Grain Brain

Authors: David Perlmutter, MD, and Kristin Loberg (contributor) (Little, Brown and Company 2013)

In his new book, Dr. Perlmutter claims that sugar and gluten have a role in everything from chronic headaches and insomnia to depression, epilepsy, ADHD and Alzheimer’s. Billed as a four-week plan to improve brain health, Grain Brain encourages readers to restrict carbohydrates to 30 to 40 grams a day with a maintenance level of 60 grams daily thereafter. Participants are encouraged to get adequate sleep and at least 30 minutes of exercise five times per week. Multiple supplements including coconut oil, probiotics, resveratol and vitamin D are suggested for daily intake. The plan is designed to induce ketosis, as the author suggests that ketones are “far more effective fuel for the brain.”

Grain Brain challenges longstanding beliefs about what constitutes a healthy diet. Not only are gluten- and sugar-containing foods eliminated, but “healthy carbohydrates” such as whole-grain bread, beans and fruit are demonized and regarded as poisonous to the brain. Perlmutter extolls newer research that suggests a ketogenic diet (higher-fat, very-low-carbohydrate diet) is neuroprotective, yet he disregards the potential drawbacks of such an extreme diet regimen.

This plan is quite restrictive and may be difficult for the average person to master. The daily supplement regimen can also make it expensive to maintain. More research is needed on the impact of ketogenic diets and other diet regimens on brain health. However, a key takeaway would be to cut back on excess carbohydrates and embrace heart-healthy fats like avocados, nuts and olives without fear as research suggests these fats boost heart and brain health.

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