The USDA food pyramid advises consumers to eat six ounces of grains per day, which is the equivalent of six pancakes or six slices of bread. Add on vegetables, fruit, dairy, protein and a tiny amount of fat, and you've got the nation's approved diet. And it's that Standard American Diet (SAD) which neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter blames for obesity, dementia, diabetes and other conditions that he feels are linked to grains and sugar.
In an exclusive interview on Feb. 19, Dr. Perlmutter explained to us his in-depth research on the problems inherent in the existing food pyramid. He's documented that research, related studies and the solutions in his bestseller: "Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers" (click for details).
Evaluating the current food pyramid, Dr. Perlmutter calls its grain-centric recommendations "a surefire recipe for disastrous health consequences."
And the problems with that pyramid are two-fold, says Dr. Perlmutter: It stuffs Americans with grains while demonizing fats.
Grains are devastating sources of carbohydrate and are without question playing a major role in the soaring rates of obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and virtually all degenerative conditions that plague Western societies.
The food pyramid put fat and oil at the top, meaning fat should be avoided, while we are told to pound our bodies with carbohydrate rich foods. This is a recommendation that runs counter to what humans have eaten for more than 99% of our existence on this planet.
For those who are baffled as to why the USDA created a food pyramid that's a recipe for disease and obesity, Dr. Perlmutter points to the financial element involved. The USDA is given a definitive mission: Help farmers sell grain, he notes.
And while that mission has been successful, the American consumer has been paying the price with conditions such as diabetes, weight gain and metabolic syndrome, all of which are linked to heart disease.
So what diet really works for health and weight loss? The answer is simple, says Dr. Perlmutter.
"Cut the carbs and increase the fat," he declares.
How this works: As initially revealed in studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2008, when you consume carbohydrates, your body receives a signal to make the hormone insulin. Insulin is responsible for making and storing fat.
When you cut the carbohydrates such as grains and sugar and eat fats instead (think nuts, avocado, olives), your body stops that cycle of fat storage, explains Dr. Perlmutter. Result: Weight loss and improvement in conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
The question, therefore: What's the correct percentage of fats, carbohydrates and protein for weight loss and health? Dr. Perlmutter told us he recommends:
- Carbohydrate consumption of 60-80 grams daily
- Approximately 0.8 grams per kilogram body weight for protein
- A minimum of 70 percent of your calories from healthful fats like olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, grass-fed beef and wild fish.
In terms of the link between consuming grains and sugar and developing conditions ranging from Alzheimer's to cancer to heart disease, Dr. Perlmutter cites inflammation as the common factor.
"Diets high in carbs and containing gluten enhance the process of inflammation in the human body. And inflammation is the cornerstone of just about everything bad you want to avoid like Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes and heart disease," he says.
Among those he's convinced: Dr. Mehmet Oz, who used to urge his audiences to eat more whole grains. Read about Dr. Perlmutter's recent appearance on the "Dr. Oz Show" by clicking here.
For those familiar with related diets such as the Paleo diet and the high fat ketogenic Atkins weight loss plan, Dr. Perlmutter notes that the basic fundamentals are similar. The differences:
- The "Grain Brain" diet emphasizes the quality of meat, in contrast to the Atkins program. Dr. Perlmutter is stringent in emphasizing "grass-fed choices that are high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats while dramatically lower in pro-inflammatory omega-6s."
- In contrast to the standard Paleo diet, the "Grain Brain" diet permits "small amounts of organic dairy products."
In terms of re-defining the power of the right diet, Dr. Perlmutter also points to mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety. By following his carefully detailed low carb diet, you can truly use food as medicine.
What's a sample meal like on the "Grain Brain" diet? Dr. Perlmutter revealed his own favorite breakfast:
"I start my day with a 3-egg omelet with added kale, mushrooms and scallions. This is covered in extra virgin olive oil. I have a coffee each morning with whole organic milk."