Category: Grain Brain


Eating Fat, Fighting Alzheimer’s

Today, in honor of Brain Awareness Month, I went to the Alzheimer’s Association’s web site to explore their “10 Way to Love Your Brain”, which include:

Fuel up right. Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Really?  From what I’ve learned, we need more fat in the diet to protect the brain against dementia, not carbs at the expense of healthy fats. It even looks like the Mayo Clinic, publishing in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, totally agrees.

Researchers reported the results of a study in which they explored the role of diet, as it relates to dementia risk. They followed a group of over 2,000 elderly individuals for close to 4 years and carefully monitored their dietary intake of protein, fat and carbohydrate. The subjects also underwent mental evaluations every 15 months to determine if they were developing any issues related to dementia.

The results of the study were impressive by any measure. The risk of dementia in those at the higher end of the scale, in terms of carbohydrate consumption, increased by close to 90%! Those whose calories came more from fat were found to have a reduced risk of developing dementia by around 44%.

In the discussion section of the report the authors call attention to other studies that relate these dietary parameters to brain health and function. They summarize research describing how reducing carbohydrate consumption is associated with reduced risk of mental decline. In addition, they point out results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey revealing that a diet with a high percentage of fat is associated with better processing speed, learning and memory while lower processing speed was associated with a diet that favored higher carbohydrate foods. This information is important because beyond looking at risk for developing dementia, it relates diet to moment-to-moment brain function.

I’m hoping that the Alzheimer’s Association will quit it with this unfounded castigation of dietary fat. A diet that favors carbs and restricts fat increases inflammation, the cornerstone mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease, and this is, quite literally, like adding fuel to the fire.

  • Lynn Dell

    Thanks for continuing to fight the good fight.

    • David Perlmutter

      Always good to have you on the team too Lynn.

    • Elói Ângelo

      It must be very difficult to fight against all the nutrition system. Congrats everybody. I am here in Brazil also studying and trying to show the true about the carbs, sugar and bad oils ( in a lower level) but is like to say “I saw a ghost”.

  • Melissa

    Hi David, just curious if you’ve heard about Keto //OS, pure therapeutic ketones and your thoughts ? There’s an event this weekend that should be very interesting & educational.

    • Elmer

      What is BG? I will appreciate it if commenters will use words. If I am going to take the time to read someone’s post, that someone should say things in ENGLISH using ENGLISH WORDS.

      • Elmer

        Sorry, my comment was for one earlier in the string.

        • JAT

          pretty obvious, the writer mentioned blood glucose than used the acronym BG…clear??

  • Thanks Dr. Perlmutter for posting the study at your website. I also believe a balanced diet, with fats from plants, and active lifestyle–aerobis & resistance exercise, mental and social activities are essential for health.

  • Krissalee85

    What about those with a double APOE4 mutation? This disrupts the body’s ability to metabolize fats and leads to a greatly increased genetic susceptibility to developing Alzheimer’s.

  • rusles@att.net

    Sounds just like the Am Cancer Society and their stand against real cures.

  • Kathryn Sheehan

    I am (or was) a T2 diabetic and have successfully lost all excess weight, lowered BP and gotten off all my prescription medications through living a grain free, low carb/higher healthy fat/moderate protein lifestyle for the past 3 years. I live in the NE and now desire to eat with the seasons and have consumed more non-starchy vegetables and (occasionally) some local, seasonal, low glycemic berries this summer. I feel wonderful and having more variety in my diet has been great, but my fasting blood glucose has been creeping up with the inclusion of more non-starchy vegetables and an occasional serving of berries (maybe 2-3 times a week). My questions are: Is this something I need to be worried about? Is it normal during the summer, when local, fresh produce is a bigger part of the diet than during winter months, to experience an increase in BG? Is it more important to eat the produce while it is available or cut back to winter levels to keep my BG lower? What do you recommend?

    • Elmer

      What is BG? I will appreciate it if commenters will use words. If I am
      going to take the time to read someone’s post, that someone should say
      things in ENGLISH using ENGLISH WORDS.

      • Sarah Roeder

        BG = blood glucose. She used the term in full in the third sentence and shortened it thereafter.

      • Kathryn Sheehan

        BG is blood glucose. It was written out earlier in the post, but abbreviated BG when referred to later in the post. Sorry for the confusion.

  • ruthas

    Thanks so much-this information is so vital!

  • Kathryne Fields

    I find it interesting that you do not distinguish between simple vs complex carbs. Obviously the grains and simple carbs are pro-inflammatory, but complex carbs, as in green leafy vegetables, particularly organic ones, offer other protections for digestion and a healthy gut, which also promotes longevity. Eliminating simple carbs, thus inflammation, promoting a balanced and healthy gut AND also consuming healthy fats all together help balance the body. But you need all of these, not just fats to combat dementia.

  • Zuzanna

    Very interesting material and your posts. I would like to remind of the balance Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids. I most cases we have too much Omaga 3 which is proimmafable factor.I have done test and unfortunately I have Omega 6: Omega 3, 12: 1. Should be 3:1 or even less. I think we should diagnose ourselves as far as possible.

