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Grain Brain: Could avoiding carbs have more health benefits than you thought?

Charles Knowles

You may be careful to eat whole grain breads and cereals instead of white bread, but did you know that some experts say even those foods could be hurting your health?

This week on “Take Care,” Dr. David Perlmutter discusses the negative health effects of carbohydrates and how to reduce those effects.  Perlmutter is a board-certified neurologist and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition.  He is also the author of Grain Brain: The surprising truth about wheat, carbs, and sugar—your brain’s silent killers.

Click 'Read More' to hear our interview with Dr. David Perlmutter.

“Carbohydrate immediately induces increase in inflammation and an increase in the production of free radicals, which damage protein, fat, and DNA,” Perlmutter says.

Medical imaging has shown that patients with Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases have higher levels of inflammation in the brain.   

Perlmutter says that “the most important approach to dealing with Alzheimer’s is to do everything you can do reduce inflammation, and that means a low-carb diet.”

It’s one thing to say that carbohydrates are bad for our health, but how can we cut down on a food that is so prevalent in diets today?

“Your brain is 60 percent fat; it is built from the fats that you consume in your diet,” Perlmutter says.

The solution, then, is to stick to healthy fats that are found in foods like avocadoes, wild-caught fish, and nuts.  These foods provide nutrients for the brain and keep you fuller longer. 

Perlmutter points to our ancestors as examples of how we should be eating:  “This [the low-carb diet] is how humans have always eaten.  It’s only been in the last 150 years that sugar has started to creep into the American diet.”

The Grain Brain diet may sound similar to the Atkin’s diet and other low-carb diets, but it has unique recommendations regarding meat consumption.  Perlmutter says that “We really want people to focus on grass-fed choices.”

The reason that Perlmutter gives for eating grass-fed meat is that it is much higher in inflammation-reducing Omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed meats, which increase inflammation.  The same distinction can be applied to farmed fish and wild-caught fish.

“The last thing you want to have degenerate in your body is your brain,” says Perlmutter. He says if you follow this advice, the chances of that happening could be significantly reduced.  

Although reducing and even eliminating carbohydrates from your diet may not sound like the most enjoyable lifestyle change, Perlmutter says the rewards can be great.  There is no prescription required, and the possible benefits of making such a change are hard to ignore.