Brain Fog From Carbs

October 31, 2012

Brain Fog From Carbs 

Reference;   Roberts et al, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Oct 16th  2012 

 This is a great study.  Dr. Roberts followed 940 people, ages 70 to 89, who were healthy and had no signs of cognitive impairment.  They were tracked for four years of follow-up and then reevaluated.  200 of the 940 had developed “mild cognitive impairment” (MCI) meaning trouble with memory, language, thinking, and judgment that were greater than their norms. 

Those who had the highest carb intake were 1.9 times as likely to develop MCI compared to the whole group. But those with the highest fat we 42% less likely to get MCI and those with the highest protein were 21% less likely.   When you combine the two effects and compare the folks with the highest carbohydrate intake to the folks with the highest fat and protein, the high carb folks end up having 3.6 times the risk of developing MCI. Did you get that?  Within four years, elderly folks who eat the most carbs will have a four-fold risk of developing dementia if they eat more carbs than if they eat more protein and fat.  

We can’t tell the exact details of what those carbs meant, but considering these were at the Mayo Clinic, were likely Midwestern-type food.  Bread, boxed cereal, bagels, pancakes, donuts, potatoes, rice are what we eat in the Midwest.  We have sandwiches, toast and lots of sugar.  What this diet suggests is that the so-called “Paleolithic diet” is much better for you.  Our brains would rather that we get our carbs from whole vegetables, and not high glycemic sources like grains or potatoes.   Vegetables are, in fact, usually quite high in protein.  Our carbs should look like broccoli, spinach, squash, green beans, and peas.   Your liver can make glucose from protein.  It just takes longer and uses a fair amount of energy to do so.  Our brains need glucose to function well too. 

 The researchers in this study were cautious not to criticize pure carb sources too stridently, suggesting that we should aim for balance.  Our first food pyramid had advocated for a low-fat diet, which resulted in higher carbs.   It appears we are now getting back to the recognition of the damage caused by that strategy.  Fat is not our enemy per se.  Trans fats and saturated fats are problematic but our brains and our whole metabolisms yearn for more omega fats. 

What goes unsaid in this study is that damage was found in just 4 years in elderly.  What happens to the rest of us?  Are carbs any better for us when we are younger?  Are our brains taking a hit when we are younger?   Is this why there are those who call Alzheimer’s Type III diabetes?   What happens over 5 years, or 20, or 40?  I believe this study sheds light on all those questions.  We need to avoid white carbs at all stages in life.  It’s your brains at risk. 

WWW. What Will Work for me.  This is a very important study, as much by what goes unsaid.  I believe it should put a serious dent in our enthusiasm for eating high carbohydrate-containing foods.  The glycemic index is a pretty good measure of what causes trouble.  A glycemic index over 55 typically starts inducing insulin production, and white carbs are all in the 60-90 range.  I’m trying to eat more and more vegetables.  We bought acorn, spaghetti and butternut squashes at the farmer’s market this Saturday.  And less bread. 

 Written by John E Whitcomb, MD   Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic 17585 W North Ave, Suite 160,  Brookfield, WI 53045  262-784-5300 Archives at