Carbohydrates & Your Brain

Providing your brain with the right fuel is a foundational step to maintaining and improving your brain health. But with all of the diet advice out there, it can be difficult to figure out what is good for your brain – and what isn’t. Keep reading for sound nutrition advice that you can implement today.

It is well accepted that elevated blood glucose levels and insulin resistance are risk factors for cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Glucose primarily comes from the digestion and metabolism of carbohydrates – grains, starchy vegetables, fruit, and sugar.

When you eat carbohydrate and the glucose enters your bloodstream, it relies on insulin to get into the cell. Unfortunately, as people age, insulin often doesn’t work as well – deemed insulin resistance – which can negatively affect your body as well as your brain.

While this doesn’t mean that you have to avoid carbohydrates altogether, it does mean that you need to pay closer attention to how the types and amounts of carbohydrates you are eating may affect your health:

    In a 2017 review of 135,335 adults 35-70 years of age, higher carbohydrate intake was associated with increased risk of total mortality. Conversely, higher total fat intake was associated with decreased risk of total mortality, a finding that remained for both saturated fat and unsaturated fat independently.

    In a study of 937 cognitively normal people 70-89 years of age, the risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia was 2 times greater for those that consumed greater than 58% of their calories from carbohydrate, when compared with those that consumed less than 47% of their calories from carbohydrate.

Overall, this and other research suggests that consuming smaller amounts of carbohydrate is an important step to protecting your brain. As discussed in earlier articles, Fat For Your Brain and Eat Your Vegetables, increasing the amount of healthy fat and variety of vegetables you consume are the best ways to fuel your brain every day.

Watch for an upcoming blog, Carbohydrates – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, which will review carbohydrate sources and dietary recommendations in more detail.

For more information on how diet and other lifestyle factors affect cognitive health, visit

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