I have read the first book of David Perlmutter called Grain Brain and also the research on which it is based so I’ve decided to share the best and worst of the book.
Before we start I have to say that I read the Spanish version of the book Grain Brain, so it might not be the same quotes and pages because I was unable to get the full english version of the book. Beside that I tried to make it short but is just that there is so much to talk about. Although there’s some sections that seem contradictory and unfounded, I do recommend to read this book because is time for us to take control of our own health and this book is a good start.
You can find his book here on Amazon:
David is the best seller and scientist known internationally as a leader in the field of nutritional influences in neurological disorders. He also talks about Microbiome Health as Giulia Enders and others in this area. He speaks in a very clear and easy to understand way.
Foods and genetics
Page 19: “Because hybridization and modern genetic technology, the 60 kilos of wheat consumed by the average American each year have almost no genetic similarity or structural or chemical one, which hunters and gatherers of the past could have been found on the road.”
This claim doesn’t have proofs and also is just about American ground. But even though it makes us think because now we know that there are genetically modified foods and those are producing several problems. It is so stupid to assure that genetically modified foods will be good for our health when there’s so many variables to consider at short and long terms. This is why we still do NOT recommend processed or genetically modified foods. Always choose fresh and natural.
Page 20: “Most people like to live as they choose, and when health problems arise, will go to the doctor for a quick solution in the form of a novel pill.”
We are creating a market where we want all fast and easy in the worst areas of our lives. I’m talking about our health. This is why medicaments will never be effective because their purpose is to give a fast and easy solution, and so it will never attack the cause of the illness. We need to change our mentality and to take control of our own health.
Page 40: “As a piece of broken glass, toxic sugar inflicts a lot of damage resulting in blindness, nerve damage, heart disease and -yes, you guessed it – Alzheimer.”
We all know that sugar is bad for our health, even if it’s white or brown, because it can harm our body really badly. Our body is designed to digest natural sugar that you can find in fruits and in honey which came in the right amounts that we need. That’s why the other sugar need to be processed because it’s not real food. I liked Grain Brain because it explains better how bad sugar can be.
Page 66: “In the case of gluten, the ‘tacky’ quality interferes with the breakdown and absorption of nutrients.”
Page 67: “Poorly digested food leaves a pasty residue in your gut, which alerts the immune system to go into action, which eventually detonates an attack on the lining of the small intestine.”
For a fact gluten can complicate digestion and if you already have digestive problems then this is something you should consider. Although gluten is not the only one hard to digest, there are others like meat and cheese. Is because of this that be recommend for a basic diet foods that improve digestion like vegetables, and so every else should be just the addition to the meal. In this way you can improve your digestion when eating gluten products or meat.
In the same way David Perlmutter by the end of the book recommends a max. of 10% gluten products on your diet. Which is easy to get and confirms what I am saying.
Wheat as drug
Page 81: “So this is how your brain behaves when you get your dose of wheat: digestion releases morphine like components that attach to opiate receptors in the brain.”
This is very interesting because it explains our desire of eating wheat products like a drug. If you don’t believe me try to stop eating bread and any other product related to wheat, then you will start thinking about all this foods because your body ask for it like a drug. Definitely this is not good and we should reduce its consumption.
Cholesterol for memory
Page 97: “High levels of cholesterol are associated with better memory function.”
As you can read in the book “Grain Brain” it’s not about fast food cholesterol because that is bad for our health. We need a good source of cholesterol and that you get be eating nuts, avocado, flax seed, fresh fish, olive oil and much more. Cholesterol is really important for our brain and our nervous system.
By the way this includes HDL y LDL which are good transport for cholesterol. The problem remains when you eat sugar (glucose) then LDL oxidises and is because of this that LDL turns bad for our health. So this is something interesting to know. Because the bad one is not the LDL but the sugar that you eat.
Trans fats are the bad ones
Page 112: “Healthy fats like omega 3 and monounsaturated fats reduce inflammation, while hydrogenated and modified fats, which are very common in processed foods, substantially increase inflammation.”
Trans fats harm your body so you should avoid them. The fats that are good are found in natural and fresh foods because otherwise those foods will be processed. By the way inflammation is a natural process of your body to protect you so that’s not the problem, what we should focus on is in the cause of the inflammation.
