Book Report

Book Report: Grain Brain

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers

There is a new December 2018 update available, this review was done on notes from the original 2013 publication (I will be reading the new one though!)

One of the first steps to optimizing health and performance starts with diet. High on that list is grain elimination or at least reduction in most cases. Dr. Perlmutter, a neurologist, takes us through a great deal of scientific reasoning for why this is important

He starts right in countering the dogma of “health” grains. They increase blood sugar more than table sugar. Higher blood sugar leads to more insulin which promotes growth, fat formation and encourages inflammation. This quote should get a little attention (at least if you like your brain to grow!):

people whose blood sugar is on the high end of the “normal range” have a much greater risk for brain shrinkage.

While on current dogma, he touched on cholesterol and it’s impact on brain health.

positive linear association between total cholesterol and measures of verbal fluency, attention/concentration, abstract reasoning, and a composite score measuring multiple cognitive domains.”11 Moreover, “participants with ‘desirable’ total cholesterol (less than 200) performed less well than participants with borderline high total cholesterol levels (200 to 239) and participants with high total cholesterol levels (greater than 240).” The study concluded that “lower naturally occurring total cholesterol levels are associated with poor performance on cognitive measures, which placed high demand on abstract reasoning, attention/concentration, word fluency, and executive functioning.” In other words, the people who had the highest cholesterol levels scored higher on cognitive tests than those with lower levels. Evidently, there is a protective factor when it comes to cholesterol and the brain

The brain is very sensitive to inflammation. He takes us through how gluten can contribute to inflammation.

Gluten sensitivity in particular is caused by elevated levels of antibodies against the gliadin component of gluten. When the antibody combines with this protein (creating an anti-gliadin antibody), specific genes are turned on in a special type of immune cell in the body. Once these genes are activated, inflammatory cytokine chemicals collect and can attack the brain. Cytokines are highly antagonistic to the brain, damaging tissue and leaving the brain vulnerable to dysfunction and disease—especially if the assault continues. Another problem with anti-gliadin antibodies is that they can directly combine with specific proteins found in the brain that look like the gliadin protein found in gluten-containing foods, but the anti-gliadin antibodies just can’t tell the difference. This has been described for decades and again leads to the formation of more inflammatory cytokines.5 Given this, it’s no wonder that elevated cytokines are seen in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and even autism.6 (Research has even shown that some people who are wrongly diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, simply have a sensitivity to gluten, and eliminating it from the diet resolves the symptoms.7) As England’s Professor Marios Hadjivassiliou, one of the most well-respected researchers in the area of gluten sensitivity and the brain at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, reported in a 1996 article in the Lancet, “Our data suggest that gluten sensitivity is common in patients with neurological disease of unknown cause and may have etiological significance.”8

Continuing on the blood sugar related issues, he explains how proteins can be changed permanently in their interaction with glucose; a term called glycation, meaning a protein is attached to a glucose molecule. Some of this is completely normal but high levels contribute to excess Advanced Glycosylated End Products (AGEs) which can lead to various cellular, tissue, and even DNA damage. You can get an indication of your level of AGEs by measuringyour HbA1c blood level; a commonly used metric for diabetics that is somewhat analagous to a 3 month average blood glucose level.

He continued on a number of supplements that can help with brain and overall health as well. Exercise is likely the best intervention.

This book did an excellent job pointing out intricate neurological points-of-interest that we can exert control over without pharmaceuticals. If the brain is healthy and functioning well, it is very likely the rest of the body will as well, so this information is applicable system wide. I have used much of the information to assist patients for a number of years, please reach out if you are intersted in a a little optimization!

This Book Report collection is meant to provide some of the best take-home points from the health and science genre I read. I will continue to go thru my notes of the 160+ and counting (as of January 2019) Kindle books I have on file. To view ALL the notes I saved on this one AND many others without a Book Report post yet, THAT IS ALSO SEARCHABLE, please click here.

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