This morning I read a nutrition article that was popping up all over my Facebook feed. The story, This is Your Brain on Gluten, which appeared in The Atlantic, covered the science behind a new book called Grain Brain. From the sound of things, the author of the article, James Hamblin, who is a medical doctor, had been hesitant to cover the book—he wasn’t sure what to make of the general hypothesis, which is that eating all grains ultimately causes mental deterioration such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. But because it’s been a best-seller since its release he finally gave it a read.
To say Hamblin remained skeptical after reading the book—and speaking with the author of Brain Grain, David Perlmutter, MD, as well as a handful of other notable researchers and physicians, including David Katz, MD—would be an understatement. He pokes holes in some of the claims and reminds readers that much of the “science” that the diet is based on is either not widely accepted or is simply speculation—a connecting of dots that can’t actually be proven.
Hamblin’s overview of the book and the scientific basis for following or eschewing this type of diet seemed spot-on, but it also felt familiar. After a quick search on DietsInReview I realized why: Our resident dietitian Mary Hartley, RD, wrote a similarly cautionary article on Grain Brain back in October!
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Grain Brain is the catchy title of a new self-help diet book on the New York Times Advice and How-to Best Sellers lists. The author, neurologist David Perlmutter, makes the case for a slow death to brain cells caused by wheat, “carbs,” and sugar. Those foods, he says, are behind most of the common but incurable neurologic diseases including Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism, anxiety, depression, and others. To prevent and treat those conditions, he recommends a diet of fish, seeds, nuts, and olive oil, sans the “carbs” from grains, milk, fruit, and sugary sweets. Grain Brain is in the same vein as Wheat Belly and other best-selling Paleo-type diet books.
David Perlmutter and his co-author, writer Kristin Loberg, followed the diet book formula: reel in the lay audience with indisputable scientific facts and then lead them to ungrounded conclusions because they all sound good. With technical expertise, Dr. Perlmutter explains the workings of the brain and central nervous system. He is up on the hot nutrition topics and buzzwords of the day: inflammation, free radicals, bacteria in the gut, and metabolic fuels.
Sure, we agree that neurological diseases are scary and seem to be everywhere, but are gluten and carbohydrates the cause? Not so fast. David Perlmutter is often called “cutting edge,” which means research verification is needed.
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