Dr. Sethi is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and founding Director of the first academic Metabolic Psychiatry Clinical program in 2015. She is double board-certified in Psychiatry and Obesity Medicine and has additional expertise in adult eating disorders. She completed her residency in Psychiatry at Stanford University and specialized training in obesity at Duke Medical Center. Dr. Sethi received her MD jointly from Duke University School of Medicine and the National University of Singapore. She received a Masters degree in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University. Metabolic Psychiatry is a term she coined to describe an emerging clinical discipline focused on the integrative study and treatment of metabolic abnormalities and the relationship to mental illness. Dr. Sethi's approach to psychiatric treatment incorporates detection and treatment of metabolic abnormalities, principles of obesity medicine, nutrition and metabolism. She was awarded funding by the Obesity Treatment Foundation and Baszucki Brain Foundation as principal investigator to study the effectiveness of a low - carbohydrate ketogenic dietary intervention in an outpatient cohort of patients with obesity or metabolic dysfunction overlapping with bipolar illness or schizophrenia. She is also a co-investigator on a pilot randomized clinical trial testing an FDA-approved obesity medication for binge-eating disorder and bulimia nervosa at Stanford University funded by SPARK. She is a recipient of the Kuen Lau Bipolar Research Award and the Symonds Fellow Award from the Association of Women Psychiatrists for innovation in psychiatry and contributions to women’s health. She is a member of the Obesity Medicine Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and served on the council of the Northern California Psychiatric Association.

Clinical Focus

  • Psychiatry
  • Obesity Medicine
  • Adult Eating Disorders
  • Metabolic Syndrome

Academic Appointments

  • Clinical Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Administrative Appointments

  • Founding Director, Metabolic Psychiatry Clinic, Stanford University School of Medicine (2019 - Present)

Honors & Awards

  • Kuen Lau Bipolar Research Award, Stanford Department of Psychiatry (2021)
  • Metabolic Psychiatry Research Fund, Baszucki Brain Foundation (2021)
  • Obesity Treatment Foundation Grant Award, Obesity Medicine Association (2018)
  • Symonds Fellow Award, Association of Women Psychiatrists (2016)
  • ASCP Clinical Trial Scholarship, American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology (2016)
  • Recipient, The Coaching Fellowship (2015)
  • Scholar, Stanford Society of Physician Scholars (2015)
  • Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) Seed Grant, Stanford Office of Community Health (2010-2012)

Professional Education

  • Board Certification: American Board of Obesity Medicine, Obesity Medicine (2020)
  • Board Certification: American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Psychiatry (2018)
  • Residency, Stanford University Medical Center, Psychiatry (2017)
  • Internship, Stanford University Medical Center, Psychiatry (2014)
  • MD, National University of Singapore, Medicine (2013)
  • MD, Duke University School of Medicine, Medicine (2013)
  • MS, Johns Hopkins University, Biotechnology (2007)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Improving metabolic and mental health through dietary interventions, pharmacological optimization, and other lifestyle means in those with severe mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia is a major focus of her research. Clinical and academic interests are also in the management of psychiatric disorders with co-morbid obesity, poor metabolic health and/or eating disorders, particularly binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa.

Clinical Trials

  • Can Neural Network Instability in Schizophrenia be Improved With a Very Low Carbohydrate Ketogenic Diet? Recruiting

    Wide ranging cognitive deficits are major drivers of functional decline and poor outcomes in people with schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar disorder (BD). Medications do not target pathophysiological mechanisms thought to underlie these deficits. In the search for interventions targeting underlying cognitive impairment in SZ and BD, we look comprehensively beyond just the brain and to the potential role of dysfunctional systemic metabolism. Disrupted insulin and glucose metabolism are seen in medication-naïve first-episode SZ, suggesting that SZ itself, and not just the medications used to treat it, is associated with risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, and more generally, accelerated aging. Even young people with SZ have increased risk of metabolic disease and cognitive deficits. Sadly, their life span is shortened by 15-20 years. BD is associated with similar but less severe disruptions in glucose and insulin metabolism and life expectancy. Although the human brain is 2% of the body's volume, it consumes over 20% of its energy, and accordingly, the brain is particularly vulnerable to the dysregulation of glucose metabolism seen in SZ and BD. While glucose is considered to be the brain's default fuel, ketones provide 27% more free energy and are a major source of energy for the brain. Ketones prevent or improve various age-associated diseases, and a ketogenic diet (70% fat, 20% protein, 10% carbohydrates) has been posited as an anti-aging and dementia antidote. The premise of the work is based on recent evidence that ketogenic diets improve dynamic neural network instability, related to cognitive deficits, aging, and Type 2 diabetes (Mujica-Parodi et al., Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020;117(11):6170-7.). The rigor of the work rests on findings of (1) poor cerebral glucose homeostasis in SZ and BD, (2) neural network instability in SZ and BD, and (3) direct effects of ketosis on network instability. Unknown is whether ketogenic diets can improve network instability in people with SZ and BD.

