Max Lugavere sat at the kitchen table across from his mother and made a common request of her. “Please pass the salt.” It should have taken her a fraction of a second to respond, but it took more like four seconds. It was the first sign that something was wrong with his 57-year old mother, who appeared to be otherwise healthy. The bad news arrived a few months later. She was suffering from a form of dementia that was destroying her cognitive function.
Lugavere, a journalist, intuitively knew that his mother’s dementia was not a random event or luck of the draw. She hadn’t pulled the short stick. There was a cause behind her dementia, and he was determined to find out what it was. He put his successful media career on hold and spent the better half of a decade trying to understand the workings of the human brain and his mother’s condition. He devoured the most current scientific research, talked to the leading scientists and clinicians around the world, and visited the country’s top neurology departments.
What Lugavere discovered so shocked him that he felt compelled to write his recently-released book, Genius Foods. In it he shares the primary causes of his mother’s dementia, including some of the everyday foods in most pantries, and why he has dubbed three of those foods silent killers.
- Fast-Burning Carbs
While we’ve all been hearing about the physical damage that sugary beverages and junk food can cause, little has been discussed about the effect these foods have on the brain. And, sadly, many of the foods we Americans eat every day or more harmful than we realize. For example, processed grain products such as crackers, white bread, and instant rice have the same deleterious effect as sugar because they are broken down too quickly, causing a quick rise in blood sugar. Over time, these surges in blood sugar can cause a condition called insulin-resistance, and current research estimates that up to 40% of Alzheimer’s cases are triggered by this chronic elevation of insulin.
- Chemically Processed Oils
Most cooking oils on grocery store shelves go through an assembly-line of chemical processes that make them harmful to the body. For example, canola oil, once marketed as a healthy alternative, produces trans fats and aldehydes. Trans fats are so bad that the FDA banned them, yet this harmful form of fat is still present in many brands. Aldehydes are like poison to the brain, hindering its ability to produce energy. Nearly all commercial oils, including those used in fast-food chains, are chemically processed and, therefore, harmful. Better alternatives include extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and unrefined coconut oil.
- Food Additives
Chemical additives used as emulsifiers are present in dozens of processed foods including coffee creamer and low or non-fat dairy products to give them a smooth texture. Two of the worst include Polysorbate-80 and Carboxymethylcellulose. Research shows that these emulsifiers cause inflammation and disrupt metabolism. Since there is a direct relationship between metabolic dysfunction and Alzheimer’s, Lugavere recommends eliminating these harmful additives altogether.
Throughout the pages of Genius Foods, Lugavere uncovers the stunning link between our dietary and lifestyle choices and our brain health, revealing how the foods you eat directly affect your ability to focus, learn, remember, create, analyze new ideas, and maintain a healthy, balanced mood. He presents ground-breaking science and distills the latest research, including:
- How food is like software for our endlessly capable minds
- How select nutrients can boost working memory and processing speed
- How slowing down the cognitive aging process is just as much about the foods you omit from your diet as the superfoods you consume;
- How easy it is to modulate the quality of your thoughts and mood by food.
Genius Foods is on BrainTap’s recommended list. We consider it a must-read for most Americans, especially given the fact that a recent poll revealed that Baby Boomers fear cognitive decline even more than death!
Here’s to your healthy brain and happy life!