A recently published book, “Grain Brain – the Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers” by David Perlmutter, MD argues that “…to a large extent numerous neurological conditions often reflect the mistake of consuming too many carbs and not enough healthy fats”. Perlmutter argues that a diet closer to what our ancestors ate (75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs) would be healthier for our brains than our modern diet of 20%, 20% & 60% respectively. In addition to simple carbohydrates like glucose, he particularly singles out wheat as the main culprit. His healthy brain diet does allow some alternate grains like quinoa, amaranth, millet, brown rice and oats. Watch an interview with Dr Perlmutter here.
In the book Perlmutter lays out the research and evidence to support his theory, backed by years of experience as a practicing neurologist in Florida. Hidden sensitivity to gluten and other components of grains goes beyond celiac disease and affects many, possibly all, of us to some extent. Gluten causes the gut membrane to become permeable to partially digested proteins which then enter the blood and cause inflammation. Similarly gluten disrupts the blood-brain barrier leading to brain inflammation which can develop into serious neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. All carbs raise blood sugar, even the complex carbs in whole grains, and elevated blood sugar damages the brain and increases risk of dementia. Patients started noticing clearer thinking and improved memory after only two weeks following Dr Perlmutter’s program.
Perlmutter’s theory agrees with that of Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride who treats neurological disorders with what she calls the GAPS diet: eliminating grains, dairy & processed foods; reestablishing healthy flora in the GI tract, and elimination of toxins. I wrote about her work and diet in columns 147, 172, 173, 175.
Reaction from nutritionists was swift to support whole grains as part of a healthy diet. Cynthia Harriman, a director of the Whole Grains Council, refutes Perlmutter: “Grain Brain is a misleading and sensationalist title for a book that distorts current science and contributes, sadly, to public confusion about what constitutes a healthy diet”. Personally, I (Stan) think that Grain Brain is a valuable contribution to the literature on diet and mental health and, while I still eat whole wheat bread, we have been enjoying more quinoa, millet and rice lately.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.