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Grain Brain Makes You Think

By John R. Dixon, DC, CCN, Dipl.Ac

grain-brain-bookDr. David Perlmutter’s 2013 book Grain Brain has a lot of people questioning previously held beliefs regarding low-fat diets, grains and cholesterol. 

Much of what Perlmutter has to say about these subjects is completely opposite from what most Americans have been taught for the past 40 years. Regardless of what you may have been told about cholesterol, the importance of whole grains, and removing fats as bad for you, one thing is certain, you may gain a completely new perspective on these subjects after reading this book.

Perlmutter makes a strong case for dispelling the many myths that the American public has been taught as truths since the days of Ozzie and Harriet. People began removing fat from their diets and replacing it with refined grains, hydrogenated oils, and processed foods containing added sugar. It was the beginning of the low-fat diet era. That’s where the Grain Brain story begins to unfold.

The book is highly referenced with recent scientific studies and published articles that heavily support his opinions. A detailed plan to implement necessary dietary changes, gluten free recipes, and supporting nutritional supplements are also provided. There is also a website with an abundance of helpful information at www.DrPerlmutter.com.

 The principle themes conveyed in Grain Brain are as follows:

  • Most people with brain disease today have lived a life over-consuming carbohydrates and foods containing refined sugar.
  • The over-consumption of carbohydrates leads to higher cholesterol levels, chronically elevated insulin levels, and the accumulation of blood toxins called ‘advanced glycation end products’ which are highly pro-inflammatory and have drastic consequences to long-term brain and cardiovascular health.
  • One of the biggest medical myths of the past 40 years is that a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet featuring whole grains is good and that cholesterol is bad and must be lowered regardless of potential side effects.
  • High cholesterol levels, once linked to consuming fat, are actually related to the over-consumption of carbohydrates and processed grains.
  • Gluten sensitivity represents one of the greatest and most under-recognized health threats to humanity due to its effects on the immune system and the resulting production of inflammatory cytokines. Many of these health threats affect the brain and nervous system.
  • The brain holds 2 percent of the body’s mass but contains 25 percent of the total cholesterol. For this reason, statin drugs, which are prescribed to millions of Americans to lower cholesterol, may cause or exacerbate brain disorders and disease.
  • The hypothesis that aggressively lowering cholesterol levels with statin drugs will somehow magically and dramatically reduce heart attack risk has now been fully and categorically refuted. For reasons of pride, profit, and special interest groups, this misconception continues to be put forth.
  • New research has confirmed that the human brain has the ability to grow new brain cells (to some extent) with proper dietary and lifestyle changes. Exercise in particular has been proven to induce the growth of new neurons in the brain.

Both Grain Brain and Wheat Belly (the 2011 book by Dr. William Davis) reveal that the wheat produced today bears little resemblance to the grains that were cultivated as little as 50 years ago. Genetic and bio-engineering including hybridization have enabled food growers to produce structurally-modified grains. Our bodies lack the appropriate enzymes to properly breakdown and digest the form of gluten that these modified grains contain. This leads to the absorption of abnormal gluten polypeptides that often cause inflammatory responses from the immune system. These inflammatory conditions, caused by chemicals called cytokines, have a multitude of deleterious effects to the nervous system and brain.

According to Dr. Perlmutter, gluten is a modern day poison. It is responsible for many cases of chronic headaches and migraines, ADHD, insomnia, depression, schizophrenia, and even decreased libido. These conditions are related to the aforementioned effects of gluten and the inflammatory cascade of cytokines that lead to neurodegeneration. There is an increasing number of researchers and medical experts who share this opinion regarding the many health conditions related to the ingestion of gluten-containing foods.

Few people understand that saturated fat plays a pivotal role in keeping us healthy. Every cell in the body requires saturated fats because they comprise 50 percent of all cellular membranes. They also contribute to the structure and function of the lungs, heart, bones, liver and immune system.

The low-fat diet era ushered in the mass consumption of refined and bio-engineered carbohydrates and sugars due to a fear of eating fat. This shift in dietary preferences has contributed to numerous health consequences. Cardiovascular diseases remain the number one cause of death, and brain diseases like Alzheimer’s are increasing at alarming rates. Current scientific research suggests that if you suffer from a brain or neurologic disease of an unknown origin, you may want to investigate whether you have gluten sensitivity or if you are over-consuming grains and sugar and or have a diet that is deficient in good fat and cholesterol.

Dr. John Dixon can be reached at the Natural Medicine Group (760) 345.7300.

Sources: 1) Grain Brain 2013, Perlmutter; 2) Wheat Belly 2011, Davis

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