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Carb-Rich Diet May Increase Alzheimer's Risk

Update Date: Feb 21, 2014 04:56 PM EST

Eating lots of bread and cookies may increase your risk of developing dementia, according to researchers.

Previous studies that even small spikes in blood sugar caused by a carbohydrate-heavy diet can damage brain health. Furthermore, researchers recently linked carbohydrate calorie-rich diets to a greater risk for brain shrinkage, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, impaired cognition, and other disorders.

"We live with this notion that a calorie is a calorie, but at least in terms of brain health, and I believe for the rest of the body as well, there are very big differences between our sources of calories in terms of the impact on our health. Carbohydrate calories, which elevate blood glucose, are dramatically more detrimental to human physiology, and specifically to human health, than are calories derived from healthful sources of fat," David Perlmutter, MD, best-selling author of "Grain Brain," said in an interview "Rethinking Dietary Approaches for Brain Health".

"In the clinical arena, when we see children with ADHD, or elderly individuals with depression or dementia, we may see improvement in these clinical presentations simply by removing gluten, reducing carbohydrates, and adding healthy fats back into the diet. We understand the benefits of doing this from both the literature and clinical observation," he said.

Perlmutter said that foods that contain gluten also tend to be high in carbohydrates. He said that people should avoid eating foods like breads, pastas, cookies and crackers with extremely high glycemic indices to protect brain health.

However, he noted that going "gluten-free" is not the answer.

"People who are gluten-sensitive may suddenly become attracted to the gluten-free aisle in the grocery stores and gravitate toward gluten-free pastas, breads and crackers. These people are not doing themselves a favor because they are still dramatically pounding their bodies with high levels of carbohydrates," he explained.

While adopting a low-carbohydrate diet might not guarantee a dementia-free life, Perlmutter concluded "it is certainly much more significant than we have ever thought about in the past." 

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