Carbs and Inflammation: A Deathly Duo!

Inflammation is the body’s response to some sort of stress and is not to be turned on for a prolonged period of time. It tells us the body is trying to defend itself against something that is potentially harmful. So if the body is constantly under assault, the inflammation response stays on. This can adversely affect our brain health.

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According to Dr. Perlmuttter, two things increase inflammation in the body and ultimately create havoc to the brain – carbohydrates and gluten. He argues that as a species we are genetically and physiologically identical to our predecessors whose diet was composed of 75 percent (healthy) fat, 20 percent protein and 5 percent carbohydrates. Our bodies were not designed to eat the onslaught of carbohydrates that are typical of a North American diet – (60 percent carbohydrates) and furthermore what is considered “normal” blood glucose levels are not necessarily optimum and only reflect what the average scores are.

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study involving 2067 adults. Their blood glucose levels and cognitive assessments were given in the beginning and every two years following. The findings showed that those who were assessed with what was considered to be “normal” blood sugar levels (105 ish) began to develop a significant increase risk for dementia. With these findings in mind, Perlmutter says we need to redefine what is normal and chooses the term “optimal” being 95 or lower. In this study, the journal states, “ … our data provided evidence that higher glucose levels are associated with an increased risk of dementia. NEJM 369;6 Aug.8,2013) In effect, your dietary choices keep you in the driver’s seat when it comes to increasing chances of developing dementia for “which at this time there is no cure.”

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Higher normal fasting glucose is associated with atrophy in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the memory centre of the brain. In a study published in Neurology 2012;79:1019-1026. They looked at 266 cognitively healthy adults and measured their fasting glucose and conducted a MRI scan to measure their hippocampus. They repeated this 4 years later. At the end, they found a direct correlation to elevated blood glucose levels to the shrinkage of the hippocampus.

The reason for this according to Dr. Perlmutter is a process called glycation. This occurs when glucose binds with protein and occurs especially when glucose levels are elevated and is directly related to the formation of inflammation and free radicals according to the Journal of Neural Transmission . Furthermore glycated proteins produce nearly 50 fold more free radicals than non-glycated ones. This is far more aggressive than carrying the Alzheimer’s gene and unlike your genes, is under your control. Obvious from this formula, reducing glucose levels by reducing carbohydrate consumption will alleviate this but the second ingredient to solving this is by adding fat to the diet.

 

“Some of the largest companies are now using brain scans to study how we react neurologically to certain foods, especially sugar.  They’ve discovered the brain lights up for sugar the same way it lights up for cocaine.”  Michael Moss, Author,  Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hook Us

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