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Grain Brain: Low-carb Paleo and ketogenic diets prevent Alzheimer's, ADHD

Dr. David Perlmutter, the author of "Grain Brain," says a grain-free, low-carb diet can prevent Alzheimer's and obesity.
Dr. David Perlmutter, the author of "Grain Brain," says a grain-free, low-carb diet can prevent Alzheimer's and obesity.
Dr. David Perlmutter

Dr. David Perlmutter is a respected neurologist and author of the No. 1 New York Times bestseller, Grain Brain.

In an exclusive interview, Dr. Perlmutter told me we can prevent the scourges of Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease and ADHD by following the low-carb, gluten-free ketogenic and Paleo diets.

The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein diet that has been shown to promote rapid weight loss, treats epilepsy, and reverses Type 2 diabetes. Researcher Dr. Dominic D'Agostino also said a ketogenic diet starves cancer.

According to Dr. Perlmutter, a grain-heavy, high-carb diet causes neurological breakdown and leads to weight gain, diabetes and almost every degenerative disease known to man. "Food is medicine," said Dr. Perlmutter. "We can actually change our gene expressions with the foods we eat."

Perlmutter says we can ward off — and in some instances reverse — Alzheimer's, heart disease, diabetes, and ADHD by following a gluten-free, low-carb, high-fat diet like the Paleo or ketogenic diet. The beauty of this is that our brain (and body) health is entirely in our hands. Dementia should not be something we accept as a natural consequence of getting older.

According to Dr. Perlmutter, a high-carb diet fuels blood-sugar surges, which cause inflammation, which in turn has a catastrophic impact on brain cells and the entire body. "Carbs are devastating for the brain," said Perlmutter, who also wrote The Grain Brain Cookbook.

"Even slight elevations in blood sugar have been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease," said Dr. Perlmutter, citing an August 2013 report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Perlmutter said high-quality saturated fats (such as wild salmon, extra-virgin olive oil and avocados) have neuroprotective properties that have been shown in numerous studies to prevent dementia and other brain diseases. Perlmutter recently discussed the healing powers of the low-carb, high-fat diet on the Dr. Oz Show.

"Fat is your friend," said Dr. Perlmutter, who himself follows the high-fat ketogenic diet. "The brain thrives on a fat-rich, low-carbohydrate diet."

In Grain Brain, Dr. Perlmutter posits that the alarming onset of Alzheimer's and dementia is due directly to consuming too many carbs. Sadly, the U.S. government has long advocated a high-carb, low-fat diet, suggesting that Americans eat three to six servings of grains a day — a recommendation Perlmutter says is unhealthy and motivated more by corporate greed than public-health considerations.

Dr. Perlmutter says the brain — and the body — needs plenty of essential fatty acids to function properly. People who want to be healthy physically and mentally should consume a high-fat, low-carb diet and eschew the low-fat, high-carb, grain-centric diet espoused by the Standard American Diet (SAD).

Dr. Perlmutter suggests limiting carb intake to no more than 80 grams a day. His dietary guidelines include the following:

  • Avoid or drastically reduce gluten, grains and sugar.
  • Limit fruit consumption.
  • Avoid sugary sodas, processed foods and junk foods.
  • Eat organic vegetables.
  • Consume organic animal proteins that are free of hormones and antibiotics.
  • Get enough omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Eat good fats such as avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, fatty fish and grass-fed beef.

While we have come to accept physical and mental deterioration as the norm as we age, Dr. Perlmutter says we can prevent such breakdowns simply by controlling what we put into our mouths. "The fate of your brain is not in your genes; it's in the food you eat," he said.

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