Diabetic Grain Brain

David Mendosa Health Guide September 10, 2013
  • Later this month a renowned neurologist will publish an important book about how wheat, carbs, and sugar are destroying our brains. While all of us have some interest in our brains, what could this have to do with diabetes?


    The connection is actually too close for comfort. Having diabetes doubles your risk for Alzheimer’s disease, the most dreaded form of dementia. In fact, many people, like Mark Bittman in The New York Times, are beginning to say that Alzheimer’s is type 3 diabetes. You may also want to read “Alzheimer’s Disease is Type 3 Diabetes” in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology.

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    Adding dementia to the well known list of complications of diabetes is enough to give anyone pause. But not to worry. Diabetes doesn’t cause anything, as I wrote here two years ago at “Diabetes Causes Nothing.” Well managing diabetes is the leading cause of nothing. Poor management causes all of these complications. Including Alzheimer’s.


    The new book is, Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar -- Your Brain’s Silent Killers. The author is David Perlmutter, M.D., is the president of the Perlmutter Health Center in Naples, Florida. This is his fourth book about how our brains work -- or don’t work.


    Dr. Perlmutter has a short YouTube video, which is well worth a couple of minutes of your time. In it he says, “I wrote the book as a response to my daily challenge in my medical practice, when people say, ‘Why didn’t I know this information?”


    Hardcover, Kindle, and audio editions will come out on September 17. I reviewed the book courtesy of an unsolicited copy from Little Brown, and Company, a subsidiary of Hatchette Book Group.


    Dr. Perlmutter’s new book builds not only on the experience of patients in his practice but also on published scientific findings that are slowly building the case against sugar, the so-called healthy grains, and the high-carb diet that our medical establishment has been preached to us on the basis of the most flimsy evidence. Ever since 1975 when William Dufty wrote Sugar Blues, we have known some of the dangers of sugar, particularly fructose, amply demonstrated by Robert Lustig, M.D.,in “Sugar: The Bitter Truth.”


    William Davis, M.D., showed in his recent book Wheat Belly three excellent reasons for us to avoid eating any wheat. And Gary Taubes made the comprehensive and persuasive case for us to follow a very low-carb diet in his 2007 book, Good Calories, Bad Calories.


    Now, Dr. Perlmutter pulls it all together in his new book, a tour de force that is destined to save many lives.


    “The best diet focuses on good fats,” he told Baking Business what they clearly didn’t want to hear but reported anyway. “There are certainly plenty of bad fats out there — hydrogenated fats and trans fats — and I am surely not referring to them. Good fats from eating olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, fish, grass fed beef, goat cheese, and fish oils are fundamentals for health, while carb-derived calories as one might get from things like bread, pasta, potatoes, below-ground vegetables, fruit and fruit juices are really things that you want to do your very best to avoid for a brain-healthy diet.”


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    As I read this important and well-written book I found myself nodding my head vigorously in agreement at practically every page. Only one of Dr. Perlmutter’s recommendations brought me up short, that we eat yogurt only sparingly.


    So I asked him. “Thanks for your question about yogurt,” he replied. “Overall, while full-fat Greek yogurt may be available, many people believe that they can choose any unflavored yogurt and they will be in the clear. Typically these yogurts, including full-fat Greek, may contain as much as 11 grams of sugar per serving, and while that may not seem like a lot, our endeavor is to keep total carbs between 60-80 grams daily. That's why we recommend limiting but not necessarily abandoning their consumption.”


    The Fage plain full-fat Greek yogurt that I keep in fridge has 9 grams of carbs per serving. However, it’s actually much less. “For a standard 8-ounce container of plain yogurt, which usually says it has about 12 grams of carbohydrates, you need to count only 4,” write Drs. Jack Goldberg and Karen O’Mara with my friend and colleague Gretchen Becker in their book The Four Corners Diet. “This is not just speculation. Dr. Goldberg has actually measured the carbohydrate content of yogurt in his own laboratory.”


    Yogurt remains an important part of my diet, although in almost every other respect I was already been following Dr. Perlmutter’s recommendations. However, I learned that some foods I eat from time to time do contain gluten. I was surprised to learn that blue cheese, imitation crabmeat, roasted nuts, and sausage are part of his long list on pages 68-69 of gluten-containing foods. I have already changed my eating habits.


    I did a little better on his self-assessment of 20 risk factors for neurological problems, pages 15-19. I have only one of these “habits” that could be silently harming me right now. It’s my “habit” of having diabetes, something that I would love to change but at least I control. And well managed diabetes doesn’t cause anything.


    This review is already too long. But I can’t quit without letting you know what kind of person Dr. Perlmutter is. This is how he defines what he does on his website:


    “What is a doctor? This word derived from Latin doesn’t mean healer, it means teacher – one who gives people the knowledge they need to facilitate their own healing processes and achieve a state of well-being.”


    His new book gives us what we need to know to be well again. Please read it.