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High carbohydrate diets linked to dementia: Eat healthy fats, say experts

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Want to reduce your risk of dementia and Alzheimer's? The latest studies show that the key to achieving that goal is simple: Eliminate carbohydrates such as sugar and grains and replace them with healthy fats, reported the Sacramento Bee on Feb. 21.

Spanish researchers evaluated the impact of diets on cognition, dividing study group participants ages 50 to 80 into three different groups:

  • One group ate a Mediterranean-style diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil
  • A second group followed a similar diet but supplement it with extra nuts rather than olive oil
  • The third group consumed a low fat diet with carbohydrates such as whole grains

The results after 6.5 years on these diets: Participants who ate the diet high in extra-virgin olive oil scored best on cognition tests, followed by those who ate nuts. The lowest scores came from those who avoided fat and ate grains.

Mediterranean diets traditionally include healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil, with total calorie intake from fats as high as 40 percent. Also included: Vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes, with moderate to high consumption of fish and seafood and low consumption of dairy and meat. Processed grains are kept to a minimum.

What's the link between this high fat diet and cognition? Studies show that such diets result in lower blood concentrations of inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein and reduced risk factors for vascular disease such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Both inflammation and vascular disease are known risk factors in dementia and cognitive decline.

Contrasted with such high fat, low carb diets, the standard American diet (SAD) poses risks in its high percentages of processed grains and sugars.

SAD menus result in elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance, causing glycation of proteins.Through this process, glucose molecules attach to proteins, and that's been associated with reductions in cognitive function.

A proponent of eliminating sugar and grains and replacing them with healthy fats is neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, author of "Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs and Sugar - Your Brain's Silent Killers" (click for details).

He developed his plan based on research showing that high sugar, high carb diets cause the body to produce inflammatory chemicals. That inflammation is linked to a wide range of chronic diseases, from diabetes to depression to dementia.

"We live with this notion that a calorie is a calorie, but at least in terms of brain health, and I believe for the rest of the body as well, there are very big differences between our sources of calories in terms of the impact on our health," said Dr. Perlmutter, according to Medical Xpress.

"Carbohydrate calories, which elevate blood glucose, are dramatically more detrimental to human physiology, and specifically to human health, than are calories derived from healthful sources of fat."

But what if you're concerned about weight loss? Do diets higher in fat that curb carbohydrates also work more successfully than low-fat diets? Two recent studies point to an affirmative answer.

In one study, Swedish researchers discovered that middle-aged men who consume high-fat milk, butter and cream are significantly less likely to become obese than those who avoided high-fat dairy. Their study contrasted two groups of men during a 12-year period, and those who followed the higher fat diet were more likely to stay lean.

In another study, researchers analyzed a hypothesis that high-fat dairy foods contribute to obesity and heart disease risk. However, after a meta-analysis of 16 observational studies, the scientists discovered that high-fat dairy was linked to a reduced risk of obesity.

Learn more about high fat, low carb diets for weight loss by clicking here.

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