Review: Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter
A variety of books have been published recently touting the benefits of a low carbohydrate diet. The research on this, however, is not new. Scientists have known for years that carbohydrates, even supposedly “good” ones like whole wheat, can cause serious health problems. The fact that humans are not genetically wired to tolerate a high amount of carbohydrates in the form of sugar and gluten, especially when they come in the form of genetically modified and highly processed items, has led to an epidemic of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. These books contain an array of scientific jargon and statistical data, but the main thrust is that these bad carbs spike our blood sugar and send us on a vicious cycle of hunger, craving even more of that which is bad for us, as we pack on the pounds. We don’t get the nutrients we need and we gain weight, suffering the health risks associated with obesity. In essence, fats don’t make people fat, carbs do.
One of the newest additions to the conversation is Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers by renowned neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter. While many previous books have concentrated on weight loss and other potentially devastating consequences of gluten intolerance, Perlmutter’s research hones in on the effects of all these bad carbs on our brains. He is convinced the research shows that the current emphasis on low-fat and low cholesterol diets to achieve weight loss, combined with a push for “healthy grains,” in addition to the detrimental results of eating processed foods full of sugar and bad carbs, is robbing our brains. He maintains we need fats and cholesterol to support healthy brain function. Permutter establishes carbs as the culprit in causing such afflictions as dementia, ADHD, anxiety, chronic headaches and depression among other ailments. In one particularly disconcerting chapter he presents at length the evidence he proposes exists between diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease.
This work is very timely as scientists continue to grapple with offering correct advice to the public in a field which notoriously produces conflicting information on a weekly basis from a variety of authorities from the government to the American Heart Association. The June 23, 2014 cover of Time Magazine ran the story “Eat Butter: Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong.” So the conversation continues! Whether you agree with the author or not, Grain Brain is a highly informative, thought-provoking and rather frightening presentation of the price we pay for our modern American diet of highly processed and genetically modified food, chock full of carbohydrates, while experts continue to insist that low-fat diets are the answer. Perlmutter does sometimes get a little overly technical for the average reader, but not so much that if you are really interested you can’t get through it. He presents his “Revolutionary 4 Week Plan” to heal the damage through better dietary and lifestyle choices, which includes a small collection of recipes, as a guide to “reprogram our genetic destiny for the better.”
Other recent books on the carbohydrate debate are worth checking out as well: Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health by William Davis, MD and The Calorie Myth: How to Eat More, Exercise Less, Lose Weight and Live Better by Jonathan Bailor