You can read more about the what Dr. Perlmutter, the neurologist I am referring to, has to say on this topic in his new book "Grain Brain."
Coming back to the article and his ideas, says anything with a high glycemic index -- not just wheat, but also rice and other grains considered trendy because they're supposed to be healthy like quinoa and amaranth -- should be off-limits. So what is the link between carbohydrate-rich grains and dementia? No surprise: it's inflammation.
"Over the last 40 years, people have become addicted to gluten, Perlmutter’s narrative goes. In combination with carbs, gluten’s influence on our diets explains why we get dementia—and every other common neurologic problem. 'Inflammation is the cornerstone of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis — all of the neurodegenerative diseases are really predicated on inflammation. Who knew?'"
"The New England Journal of Medicine article appears in my inbox, in which researchers conclude, 'Our results suggest that higher glucose levels may be a risk factor for dementia, even among persons without diabetes.'
'So, we control our blood sugar based on, oddly enough, our food choices,' Perlmutter says. 'Who knew? We need a low-carbohydrate diet that decreases your risk for diabetes, which will double your risk for Alzheimer’s. It’s really very straightforward. The empowering part of that is this is what our most well-respected science is telling us. It’s been kept from us. We’ve been basically told, do whatever in the heck you want. Eat whatever you like. Then you’ll have a magic pill that we’re going to develop for you to treat all of your maladies. That doesn’t exist for Alzheimer’s disease.'"
Another famous San Francisco doctor, a pediatrician famous for his lecture watched by millions on YouTube, explains fructose is a poison, and he has a common enemy with Dr. Permuttler, whose mission is to help people stop eating grains to save their brains:
"When Dr. Robert Lustig appeared on The Colbert Report earlier this year, he likened the toxicity of sugar to that of alcohol. Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF and the author of Fat Chance: Beating the odds against sugar, processed food, obesity, and disease . He may be most widely known for his 90-minute lecture on sugar, that has been viewed on YouTube more than 4 million times, in which he 'intend[s] to debunk the last 30 years of nutrition information in America.' The villain in his narrative is fructose. He is one of the physicians Perlmutter cites for support in Grain Brain.
"'There is no doubt in my mind,' Lustig told me last week, 'that insulin resistance drives dementia. We have causative data in animals, and we have causative medical inference data in humans. Basically, Alzheimer’s is a metabolic syndrome of the brain.'"
More evidence to support Dr. Permuttler's hypothesis:
"'That doubles your risk for Alzheimer’s disease. We were told, 'Eat more whole grain goodness. Eat more of what the U.S. Department of Agriculture is producing for you, and that will be good for you. Nothing could be further from the truth. Diets that are high in fat lower cardiovascular risk factors and are absolutely associated with a reduced risk for dementia. This was published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in January of 2012, research from the prestigious Mayo Clinic. People on a high-fat diet had a 44 percent risk reduction for developing dementia. Those on a high carb diet, which the government continues to recommend, had an 89 percent increased risk.'"
Let's hold pause, as not experts support Dr. Permuttler's hypothesis that eating grains causes decaying brains. Here is Dr. David Katz of Yale's Prevention Research Center criticizing Dr. Perlmutter's approach to focusing on one food group instead of many foods:
"'I also find it sad that because his book is filled with a whole bunch of nonsense, that’s why it’s a bestseller; that’s why we’re talking. Because that’s how you get on the bestseller list. You promise the moon and stars, you say everything you heard before was wrong, and you blame everything on one thing. You get a scapegoat; it’s classic. Atkins made a fortune with that formula. We’ve got Rob Lustig saying it’s all fructose; we’ve got T. Colin Campbell [author of The China Study, a formerly bestselling book] saying it’s all animal food; we now have Perlmutter saying it’s all grain. There’s either a scapegoat or a silver bullet in almost every bestselling diet book.'"
So my opinion? Based on all I have read and also my better health (improved cholesterol, less belly fat, more positive outlook) since cutting down significantly the grains in my diet, I believe that the grains we eat cause more harm than good. The nutrition - vitamins, minerals, and proteins - we get from whole grains can be gotten from other foods. And is there a link between eating grains and developing dementias like Alzheimer's disease? Yes I believe. And is the underlying cause inflammation? Probably yes.
So if you can quit eating so many chapattis or rotis, breads or cookies, cakes or bhajias, you will be better for it, especially into old age.