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  • FDA Approved Medication to Reduce Binge Eating and/or Purging Not Recruiting

    This study will demonstrate the efficacy of Qsymia versus placebo in treating bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.

    Stanford is currently not accepting patients for this trial. For more information, please contact Debra L Safer, MD, 650-723-7928.

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  • Impact of a Ketogenic Diet on Metabolic and Psychiatric Health in Patients With Bipolar or Schizophrenia Illness Not Recruiting

    To initiate a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) or ketogenic dietary (KD) intervention among a cohort of outpatients with either schizophrenia or bipolar illness who also have metabolic abnormalities, overweight/obesity, and/or are currently taking psychotropic medications experiencing metabolic side effects.

    Stanford is currently not accepting patients for this trial.

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All Publications

  • The Role of Ketogenic Metabolic Therapy on the Brain in Serious Mental Illness: A Review Journal of Psychiatry & Brain Sciences Sethi , S., Ford , J. 2022; 7:e220009.

    View details for DOI 10.20900/jpbs.20220009

  • Ketogenic Diet as a Metabolic Treatment for Mental Illness. Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity. Norwitz , N., Sethi , S., Palmer , C. 2020 ; 27 (5)
  • Low Carbohydrate Ketogenic Therapy as a Metabolic Treatment for Binge Eating and Ultra-processed Food Addiction. Current Opinion Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity Sethi , S., Anika, S., Ashley , G. 2020; 27 (5)
  • Ketogenic Diet as a Metabolic Therapy for Bipolar Disorder: Clinical Developments Journal of Affective Disorders Reports Yu , B., Oz, R., Sethi, S. 2022
  • Ketogenic Diet as a Metabolic Therapy for Bipolar Disorder: Clinical Developments Yu, B., Oz, R., Sethi , S., et al Research Square Preprint . 2021
  • If Americans were healthier, we could have been better prepared for this pandemic. Sethi Dalai , S. The Hill Op-Ed. 2020
  • A Randomized, Placebo‐controlled Crossover Trial of Phentermine‐topiramate ER in Patients with Binge‐eating Disorder and Bulimia Nervosa International Journal of Eating Disorders Safer, D. L., Adler, S., Sethi , S., Bentley , J., Toyama, H., Parajito , S., Najarian , T., et al 2019

    View details for DOI 10.1002/eat.23192

  • Study protocol and rationale for a randomized double-blinded crossover trial of phentermine-topiramate ER versus placebo to treat binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa. Contemporary clinical trials Dalai, S. S., Adler, S. n., Najarian, T. n., Safer, D. L. 2018; 64: 173–78


    Bulimia nervosa (BN) and binge eating disorder (BED) are associated with severe psychological and medical consequences. Current therapies are limited, leaving up to 50% of patients symptomatic despite treatment, underscoring the need for additional treatment options. Qsymia, an FDA-approved medication for obesity, combines phentermine and topiramate ER. Topiramate has demonstrated efficacy for both BED and BN, but limited tolerability. Phentermine is FDA-approved for weight loss. A rationale for combined phentermine/topiramate for BED and BN is improved tolerability and efficacy. While a prior case series exploring Qsymia for BED showed promise, randomized studies are needed to evaluate Qsymia's safety and efficacy when re-purposed in eating disorders. We present a study protocol for a Phase I/IIa single-center, prospective, double-blinded, randomized, crossover trial examining safety and preliminary efficacy of Qsymia for BED and BN.Adults with BED (n=15) or BN (n=15) are randomized 1:1 to receive 12weeks Qsymia (phentermine/topiramate ER, 3.75mg/23mg-15mg/92mg) or placebo, followed by 2-weeks washout and 12-weeks crossover, where those on Qsymia receive placebo and vice versa. Subsequently participants receive 8weeks follow-up off study medications. The primary outcome is the number of binge days/week measured by EDE. Secondary outcomes include average number of binge episodes, percentage abstinence from binge eating, and changes in weight/vitals, eating psychopathology, and mood.To our knowledge this is the first randomized, double-blind protocol investigating the safety and efficacy of phentermine/topiramate in BED and BN. We highlight the background and rationale for this study, including the advantages of a crossover identifier NCT02553824 registered on 9/17/2015.

    View details for PubMedID 29038069

  • Could Pokémon Go Have Some Mental Health Benefits? Sethi Dalai, S. American Psychiatric Association . Washington DC. 2016