Whole Fruits are Brain Healthy Carbs
A leading principle of our evidence-based Memory Preservation Nutrition? program is that excess sugar and refined carbs and starches are harmful for the brain in part because they challenge our brain's delicate insulin balance and also promote inflammation.
A new study by the Mayo Clinic published by the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease forthcoming October 2012 edition, presents more evidence to that effect. This research study examined the relative amount of macro nutrients (carbs, protein and fats) consumed by older adults in their study. The researchers found that those with the highest levels of carbohydrate consumption at baseline were of the greatest risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and dementia when tested 3 years later.
The tag line on the Mayo Clinic website is "People 70 and older who eat food high in carbohydrates have nearly four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, and the danger also rises with a diet heavy in sugar"
This prospective cohort (epidemiological) study specifically looked at the percent of daily energy (calories) from macronutrients consumed by a group of 937 older adults aged 70 to 89 (average age just under 80) who tested cognitively normal at baseline and then tested them every 15 months or so over an average period of 3 years to determine incident mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or full blown dementia. About 200 of the research participants developed MCI or dementia during that time period.
They concluded, "A dietary pattern with relatively high caloric intake from carbohydrates and low caloric intake from fat and proteins may increase the risk of MCI or dementia in elderly persons."
Here are links to two good laymen's summaries of the article.
Mayo Clinic Study finds high carb consumption gives 4 times higher risk of cognitive problems. and Could your love of carbs and sugar lead to dementia?
Another Mayo Clinic Study finding: Relatively higher consumption of fats and proteins (compared to carbs) appear to PROTECT the brain.
Note that the study did not delve into which kinds of carbs, protein or fats people consumed, but looked at the overall and relative amounts of the three macro nutrients
consumed in terms of calories. Other studies have established which kinds of fats are helpful and harmful to the brain, and which types of carbs are safer vs. which are more harmful to the brain. (see other newsletter articles featuring such studies). For example, safer carbohydrates include whole fruits and vegetables, beans and whole grains. Many other sources of carbs such as chocolate, seeds and nuts also contain lots of fats and protein along with anti-oxidants and fiber.
Fruits for a Party
SOME BRAIN HEALTHY CARBS:
- Whole fruits & Vegetables
- Nuts and Seeds
- Dark Chocolate
Dark Chocolate Truffles
- Red Wine
This study is an important contribution to the examination of how diet affects brain health.
My take on the study: Both proteins and fats, along with a variety of brain healthy foods such as nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, spices and whole grains, help slow down the body's absorption of carbohydrates eaten, and thus prevent overload to our brain's delicate insulin system, keeping blood sugar in both balance in brain and body. The human body has historically been used to consuming carbs in the form of whole foods containing other beneficial nutrients which also help slow down the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream (fiber, antioxidants, fats, etc.). These same nutrients were often also anti-inflammatory and helped keep blood pressure and cholesterol at normal levels. In modern times, we've refined both grains and sugars to remove all those important nutrients while continuing to consume more and more of the modern unhealthy forms of carbohydrates, together with other toxins and unhealthy ingredients contained in processed foods. At the same time we move and exercise less, sleep less, and are more stressed, all of which puts further strain on our brain and body health.
Go to Journal of Alzheimer's Disease website for the study abstract (Vol. 32, No. 2). Relative Intake of Macronutrients Impacts Risk of Mild Cognitive Impairment or Dementia
Rosebud O. Roberts, Lewis A. Roberts, Yonas E. Geda, Ruth H. Cha, V. Shane Pankratz, Helen M. O'Connor, David S. Knopman, Ronald C. Petersen (Handling Associate Editor: Francesco Panza)
MORE INFORMATION ON HOW SUGAR AND CARBS HARM THE BRAIN:
Link here to earlier newsletter articles we published on these topics: July 2010 article on why sugar harms the brain and April 2010 for description of brain and diabetes safe Non Sugar Natural Sweeteners and more recent issues describing how to serve brain healthy holiday meals and treats. 10 Tips for Brain Healthy Foods for the Holidays
We feel a sense of urgency in helping Americans...and people everywhere, to reduce carb consumption, but especially refined sugars and white flours and rice.
Developing recipes for brain healthy desserts is part of our contribution. Click for a guilt-less brain healthy apple crisp!
For those interested in their particular area of nutrition and brain health, consider ordering our published book chapter giving an overview of the complex process of how nutrition affects our brain health and risk of developing cognitive problems including Alzheimer's disease. ( Visit our store and click on publications). You may also want to email me to request my overview article on Lifestyle and Alzheimer's published Feb. 2012 in Sage's Encyclopedia of Lifestyle Medicine and Health.
See the articles here on brain healthy options to offer trick or treaters this Halloween.