Saturated fats are good
Page 113: “If you were breastfed when you were a baby, then saturated fats were your main food, because 54% of the fat in breast milk is saturated. All cells in our bodies need saturated fats, which comprise 50% of the cell membrane.”
I’m not sure that the data is correct but for sure this make you think because saturated fats is found in natural and fresh foods which means that our body needs it. So we should stop blaming saturated fats (I was one of them) and focus on sugar (glucose/sucrose) that is in almost every processed food and is really bad for our health.
Vitamin D and Cholesterol
Page 121: “The body produces vitamin D from cholesterol in the skin after exposure to UV rays.”
As it says in the book “Grain Brain” there are several roles for the cholesterol in our body that make it really important.
Page 123: “When you practice an analysis of blood cholesterol, the figure shown in the results actually derived from 75 to 80% of that produced by the body and not necessarily what you’ve eaten.”
With this affirmation we can understand why medical recommendations on nutrition are usually out of place because doctors see exams but not cause and they usually follow protocols so you should take that in mind before listening to their recommendations.
Fresh fruit and its sugar
Page 133: “When we eat fresh fruits, which obviously contain fructose, water and fiber ‘dilute’ the effect of blood sugar.”
This is why fruit’s sugar and honey are much better than processed sugar. As you can see David Perlmutter himself say so. But later he says that we shouldn’t eat fruits without giving any good explanation because he says that fruit has sugar. We know that fruit have a lot of nutrients that improve digestion and so avoid any problems with its sugar levels so there’s no reason to stop eating fruits.
Page 193: “When the baby passes naturally through the birth canal, billions of healthy bacteria bathe him and inoculate him with the right probiotics, whose salutary effect stays with him for life.”
This is very important because there’s a lot of mothers that ignore that and are choosing c-sections even when they could have a natural birth. This could be the worst decisions for the baby and even for the mother. In this book “Grain Brain” is only a reference to this topic but in the next book of Perlmutter he talks much more about this topic. So soon I will be doing a review about that book too.
Page 222: “Research has shown that many of the genetic reactions that bring health and strengthen the brain, and which are activated by caloric restriction, are implemented similarly through fast way, whether for relatively short periods of time.”
This is not something new. Specially in thermal medicine because we use fasts to start a new nutrition, to start treatments and even we use variations of fats like eating only certain fruits and water. But it still remain being something really important so I added it here.
Exercise for the brain
Page 234: “Aerobic exercise not only activates genes linked to longevity but also focuses on the gene encoding BDNF production, which is the brain ‘growth hormone’.”
We do know that doing exercise you can help treating mental problems like depression but in the book Grain Brain, Perlmutter talks about something really interesting about BDNF which has several benefits for our brain health because is related with the creation of new neurons (neurogenesis).
Brain and stomach
Page 259: “When your appetite hormones are not properly behave essentially the brain is disconnected from the stomach.”
Something that start to make sense now is more of a fact which is the relationship between the brain and our digestive organs. This means that when our digestive system get affected then our brain also get affected. Beside this, the book “Grain Brain” talks about leptin resistance which is similar to insulin resistance. And leptin hormone has several roles in our body like control the signals that make us feel full after eating, so when we have leptin resistance it can lead to overweight and other problems.
Gluten Free Products
Page 270: “It’s gluten has been replaced by some other ingredient such as cornstarch, cornmeal or rice, potato or tapioca starch, which can be just as aggressive and raise excess level of blood sugar, in addition that may have residues of gluten.”
This is why is really bad to eat products with the “gluten free” label, unless you can be sure that it’s natural gluten free like Quinoa. Otherwise it will be a processed food that will rise your blood sugar levels and still will have gluten. Although the blood sugar is the worst part of it.
With this I have to make clear that when a talk about gluten free products I’m not talking about fruit and veggies. I’m talking about all those products on any mall with the label “gluten free” that make you think they are good but actually they are not. And again gluten isn’t bad by itself, is the way you consume it. Remember to eat more fruits and veggies. A better digestion is the goal.
Fruit as a threat to health
Page 15: “I will show how fruit and other carbohydrates may represent threats to health with long-term consequences …”
Actually he never did. What he did is to show that sugar (carbs) in fruit are good to consume because of it’s levels of water and fiber. Also he talks that fructose is much better than glucose since it’s digested in the liver and not in the blood. So this claim that he said several times is unjustified. So I keep promoting the consumption of fruit in a daily bases although it shouldn’t be dehydrated and you should vary the types of fruit.
