Woo hoo! It’s Friday!
Last Friday in my marathon confessions, I mentioned that very little reading has been happening lately unless it was marathon related. Well that changed. On Saturday, I received this book:
I agreed to review the book and complete a four week challenge. I devoured it in a few days. I never get tired of reading health and nutrition research. More confirmation that I’m in the right field, I guess. The following post is sponsored by Fitfluential LLC on behalf of Grain Brain. All opinions are my own, of course.
I appreciate that it’s written by Dr. David Perlmutter, MD, who is a neurologist and fellow of the American College of Nutrition. He knows the science but also has his hands in holistic nutrition. It’s the perfect mix, in my opinion.
According to the book, most brain conditions are caused by inflammation. He argues that inflammation can be triggered by carbohydrates, especially gluten and sugar. Instead of a the typical American carb-centric diet, he discusses all the evidence that fat is crucial for our health, even saturated fat (butter, eggs, meat). The human brain consists of more than 70% fat.
We especially need to focus on good fats, like DHA Omega 3, found in fatty fish and algae to help reduce inflammation. Plus many vitamins need fat to be absorbed properly (including Vitamins A, D, E and K).
He has found that wheat and gluten in particular are tied to all sorts of common complaints when there is an undiagnosed gluten sensitivity, including headaches, fatigue, seizures, bloating or stomach distress, ADHD in children, etc.
To keep your brain healthy and to prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia, he recommends a diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates, adding brain health supplements, incorporating exercise and getting plenty of sleep.
He recommends the following supplements:
1) Resveratrol to enhance blood vessel dilation and support healthy blood flow (a powerful antioxidant found in red wine, or pictured above in GNC Preventive Nutrition resVida)
2) DHA and EPA for anti inflammation, heart and vascular health and brain health, 1,000 mg of omega-3 DHA and EPA can be found in Spring Valley Omega-3 Fish Oil Gels
3) Omega 3 fatty acids from a vegetarian and sustainable source like algae can be found in the BrainStrong Adult DHA Supplement or another good source is Gold Circle Farms DHA Omega-3 Cage Free Eggs, with 150 mg of DHA (found at Whole Foods, Kings Supermarkets and Food Emporiums)
4) He also recommends probiotics, turmeric and vitamin D.
Americans are severely lacking in DHA. The typical Western diet has 100 mg daily as opposed to the 1,000 mg he recommends. Studies have shown everyone, from infants to older adults, benefit with adequate sources of DHA in their diet. He focused particularly on the benefits to the brain, such a improved memory and less risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
My thoughts (kind of long… sorry to make you think on a Friday!)
I absolutely agree with the emphasis on putting fat back into our diet for long term health. I also agree that the introduction of processed carbohydrates can be linked to our obesity crisis, diabetes, heart disease, and number of other illnesses in the body.
What I had a little trouble with was his hard stand against all carbohydrates. He pointed to research showing that a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet improved brain health and inflammation in the brain but concluded that if less carbohydrates is good, than restricting them even more must be better. Ultimately, his program calls for little to no grains and only one piece of fruit per day.
Again, I agree that we can all benefit from cutting out processed carbs and sugar, but I do not believe such an extreme reduction of carbs is necessary (or even helpful) for everyone. For a more balanced approach, I would have loved to hear him mention:
1) The importance of balancing acidic and alkaline foods. He spent a lot of time convincing the reader that saturated fat is good (eggs, butter, cheese, meat) and while I agree that we do not need to demonize these foods as we did in the past, it is extremely important to increase meat (acidic) in proportion to an increase of vegetables (alkaline) as we know our health is most improved with a slightly alkaline (plant-based) diet.
2) Acknowledge that many cultures around the world survived for thousands of years with a reliance on carbohydrates in their diet without the rates of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, dementia and diabetes that we have today. For example, rice has traditionally been a staple in Asia, as corn is in South America, buckwheat in Russia, and wheat in the Middle East and Europe. And most people in these societies were not obese, dealing with dementia, or dying from the diseases we have today.
We are all individuals with unique bodies. Some of us have more stomach acid than others and do well on higher protein diets. Others have little stomach acid and run into trouble digesting meat and need slightly lower levels of fat in our diet. I do not believe one diet fits all.
Again, overall, I agree with the major points that Dr. Perlmutter made, and I think his message is really important to help us undo our fear of fat and our love of carbohydrates. If we could move toward largely unprocessed diet with less wheat, I believe we would see a lot of the same benefits, (even if whole grains are still included.)
One other fun research fact that I loved as a runner- cardio has been tied to larger brain development. Walking, running, and being in motion spurs the generation of new brain cells. (There is so much research lately about the benefits of strength training and functional exercise, I was fully expecting him to criticize cardio, especially distance running!)
(To be fueled largely on fat as an endurance athlete requires the body’s ability to use fat for fuel, rather than it’s glycogen stores, which is another post for another day, but something I’ve been experimenting more with this cycle via glycogen depletion runs.)
So for the next four weeks, I’m going to take the supplements and experiment with more fat and less carbohydrates and I’ll report back on how I feel. I can’t promise to stick to only one whole grain serving per day… we’ll see. Although he does have some delicious recipes (even desserts)- this is already longer than usual, so maybe I’ll share those in my follow up.
If you’re curious, definitely check out his book and anyone who is interested in trying the supplements and higher fat diet along with me, please join in!
Have you heard of or read the Grain Brain? Do you emphasize fats (of all kinds) in your diet?