grain-brain-bookWhy Low-Carbohydrate Diets are Better for Your Brain Health

Kristin Davis RD

Dr. David Perlmutter is a neurosurgeon and author of the book Grain Brain. While it might sound like Grain Brain supports grain for brain health that idea couldn’t be further from the truth. The book is actually about how BAD grains are. Eating a low-fat, high-carb diet can be detrimental to our brain’s functioning. Perlmutter cites research on the subject of brain health throughout his book, with surprising outcomes. Here are some of the findings.

From the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, research found that a high-fat diet reduced the risk for developing dementia 44%, while a high-carb diet increased the risk 90%.

From the Framingham Heart Study which followed approximately 1800 men and women for up to 18 years, those subjects with the highest cholesterol had the least risk for developing cognitive issues while those with lowest levels had higher risk for cognitive decline. Subsequent studies found that high cholesterol increased longevity.

While you may have heard that LDL is the “bad” cholesterol, it’s not really the LDL that causes trouble. We need LDL to deliver cholesterol to the brain. This is good thing! However, damaged LDL, caused by oxidation, cannot do its job effectively. Oxidation is caused by sugar binding to the molecule. It’s called glycation and it’s caused by eating a high-carbohydrate diet. Oxidized LDL can also lead to atherosclerosis.

And if you think you already know about gluten sensitivity, I suggest you think again.  Perlmutter explains that gluten sensitivity is not the same as Celiac disease and that eating gluten can affect the brain without ANY gastrointestinal symptoms. The reason is that gluten is pro-inflammatory. Whenever we eat gluten, our bodies make a protein called Zonulin. Zonulin production causes a leaky gut, which in turn can impair the blood-brain barrier. The other term for this? Leaky brain!

Haven’t heard the term leaky gut? It’s when our digestive tract can no longer keep foreign objects (from food) out of our blood stream and we end up fighting off particles that don’t belong inside of our bodies.

Between inflammation and oxidation, our brains are fighting a losing battle. But it’s a battle that doesn’t have to happen at all if we change what we eat in the first place. Reducing carbohydrates and sugars is one of the easiest ways to affect our future brain function. How empowering is that?