    • Jillian

      Zuzanna – You have it backwards. Omega-3s soothe the inflammation known to play a role in conditions ranging from heart disease to dementia, while omega-6 fats transform into molecules that increase inflammation.

  • Renata Taylor-Byrne

    Thanks very much,Dr Perlmutter – This is invaluable information, and
    really helps people get clear about the right sorts of food to eat, and
    your website is very helpful and informative, especially your videos and
    the case studies! Best wishes, Renata Taylor-Byrne.

  • lynette mayo

    I have never heard it mentioned that ‘hypoxia’ at birth can be associated with this !

  • Jerry Katz

    Donations are important. Most people are still locked into a “low fat good, high fat bad” state of mind. And carbs are addictive. It would probably be harder to get donations when recommendations go against that situation.

  • cheryl

    My father was in a home for memory loss. The home refused to allow my father to go on a low carb diet. The doctor and nurse told me it would harm his kidneys! Instead they served him apple juice as his only beverage and a standard American diet (SAD). Remember, those caring for memory care patients are making money not curing patients. I searched and searched for a home that served a healthy low carb diet and found NONE.
    Please, Dr. Perlmutter, please open a memory care home that serves proper food. Your memory care facility can also help those that need to go through a rehab program, to live without sugar and carbs, and then be sent home. (Rehab to include exercise, of course.)
    I can see your memory care homes spread all over the United States and farther. I can only hope they would eventually outnumber the memory homes that now exist that do not help the patients at all.

    • MazterGee

      What about if you cared for him yourself and put him on a low carb diet, I’d def do this for my Dad if it was the case.

      • Garlic Garden

        Great idea! We are too quick to send our parents to this “ill care homes”.

  • Caroline Spear

    Can you explain what the risk markers are? How do you predict the risk of developing Alzheimers?
    Thank you.

    • Karen Conklin

      Heavy metal tests & test your inflammation markers like homocysteine & CRP

  • VSB

    In November 2014, I switched to a LCHF diet after reading Gary Taubes book, “Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It” and soon after eliminated all seeds of grasses after reading “Grain Brain.” Among several benefits, I have noticed that my memory has improved significantly. That’s comforting to someone whose mother and father both died of Alzheimers!

  • Anna

    I am 42 and for the past two years or so have been noticing gradual memory loss – while all my life I had been really good at remembering names, words etc. suddenly I found myself searching for basic words, not to mention names and other data. I became increasingly worried that I might have been developing Alzheimer’s or perhaps have a brain tumour. In addition, for the large part of my adult life (since I was about 20) I was experiencing allergy-like symptoms: I sneezed a lot, my nose was runny, my eyes felt itchy. In the first few years only during summers and in the mornings, but later on almost throughout the year and all day long, until it became unbearable. I was tested for allergies twice and both times the tests came out negative – I was not allergic to anything at all. I was advised by the doctor to take Claritine regularly because it seemed to relieve my symptoms. At some point I was tired of taking antihistamine tablets on a daily basis and decided to change my diet and see if that might be a problem. Incidentally, I started by omitting gluten from my diet in December 2016. For the first month or so nothing much changed but then suddenly my allergy symptoms practically disappeared (if not completely, at least by 90%). After a few months I noticed something even weirder – my memory seemed to be improving. I have been on a gluten-free diet for 8 months now and it is definitely working with my memory problems. On an allergy front, though, some of my symptoms have returned although in a much milder form. Has anyone else experienced anything similar? What did you do about it? What do you think the reason might be?

    • MazterGee

      wow you’re lucky just giving up Gluten reduced or eliminated your symptoms

      • Anna

        I know. If I hadn’t tried it myself, I probably wouldn’t believe it 🙂 Especially the part about improved memory …

  • Karen Otazo

    People over 40 seem to be obsessed with simple vs complex carbohydrates. Is this really an important distinction. Or perhaps should we talk about heavily processed vs whole foods?

    Dr. Karen Otao

  • Plants with peso

    I do believe that omega 3 fats such as chia, hemp and flax seeds, as well as, walnuts are an important addition to any diet, but particularly for those who are plant-based with just a little fish like me. And, I truly love a little avocado. However, the high omega 6 levels, estrogen, copper, heme iron, and natural growth hormones in poultry, dairy and other meats (other than fish) should be eaten very sparingly, if at all, in my opinion, for optimal prevention of AD.

  • Plants with pesco

    Totally agree cutting out refined carbohydrates: flour, corn syrups, cane sugar… is a very good thing, not just for dementia prevention but, overall optimal health.

  • Jack Gray

    I recently read an article about a product called Intelligen which promises to improve brain function by 300% ! Have you heard of this new wonder drug?

  • Kathy I

    I have also noticed the The Alzheimers Association websitehas some outdated information on their website. I called the national phone number and asked them a few questions regarding the success Dr Bredesen has had with keto diet. I pointed out that his book came out in August (not mentioned on the website) and his work was published in a peer reviewed journal, Aging. I wish they would get up to date. I wonder how long it will take. Time is running out for millions of people.

loading symbol Loading More