Food Friday: Grandpa, Don’t Eat That Bread

Old Man of Lisboa

A new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, shows that older people who eat a lot of carbs have nearly four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s.

All I can say is, thank goodness my Italian grandmother never lived to hear about this. The woman ate pasta about four times a week and bread every day her life and lived to her 90’s, still sharp as a tack.

Yet, as the study shows, there might be a link between high carb intake and MCI. Study participants who ate the most carbs showed early signs of cognitive impairment including problems with memory, language, and thinking and judging. The study’s lead author said that although not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s, many will. Currently, Alzheimer’s affects over 5 million US adults, so researchers are keen to find ways to stop MCI from progressing.

The study also found that those with diets highest in fats (nuts and healthy oils) were 42% less likely to get cognitive impairment. And those with the highest protein diets (chicken, meat, fish) had a 21% reduced risk.

So what does this mean for you?

  • It doesn’t mean carbohydrates cause dementia or Alzheimer’s. More studies need to be done to determine causality.
  • Don’t throw away all your pasta and bread. Like most things in life, moderation is key. The American Diabetes Association has some good information on carb counting and serving size.
  • Eat as many non-starchy vegetables as possible, including broccoli, Swiss chard, spinach, and salad greens, which are some of the healthiest carbs you can eat.
  • Remember, that many different foods contain carbs including less healthy crackers, chips, and pastries as well as healthier milk, yogurt, and beans. So rather than banish carbs from your diet, choose smart, healthy carbs like these recommended from The Harvard School of Public Health. You might also like to read WebMD’s article on “Good Carbs, Bad Carbs,” and why they matter to you.

Photo credit: FCC, KevinPoh

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