A couple of weeks ago, when I posted on The Kitchen Rag Facebook that I was reading Grain Brain, you asked me to share what I’ve learned from it. The book focuses on how our diet impacts the development and degeneration of our brain. The author, Dr Perlmutter, is not only a board certified neurologist who has been awarded the Linnus Pauling award for his innovative approaches to neurological disorders, but he also holds a degree in nutrition from the American College of Nutrition. He is one of the few conventional doctors to deny the validity of the low fat theory. The points he makes in his book have caused quite a bit of negativity from his more conventional colleagues. But the seed has been planted, and his book has been on the New York Best Seller List since it was published late 2013. Dr Perlmutter has http://thekitchenrag.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/grain-brain1-1024×1024.jpgbeen invited to speak on talks shows like Dr Oz, Oprah, Larry King Live, CNN, Fox News, Fox and Friends, The Today Show, etc.
Here are seven points he makes in his book that caused such controversy.
1. Fat, NOT sugar, is your Brain’s superfood.
One of the most pervasive myths I’m constantly debunking is the notion that the brain prefers glucose for fuel. Page 9
Interestingly, the human dietary requirement for carbohydrate is virtually zero; we can survive on a minimal amount of carbohydrate, which can be furnished by the liver as needed. But we can’t go long without fat. Unfortunately, most of us equate the idea of eating fat to being fat, when in reality obesity – and its metabolic consequences – has almost nothing to do with dietary fat consumption and everything to do with our addiction to carbs. Page 72
2. Low cholesterol increases your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Dementia.
In a recent study report published by the National Institute of Health, researchers compared memory function in elderly individuals to cholesterol levels. They found that the people who did not suffer from dementia had much better memory function if they had higher levels of cholesterol. The conclusion if the report crisply stated:” High cholesterol is associated with better memory function.” In the discussion that followed, the researchers indicated: ” It is possible that individuals who survived beyond age eighty-five, especially those with high cholesterol, maybe more robust.
Parkinson disease is also strongly related to lower levels of cholesterol. Researchers in the Netherlands writing in the American Journal of Epidemiology published a report in 2006 demonstrating that “higher serum levels of total cholesterol were associated with a significantly decreased risk of Parkinson disease with evidence of a dose effect relationship. Page 77
3. Cholesterol and the brain are best friends.
Moreover, cholesterol in the brain serves as a powerful antioxidant. It protects the brain against the damaging effect of free radicals. Cholesterol is a precursor for the steroid hormone like estrogen and the androgens, as well as for vitamin D, a critically important fat-soluble antioxidant. Vitamin D is also a powerful anti-inflammatory, helping to rid the body of infectious agents that can lead to life threatening disease. Vitamin D is not really a vitamin it acts more like a steroid in the body or a hormone. Given that vitamin D is directly formed from cholesterol, you wont be surprised to hear that vitamin D levels are low in people with a variety of neuro-degenerative disease like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis. As we age, natural cholesterol levels generally increase in the body. This is good because as we age our production of free radicals increases. Cholesterol can offer a level of protection against these free radicals. Page 92
4. Statins and the brain are NOT best friends.
In 2009, Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at MIT in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT who recently became interested in the effects of drugs and diet on health and nutrition, wrote a compelling essay explaining why low fat diets and statins may cause Alzheimer’s. In it, she chronicles our knowledge of statins side effects and paints a stunning portrait of how the brain suffers in the presence. She also synthesizes the latest science and input form other experts in the field. As Dr Seneff explains, one of the main reasons statins promote brain disorder is that they handicap the liver’s ability to make cholesterol. Consequently, the level of LDL in the blood drops significantly. As I’ve just detailed, cholesterol plays a vital role in the brain, enabling communication between neurons and encouraging the growth of new brain cells. Page 95
5. The brain has the ability to grow new brain neurons throughout its life.
In 1998, the journal Nature Medicine published a report by Swedish neurologist Peter Eriksson in which he claims that within our brain exists a population of neural stem cells that are continually replenished and can differentiate into brain neurons. And indeed, he was right: We all experience brain “stem cell therapy” every minute of our life this has led to a new science called neuroplasticity. Page 131
6. Exercise makes you smarter.
In 2011, when a group of older men and women were split into two groups – one assigned to walking program and the other to a stretching regimen – the walkers won over the stretchers. They were the ones who showed larger hippocampi after a year and higher levels of BDNF, “the brain’s growth hormone “, in their blood streams. The stretchers, on the other hand, lost brain volume to normal atrophy and din’t preform as well on cognitive tests. Whatever the activity, we have enough proof to confidently say that exercise needn’t be exhausting to be effective for the brain. Page 201
7. Heart attacks are caused by sugar, carbs, and inactivity.
In a subsequent report from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a panel for leading researchers in the field of nutrition from around the globe clearly stated: “At present there is no clear relation of saturated fatty acid intake to these outcomes [ of obesity, cardiovascular disease, incidence of cancer and osteoporosis]” The researchers went on to say that research should be directed at”biological interactions between insulin resistance, reflected by obesity and physical inactivity, and carbohydrate quality and quantity. PAGE 80
Of course, there is much, much more information than this discussed in the book. Dr Perlmutter goes on to talk about his low carb, high fat protocol and which supplements help support your brain’s health and growth. He explores topics like sleep, fasting, ketosis, celiac, gluten free, diabetes, etc. Once you pick up Grain Brain, you wont be able to put it down. Its packed with great information!
P.S. My Two Cents
I loved this book and learned a lot from it. However, I’m not convinced everyone should be on as low carb of a diet as Dr Perlmutter prescribes. I’m wary when anyone recommends completely eliminating a whole food group, and it seems to me that it’s too restrictive for someone with a healthy metabolism of both fats and carbs to completely eliminate them. I don’t recommend you eat cinnamon buns and drink soda every day. There are processed carbs that are loaded with sugar and gluten, and then there are wholesome soaked legumes, soured einkorn breads, fruits, veggies, and all sorts of things which contain carbs, yet are very nourishing and balancing to our bodies. Listen to your body and discover for yourself what combination of fat / protein / carbohydrates works best for you. Challenge yourself by paying attention to your body by determining what it really needs, and not what is merely craving out of addiction to certain foods.