Food, Fasting, and Your Gut
  • CHAPTER 16 Contributing Cause: Drugs and Alcohol
  • CHAPTER 17 Contributing Cause: Physical Activity
  • CHAPTER 18 Contributing Cause: Love, Adversity, and Purpose in Life
  • CHAPTER 19 Why Do Current Treatments Work?
  • CHAPTER 20 Putting It All Together: Developing Your Metabolic Treatment Plan
  • CHAPTER 21 A New Day for Mental and Metabolic Health
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Index

Key takeaways from ‘Brain Energy’

1Drugs and alcohol impair cognitive functions of the brain

Drugs and alcohol can have profound and immediate effects on mitochondrial function, leading to a wide range of symptoms.

Different drugs can induce hallucinations, delusions, mood swings, cognitive impairment, and more. Dr. Palmer cites a study called ‘A Cannabinoid Link Between Mitochondria and Memory,’ proving that drug intake impairs memory as it damages mitochondria.

Chronic alcohol consumption leads to problems with brain glucose metabolism. The brain cells of an alcoholic are lacking energy when they are sober. This may be one of the reasons why it is so hard for alcoholics not to consume alcoholic beverages.

2Improving sleep quality is beneficial for mental and metabolic health

Sleep problems, whether too much, too little, or poor quality, can have adverse effects on mental and metabolic health. Sleep deprivation can worsen existing mental and metabolic disorders and may even contribute to their development. Sleep disturbances are common symptoms of various disorders, and disruptions in sleep can lead to a stress response and increased inflammation, impacting overall health.

Dr. Palmer highlights that mitochondria are closely linked with sleep and circadian rhythms. They undergo changes during sleep, and disturbances in these rhythms can affect mitochondrial function. Light exposure also influences mitochondrial activity, with different wavelengths having varying effects.

Assessing and improving sleep and light exposure are important aspects of treatment for mental and metabolic health.

3Stress, mood and mitochondrial health connection

The role of mitochondria in the body’s stress response is indispensable, as they exert significant influence over hormone and neurotransmitter regulation, nervous system responses, inflammation, and even epigenetic changes. When mitochondria are not functioning optimally, these critical processes can be negatively impacted, potentially compromising overall health.

A compelling research study provided direct evidence of the link between everyday stress and changes in mitochondrial function in humans. By analysing the mitochondrial health index (MHI) in the white blood cells of mothers, the researchers found that high stress levels and low moods were associated with a reduced MHI. However, the study also revealed a positive aspect: when the mothers experienced positive moods, the MHI increased, often within a day.

Overall rating & strengths and weaknesses, according to readers’ reviews

The book has gotten 4.19 ⭐️ on GoodReads.


  • Presents complex scientific concepts in an easily understandable manner, making it accessible to readers without an academic background.

  • The book is highly credible due to the author’s thorough, science-based approach.

  • The real-life success stories offer hope and inspiration to those seeking alternative treatments for mental disorders.


  • The book falls short of giving practical ‘to dos’ and actionable steps for improving metabolic and mental health.

  • The lack of specific dietary recommendations for supporting mitochondrial health might leave readers seeking more comprehensive guidance.

Best quotes from ‘Brain Energy’

“Metabolism and mitochondria can explain all the symptoms of mental illness.”
“High levels of cortisol have been found to inhibit autophagy, slowing down or stopping this maintenance process.”
“Metabolism is the process of turning food into energy or building blocks for growing and maintaining cells, as well as the appropriate and efficient management of waste products.”

Final takeaway

‘Brain Energy’ by Dr. Christopher Palmer is a groundbreaking exploration of mental health, proposing that mental disorders are metabolic disorders of the brain. With a solid scientific foundation, the book offers hope and inspiration, making it a must-read for those seeking innovative approaches to mental and metabolic health.

Where to buy

You may purchase ‘Brain Energy’ on Amazon at the best price. It is available in paperback, hardcover, audio and Kindle versions, so you may choose an option that appeals to you the most.

Healthypedia FAQ

Unlike traditional theories, Dr. Palmer presents a revolutionary perspective, linking mental disorders to metabolic imbalances in the brain. He emphasises the role of mitochondria in brain cells and how various factors can influence metabolism and contribute to mental illness.

Palmer presents complex concepts in an understandable manner, making it accessible to readers with no background in the field.

The book is lacking in practical advice and is more focused on theory.

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