The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers
Introduction: Against the Grain: Maintaining order rather than correcting disorder is the ultimate principle of wisdom. To cure disease after it has appeared is like digging a well when one feels thirsty, or forging weapons after the war has already begun. —HUANGDI NEIJING, 2ND CENTURY BC
IF YOU COULD ASK YOUR GRANDPARENTS or great-grandparents what people died from when they were growing up, you’d likely hear the words “old age.” Or you might learn the story of someone who got a nasty germ and passed away prematurely from tuberculosis, cholera, or dysentery. What you won’t hear are things like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and dementia. Since the mid-twentieth century, we’ve had to attribute someone’s immediate cause of death to a single disease rather than use the term “old age” on a death certificate. Today, those single diseases tend to be the kind that go on and on in a chronic, degenerating state and involve multiple complications and symptoms that accumulate over time. Which is why eighty- and ninety-year-olds don’t usually die from a specific ailment. Like an old house in ongoing disrepair, the materials weather and rust, the plumbing and electrical falter, and the walls begin to crack from tiny fissures you cannot see. Throughout the home’s natural decline, you do the needed maintenance wherever necessary. But it will never be like new unless you tear the structure down and start over again. Each attempt at patching and fixing buys you more time, but eventually the areas in desperate need of a total remodel or complete replacement are everywhere. And, as with all things in life, the human body simply wears out. An enfeebling illness sets in and slowly progresses at an excruciating pace until the body finally goes kaput.
This is especially true when it comes to brain disorders, including the most dreaded of them all: Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a modern medical bogeyman that’s never far from the headlines. If there is one health worry that seems to eclipse all others as people get older, it’s falling prey to Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia that leaves you unable to think, reason, and remember. Research shows how deep this angst runs. In 2011, a study conducted by Harris Interactive for the MetLife Foundation showed that 31 percent of people fear dementia more than death or cancer. And this fear doesn’t just affect older people.
There are plenty of perpetual myths about the basket of brain-degenerating maladies that includes Alzheimer’s: It’s in the genes, it’s inevitable with age, and it’s a given if you live into your eighties and beyond.
Not so fast.
I’m here to tell you that the fate of your brain is not in your genes. It’s not inevitable. And if you’re someone who suffers from another type of brain disorder, such as chronic headaches, depression, epilepsy, or extreme moodiness, the culprit may not be encoded in your DNA. It’s in the food you eat.