Category: Science

The Premise of Grain Brain

Today marks two weeks until the release of my new book, Grain Brain. I’m fortunate in that I really ended up having the perfect title for this book. Remember those old PSAs with the egg frying in the pan, meant to symbolize your brain on drugs? My message is sort of the same, except that the egg represents your brain on grains. A central piece of this message is the idea that, contrary to popular opinion, Alzheimer’s and dementia are not genetically inevitable, they aren’t a symptom of old age, and there’s no reason you’re destined to get it if you live to see eighty. Brain disease starts in your daily bread. Why? Well, consider that, in terms of the real age of our species, the human genome has only had a fraction of time to cope with and respond to the introduction of grains to our diet. We’ve only made the transition from hunter-gatherers to sedentary farmers in the last two thousand years or so, and in that time, especially the last one hundred years, science and agriculture have made grains increasingly more complex for our bodies to handle. Consider that many modern grains now have 40x more gluten than they did just sixty years ago! So, genetically speaking, when we feast on “healthier” grains like seven-grain bread instead of white bread, or whole wheat penne instead of classic fettuccine, we aren’t doing our body any favors. In other words, a grain is a grain is a grain, and regardless of its wholeness or color, it’s can be the cause of anything from your migraine headache to a full-blown case of ADHD or dementia. How do we turn the tide in this battle? A key first step is moving away from the low-fat, high-carb diet that has become customary. Let’s get back to a diet reminiscent of the one our ancestors lived on, a high-fat, low-carb feast for the senses. Today known as the modified ketogenic diet, this plan requires that we consume much higher levels of fat while dramatically restricting carbs. It may sound scary at first (I can’t tell you how many people balk at my endorsement of enjoying high-fat, high-calorie avocados and extra virgin olive oil), but a ketogenic diet is a powerful life change that will pay dividends for years to come. I lay out more of the plan to fight grain brain in my book, and I’ll continue to discuss how we can eat and live for better health here on my blog.

  • Ddful

    What about quinoa?

    • David Perlmutter

      A gluten-free grain like quinoa is okay in strict moderation. However, since we should all be striving to consume foods with a low glycemic index, we should minimize quinoa intake: it has a GCI of 53!

  • JordanL

    A question that has always remained in my mind when reading about the science and popularity of restricting grains and how damaging they can be for the body and the mind is the ability of many people to remain in good health into their 90s and beyond and still have the majority of their calories come from grains. The Asian cultures base their diets around rice and some of the longest lived and healthiest populations in the world, the Okinawans for example, eat a substantial amount of grains over their entire lives. How can this be explained? I look forward to reading your book. Thanks.

    • Erika

      I have the exact same question in my mind. Not only do these cultures eat whole grains, but they eat very little fat. These cultures include the Abkhasians, Vilcabambans, Hunzas, and Okinawans. Another aspect of their diet that is quite contrary to the diet Dr. Perlmutter is advocating is the lack of animal products. Most of these cultures follow a nearly vegan diet with the exception of some fermented dairy products. Meat and eggs are eaten only a few times throughout the year.

      • Tiffany Frithiof

        look at the Inuit and Masai tribes. Look at what there diets consist of

    • HistoryAccess

      I too question this. I think it’s a little peculiar that Dr. Perlmutter responds to some questions posed in this column (see below) but seems to have nothing to say here about rice and the Okinawans. That said, I will read his book with great interest.

  • Sonja

    On page 16 of this book, it states that if we visit your website, that there will be downloads, calendars, and lists that we will be able to access. I am not able to find them on this site. Please send me the links to them. Thank you

    • David Perlmutter

      Sonja: I’m not sure which information exactly you’re looking for, but you may want to start here, with this list of gluten-free foods: http://www.drperlmutter.com/eat/list-of-gluten-free-foods/

      • Gustavo Rodriguez Rodriguez


        I’m also looking for the calendar you mention that can be downloaded at your site to find the carbohydrates per gram (Chapter 7).

        Thank you.

  • Michael Baucum

    Hi Dr. Perlmutter. I read your book and loved it; it improved both mine and my father’s life. I have a question: What about brown rice protein powder that has 12g protein and less than 2g total carbs? I’d like to try a keto-vegan diet that I can still build muscle on. Thanks!


    Is chicken fat from organic chickens ok?

  • Anita Campbell

    I’m allergic to avocados, any recommendations for substitutions?

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