Friday, September 25, 2009

Another reason to cut calories

I attended a local event on integrated health last night. The featured speaker was Dr. David Perlmutter, who wrote The Better Brain Book. It wasn't quite what I expected. I thought there would be a short talk and a health fair where you could find out about local integrative medicine resources. Instead, it was a really informative and detailed lecture about the ways that we can prevent and remediate various kinds of cognitive dysfunction: Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and even ADHD. Dr. Perlmutter described treating a child who had been diagnosed at age 4 with severe ADHD with a gluten-free diet, a reduction in sugar, a course of probiotics, and DHA supplements. He also showed some pretty miraculous treatments of Parkinson's patients with an IV supplement. I just searched his blog for the name of the drug but can't find it.

He explained that these cognitive disorders are diseases of inflammation. Inflammation is responsible for the pain of arthritis and has also been implicated in heart disease. Until last night, I didn't realize it was also part of cognitive disorders.

Dr. Perlmutter said obesity is a big contributor to inflammation, because fat can store toxins that contribute to inflammation, plus excess weight is a major cause of Type 2 diabetes, which causes severe inflammation and is destructive to the body and brain. An insulin-dependent diabetic has 4 times the normal risk of contracting Alzheimer's. I didn't really want to hear this, since so many of my family members already have this disease. Still, knowledge is power. This gives me more incentive to follow my food plan and get rid of the excess weight.

He also suggested that people with cognitive disorders get tested for the antibodies associated with celiac disease. Apparently about 1% of the population is sensitive to gluten and the disease doesn't always manifest as G.I. distress. Sometimes it just causes inflammation in the brain that contributes to cognitive disorders like ADHD, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's.

He said that everyone can take four simple steps to protect themselves against these disorders:

  • Reduce calories by 25%. "Since most people eat 33% more calories than they need, this shouldn't be a hardship." My guess is that most people who follow Weight Watchers or other diet plans would be restricting calories by at least that much.
  • Get regular physical exercise
  • Exercise the brain with lifelong learning, games, and puzzles
  • Supplement with DHA (fish oils are one source)
I would have bought the book last night, but there was an incredibly long line. I will probably buy it either online or at a local bookstore. In the meantime, I can work on those four steps.

What strikes me about all of this is that many of these steps are the same steps suggested for healthy aging, good general health, weight maintenance... The main message of last night's talk was that rather than taking prescription drugs (each with its own potential risks) for each individual symptom we have, we should be taking care of our general health in a way that prevents the diseases in the first place.

Now I just need to find a doctor who has the same philosophy. I don't think it's Dr. Pill Pusher.


  1. I really like my Dr and have a long relationship with her but yes, she loves to write prescriptions, you'd think she works on commission.

  2. Why is it that some doctors are that way? I found a nurse practicioner that I love and it makes me WAY more comfortable discussing different options with my health.
    Keep looking until you find the right one. It took me 5 years!

  3. Until America gets on board with this, they ARE going to be taking pills! It's so sad. I don't get it.

  4. The drug you are looking for is glutathion delivered intravenously. Dr Perlmutter has found that the intravenous treatment allows for a level of absorption that does not yet occur in oral meds. He has been working to find an oral formula that works.

  5. This is fascinating information, Jen. Thanks for sharing it - and you're right, I think, that most WW people are indeed cutting their calories considerably. Did he talk about what weight or BMI levels indicate that you're past the danger zone?

  6. Sounds like it was a great presentation. I am all for people trying to prevent illness instead of waiting until they are ill and are stuck having to take a bunch of pills. I personally hate going to doctors who are all about pushing pills. Heck, it's what kept me from going to the doctors for over ten years (yeah so not the best option). Luckily, now I have a doctor who is into prevention and also trying non-pill related treatments first.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07