High carbohydrate diets linked to dementia: Eat healthy fats, say experts

Want to reduce your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s? The latest studies show that the key to achieving that goal is simple: Eliminate carbohydrates such as sugar and grains and replace them with healthy fats, reported the Sacramento Bee on Feb. 21.

Spanish researchers evaluated the impact of diets on cognition, dividing study group participants ages 50 to 80 into three different groups:

  • One group ate a Mediterranean-style diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil
  • A second group followed a similar diet but supplement it with extra nuts rather than olive oil
  • The third group consumed a low fat diet with carbohydrates such as whole grains

The results after 6.5 years on these diets: Participants who ate the diet high in extra-virgin olive oil scored best on cognition tests, followed by those who ate nuts. The lowest scores came from those who avoided fat and ate grains.

Mediterranean diets traditionally include healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil, with total calorie intake from fats as high as 40 percent. Also included: Vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes, with moderate to high consumption of fish and seafood and low consumption of dairy and meat. Processed grains are kept to a minimum.

What’s the link between this high fat diet and cognition? Studies show that such diets result in lower blood concentrations of inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein and reduced risk factors for vascular disease such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Both inflammation and vascular disease are known risk factors in dementia and cognitive decline.

Contrasted with such high fat, low carb diets, the standard American diet (SAD) poses risks in its high percentages of processed grains and sugars.

SAD menus result in elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance, causing glycation of proteins.Through this process, glucose molecules attach to proteins, and that’s been associated with reductions in cognitive function.