He holds up a large frog.
“How far will you go?”
That is Perlmutter’s kind of joke. He is not joking when he says that carbohydrates, even the whole-grain carbs that many of us think of as the good ones, are the cause of almost every modern neurologic malady. That includes dementia, decreased libido, depression, chronic headaches, anxiety, epilepsy, and ADHD.
“It may seem draconian,” he says, “but the best recommendation I can make is to completely avoid grains.”
“Most grain foods, whether we’re talking about quinoa, amaranth, the very popular grains of the day, the reality is they still are associated with a carbohydrate surge. They have a fairly high glycemic index, meaning that after 90 to 120 minutes, your blood sugar is going to go up, and that is detrimental to the brain.”
Humans consume calories in the form of three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Perlmutter describes the current U.S. diet as 60 percent carbs, 20 percent protein, and 20 percent fat. His ideal is close to that of the Paleo diet: 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein, and 5 percent carbs. He allows for up to 50 to 80 grams of carbs daily, which is about one serving of fruit. The heart of the diet is “good fats like olive oil, avocado, wild fish, organic nuts and nutrient-dense vegetables.”
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David Perlmutter practices in Naples, Florida. He holds a medical doctorate from the University of Miami School of Medicine. He is both a board-certified neurologist and a fellow of the American College of Nutrition—the only person, he says, to have both credentials. He is the medical director of the Perlmutter Health Center and the Perlmutter Hyperbaric Center. His practice is endorsed by Mehmet Oz, “America’s Doctor” (Oprah-appointed), who says he has referred patients to Perlmutter “with wonderful results. He is on the cutting edge and can help change the way we practice medicine.”
Oz’s endorsement also wanders across the jacket of Grain Brain: “An innovative approach to our most fragile organ.”
In large letters at the top of his website, Perlmutter describes himself as an Empowering Neurologist. To my knowledge and his, this is another distinction unique to Perlmutter. This is presumably not to imply that neurologists without this qualifier are not empowering, but that in a specialty plagued by powerlessness in the face of many incurable and barely treatable diseases, he offers power.
In his 2013 book Do You Believe in Magic?, University of Pennsylvania pediatrician Paul Offit wrote about the idea that there is really no such thing as alternative medicine; there is only what is proven to work and what is not. His book meticulously debunks alternative medical myths with science. Offit recounts hundreds of years of history of physicians peddling hope: Max Gerson’s miracle cancer prevention diet in the 1980s, William Koch’s 1940 cancer-curing glycoxide, which turned out to simply be water, and Burzynski’s “urine cure.” (Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski claims to have discovered a unique peptide with anti-cancer properties, which he then, according to his website, “began extracting from human urine, since it was far easier to obtain large amounts of healthy human urine versus healthy human blood. Burzynski began setting up collection containers at state parks, religious institutions, and even prisons. Today, Burzynski synthesizes the chemicals to help your body naturally produce these peptides in his massive 46,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Stafford, Texas”).