Other pages where he use this claim against fruits: Page 56 and 108.
Eggs and butter
Page 24: “… I recommend you to change your toast in the morning for egg and butter.”
Sure eggs are a great option but butter isn’t. Just remember that butter is a processed food with high levels of sodium and trans fats which Perlmutter himself says that produce inflammation and that are bad for our health. So I don’t know why he recommends butter in the book “Grain Brain” in the first place. Although it is true that we should replace the bread.
I have to add that I do recommend the consumption of whole grain toast because whole grain improve digestion and also by toasting the bread make it easy to digest. The problem is to find real whole grain bread. And if you have doubts choose quinoa bread that is much better.
Page 24: “It also makes no sense to consume antioxidants.”
Every natural food has their own antioxidants so I suppose he is talking about supplements in which case is totally true. Also he talks about that our body produce antioxidants and that it is the best way to have antioxidants. But as I said you can’t avoid eating antioxidants since it’s present in every food.
In page 27 of the book Grain Brain, Perlmutter give us a list of foods that looks like it will harm us to eat them. But I disagree with some of those:
The first one is any kind of bread which I disagree because whole grain toasts are easy digestible so you can have that, also there is quinoa bread which can also be useful.
The second one “is bad to eat more than one fruit per day” and as I have shown he never proof it and so I still recommend fruit as the most nutritious and easy to digest.
The third one is about eating vitamin D supplements. I’m totally against that because our body can produce them when you are healthy although I’m gonna talk more about this later.
Finally he adds cereals. But whole grain cereals have the property of improving digestion so there’s no reason why to stop eating them, although is important to find them in good quality because the ones in supermarkets are usually bad for our health because they are all processed.
Meat and cheese
Page 49: “I will remove the basket of bread, and replace it with other things that you may have been avoiding because you have the false notion that for some reason are bad for you like butter, meat, cheese and the eggs …”
We already talk about butter and eggs. Now is a fact that meat is hard to digest so like gluten it can cause problems in our guts. That’s why is much better to eat fresh fish so do that if you want. And when we talk about cheese, it’s a processed food so it is also hard to digest even though the fresh and white cheese is one of the easiest to digest so you can try that, otherwise don’t bother. The only allegation of Perlmutter for eating this products is because those have fats, and that’s not enough because you can eat daily pizza for it’s fats but that is not good and we all know it.
Page 190: “The good news is that we can reverse many of the symptoms of neurological, psychological and behavioral disorders with a gluten-free diet and supplements such as DHA and probiotics.”
My only problem with this claim and with other related in the book “Grain Brain” is the recommendation of consuming supplements because as I had explained, in the best escenario the supplements are a loss of money and in the worst escenario it’s dangerous for our health. Because our body produce and get this nutrients when you have a good diet and we get it in the right levels. You will never know your daily needs to take the right amount of supplements which means that you will over consume it which also means that the residue will turn into toxins that harm our body. So definitely I do NOT recommend supplements.
Other pages with this reference: Page 232 and 268.
Page 295: “Just load your food in an airtight container and cold or reheated in a microwave to eat it.”
This is an awful recommendation. We always talk about eating fresh and natural foods. If you want to prepare food for later well then get fruits, nuts, whole grains and seeds so you can eat later because those can take like a week and more. Also you don’t need to prepare fruit, just wash it and eat it. Also you can cut vegetables in different containers and leave them in the fridge so you can make your sandwich, salads and others more fast. Whatever you do, don’t use microwave which is the worst way to cook and loose nutrients.
Page 295: “I usually travel with avocados and cans of sockeye. Canned food can become excellent sources of good portable power, as long as you are careful with the products you buy.”
In the first place canned food are filled with lots of preservatives that should be reason enough to avoid them. But beside that when fish is not fresh it produce toxins that reduce the benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids and also it can harm your body. Also the main idea of this book “Grain Brain” is to avoid digestive problems so just ignore this recommendation and avoid canned food because it produce digestive problems. This is why canned food is in the list of the [Worst foods].
Final review: 4.2/5
Well this is my review of the book Grain Brain and I hope you find it useful. I’m reading other interesting books so follow me on social media as @lenusme to know when I publish my reviews.
If you have more doubts about Grain Brain leave them in the comments or through social media.
Without more to add, I wish you an awesome day. Health!