It’s no secret when you eat too many carbs, you’re likely to pack on the pounds. But could a high-carb diet also hurt your brain? According to his best-selling book Grain Brain (Little, Brown and Company, 2013), Naples resident and neurologist David Perlmutter says the answer is a resounding yes.
He says diets high in carbs induce inflammation, which can play a major role in brain conditions like Alzheimer's disease. “Graincontaining foods are high in carbs and it was a question of connecting the dots and doing the research," says Perlmutter.
Perlmutter cites studies from the Mayo Clinic and well-respected journals like the New England Journal of Medicine that found people on a high-carb diet are at greater risk for dementia, while those opting for a diet rich in healthy fats saw their risk levels drop.
In this interview, Perlmutter shares his inspiration for the book, as well as advice for keeping a healthy body—and mind.
NI: Are all grains alike?
PERLMUTTER: All grain foods contain carbs but the ones that also contain the inflammatory chemical gluten—that’s wheat, oats and barley—are the ones that deliver a double whammy. Of course, there is a place for, say, a half a cup of wild rice that has some carbs, but we try to limit carbs to 60 to 80 grams a day.
What is the best diet for the brain?
One that is lower in carbs and higher in good, natural fats like olive oil, nuts, seeds, grass-fed beef, wild fish—not modified fats, trans fats or hydrogenated fats.
What motivated you to write the book?
I treat Alzheimer’s patients every day in my office, but I get it personally as well. My dad, who is a brain surgeon, lives in a retirement facility right across the street from my office and he has Alzheimer’s disease.
Your book includes recipes from chef Fabrizio Aielli of Sea Salt restaurant, Naples. What else can motivate people to change?
Yes, the book is full of recipes and even foods you can have when you travel. I do it and it’s not that hard. You’re going to lose weight, your energy will come back, your brain will focus again, you’ll sleep better and your sex life will improve. It’s not based on anecdote; it’s based on science.
For a little inspiration on the “Grain Brain” diet, Fabrizio Aielli has offered up five fabulous low-carb, gluten-free recipes. From a fresh kale and roasted red pepper salad to Ahi Tuna Carpaccio, these dishes pack a flavorful, healthy punch.