A Broken Record
For years my friends have accused me of sounding like a broken record. I keep insisting that diet plays an absolute key role in brain function. I also believe that a diet of highly processed food increases your risk of getting many common brain disorders. David Perlmutter has also promoted this idea in his excellent book “Grain Brain”. This concept relies on the idea that a bad diet causes metabolic problems like obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. After years of suffering from these metabolic curses, your brain takes a hit just like every other organ in your body. There’s only one problem with this scenario—it completely misses the boat.
The Brain Gets Hit First, not Last
I believe that when you eat bad food, your brain is the first rather than the last organ in your body to take a hit. Your brain function goes in the toilet long before you fit into a classical brain disorder like dementia, depression autism or ADHD. These food-induced changes can involve up to 22 brain dysfunction symptoms that will interfere with your ability to function and confuse the heck out of your health care provider. They will likely load you up on diagnostic labels to the point where you have “labelitis”, yet none of the treatments for traditional brain disorders will help you. That’s because what you really have is a new disease that was missed by the medical and scientific communities—Carbohydrate Associated Reversible Brain disorder or CARB syndrome. CARB syndrome is triggered by three dietary elements—excessive fructose mainly form added sugars, high glycemic carbohydrates mainly from grains and excessive omega 6 fatty acids from vegetable oils. Of course this is your typical pizza or other popular forms of processed food.
Finally—The Connection Between Food and Mental Health Hits the Headlines
For years the experts completely ignored the role that diet plays when it comes to brain function and diseases. They were stuck with a flat world model long after people were sailing their ships around the globe. Even though they have yet to understand the CARB syndrome concept, at least they have now acknowledged that food does play a key role in brain disorders. Their “International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research consensus position statement: nutritional medicine in modern psychiatry” is quite revealing. They conclude: “As detailed in our consensus statement, we advocate for the pursuit of an integrative psychiatric model, with diet as a key element. In summary, nutrition and nutraceuticals should now be considered as mainstream elements of psychiatric practice, with research, education, policy, and health promotion reflecting this new paradigm.” Well it’s about time. This is truly a radical departure from the traditional drug-centric approach that Psychiatry has taken in the past–an approach that has miserably failed to help most people with common brain disorders.
Obese Kids Have Brain Dysfunction
We already have the studies showing us that the brain goes south in adolescents with obesity that have yet to develop insulin resistance or other metabolic problems. What are these studies telling us? That highly processed food feeds both fat storage and brain dysfunction at a very early stage of pathology. The CARB syndrome model fits this pathology to a T. If you eat bad food your body will store excessive fat and you will fry your brain—very quickly. In the real world CARB syndrome often gets layered on to other established brain disorders. In other words people end up with major depression and CARB syndrome or autism and CARB syndrome. To do well both conditions need to be treated as I outlined in my paper concerning diet and autism.
Why is it important to understand the underlying pathophysiology of this process? Well for one thing, the cardinal symptom of CARB syndrome is craving sweet and starchy food. Has anyone out there experienced these symptoms? If you have, listen up because your future health may be at stake. Most people eat what they crave. After all, the experts still believe it’s really an issue of calories where 100 calories of jellybeans are equal to 100 calories of broccoli (minus the nutrients of course). In my opinion the issue of all calories being equal has been thrown out the window by nutritional pioneers like Gary Taubes.
Cravings Drive the Pathology
When I treat patients with CARB syndrome I always deal with their cravings. If these cravings are not addressed the patient will absolutely not get better. There are many supplements and even medications that can help to suppress these cravings and I address these issues at my web site. It’s a pretty basic medical approach—in order to successfully treat a medical problem, you need to understand the underlying pathophysiology of the disorder.
The medical and scientific communities are a long way from understanding and accepting the CARB syndrome concept. I am working very hard to change this situation. At least they have taken a baby step and acknowledged that food does indeed affect brain function. Stay tuned.