#8) Grain Brain

by David Perlmutter, MD

Reviewed by: Yaakov Levine, NTP

The information provided in this article is intended to give a general overview of the topic and is not intended as medical advice. For information specific to your situation, or health concerns, please consult with your medical doctor.

Nutritionally Speaking – Article #8, Grain Brain 

Eating the wrong foods can greatly accelerate our brain’s aging processes, and many of the processed and even “whole” grains we eat are not the best choices.

Dr. Perlmutter’s recently published book, Grain Brain has an aptly named and provocative subtitle: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers. This book is an informative guide for those suffering from, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Migraines, ADHD, Anxiety, Chronic Stress, Epilepsy,  Inflammatory conditions, and many other of the brain and health issues we are plagued with these days.

David Perlmutter, MD, FACN, ABIHM is a Board-Certified Neurologist and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition who received his M.D. degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine where he was awarded the Leonard G. Rowntree Research Award. Dr. Perlmutter is a frequent lecturer at symposia sponsored by such medical institutions as Columbia University, the University of Arizona, Scripps Institute, and Harvard University. He is also the author of The Better Brain Book.

In Grain Brain, he makes his case using  studies and hands on clinical experience that carbs are as he suggests,  destroying our brains.  He is not only referring to unhealthy carbs, but even healthy ones like whole grains. He explores how carbs can cause dementia, ADHD, anxiety, chronic headaches, migraines, depression, and much more. Dr. Perlmutter explains what happens when the brain encounters common ingredients in our daily bread and fruit bowls, and most importantly, why our brain thrives on fat and cholesterol.  He offers an in-depth look at how we can take control of our “smart genes” through specific dietary choices and lifestyle habits, demonstrating how to remedy our most feared maladies without drugs.

In his Introduction, he describes how our (great)grandparents used to have a cause of death listed as, “old age”, or maybe they succumbed to tuberculosis, dysentery, or cholera. What was not listed a couple of generations ago were diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and dementia. As he suggests, “Like an old house in ongoing disrepair, the materials weather and rust, the plumbing and electrical falter, and the walls begin to crack from tiny fissures you cannot see.” While we can patch and repair damage…in this case of our body simply wears out. Perlmutter does not believe our body’s deterioration is predetermined by our genes. He strongly intones that the causes of brain disorders such as chronic headaches, depression, epilepsy, are not coded in our DNA, but suggests, “It’s in the food you eat.”

Before the author delves into Part 1 where he convincingly makes his case and describes why grains and carbs are at the core of our society’s cognitive and various other health issues, he offers a 20 question Self-Assessment assignment for the readers. (Take this quiz yourself)

  1. I eat bread (any kind). TRUE/ FALSE
  2. I drink fruit juice (any kind). TRUE/ FALSE
  3. I have more than one serving of fruit a day. TRUE/ FALSE
  4. I choose agave over sugar. TRUE/ FALSE
  5. I get out of breath on my daily walk. TRUE/ FALSE
  6. My cholesterol is below 150. TRUE/ FALSE
  7. I have diabetes. TRUE/ FALSE
  8. I am overweight. TRUE/ FALSE
  9. I eat rice or pasta (any kind). TRUE/ FALSE
  10. I drink milk. TRUE/ FALSE
  11. I don’t exercise regularly. TRUE/ FALSE
  12. Neurological conditions run in my family. TRUE/ FALSE
  13. I don’t take a vitamin D supplement. TRUE/ FALSE
  14. I eat a low-fat diet. TRUE/ FALSE
  15. I take a statin. TRUE/ FALSE
  16. I avoid high-cholesterol foods. TRUE/ FALSE
  17. I drink soda (diet or regular). TRUE/ FALSE
  18. I don’t drink wine. TRUE/ FALSE
  19. I drink beer. TRUE/ FALSE
  20. I eat cereal (any kind). TRUE/ FALSE

He suggests that a perfect score on this test will be zero “true” answers. According to Dr. Perlmutter, “If you answered true to one question, your brain — and your entire nervous system — is at greater risk for disease and disorder than if you scored a zero.”

In Part 1 the author claims that brain dysfunction is really no different from heart dysfunction,  it develops over time through our behaviors and habits. He makes his case with the following:

-Gluten is dangerous,  Gluten is a modern poison and the grains we eat are not the same as our ancestors ate, and they are more addictive than ever. As many as 40% of us can’t properly process gluten, the other 60% could be in harm’s way suffering from gluten sensitivity which is linked to neurological dysfunction.

-Unprocessed fats and cholesterol are good for you. Cholesterol protects the brain, which consists of more than 70% fat: low-fat and low-cholesterol diets may harm your brain and they also have been shown to not reduce heart disease. Cholesterol is only harmful when it’s oxidized, which happens when eating a high-carb diet.

In Part 2, the author focuses on what he considers three key habits; diet, exercise, and sleep. With the proper preparation we will be ready to benefit from Part 3’s lifestyle changes, “The Four Week Plan of Action.”

Along with a sample week of suggested menu choices including recipes, in Part 3 he lists four major goals below that will support the readers optimum health:

  1. Shift your body away from relying on carbs for fuel and add brain-boosting supplements (listed in this section) to your daily regime.
  2. Incorporate a fitness routine into your schedule if you do not already have one.
  3. Work on getting restful, routine sleep seven days a week.
  4. Establish a new rhythm and maintain healthy habits for life.

With these suggestions and the strong case he makes that the gluten and carbs in our diets are causing major damage to our brains, I give this book a thumbs up as a valuable resource. If this book is not available at your local library, please request it as an important addition. For more information contact me at nutritionallyspeaking@gmail.com or (541) 895-2427.

Yaakov Levine, NTP