Is A High Carb Diet Good For Older Brains?

Foods high in carbohydrate on wooden background.

Research published in the November 20, 2018 issue of Cell Reports suggests a potential benefit for a diet low in protein and high in complex carbohydrates in older individuals.

Acting on the findings of a study conducted in 2015 at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre which revealed that a low-protein, high- carbohydrate diet was as effective as a calorie restricted diet in regard to extending the life of mice, Professor of Geriatric Medicine David G. Le Couteur and colleagues evaluated the effects of three unrestricted low-protein, high-carbohydrate diets and a control diet on the brain’s hippocampus, which is an area involved in memory and learning. “The hippocampus is usually the first part of the brain to deteriorate with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s,” Professor Le Couteur observed. “However, the low-protein high-carbohydrate diet appeared to promote hippocampus health and biology in the mice, on some measures to an even greater degree than those on the low-calorie diet.”

“There are currently no effective pharmaceutical treatments for dementia – we can slow these diseases, but we can’t stop them – so it’s exciting that we are starting to identify diets that are impacting how the brain ages,” enthused lead author and PhD candidate Devin Wahl. “We have close to 100 years of quality research extolling the benefits of calorie restriction as the most powerful diet to improve brain health and delay the onset of neurodegenerative disease in rodents. However, the majority of people have a hard time restricting calories, especially in Western societies where food is so freely available.

It shows a lot of promise that we have been able to replicate the same kind of gene changes in the part of the brain responsible for memory that we also see when we severely restrict calories.”

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