Carbohydrates are not only good for your brain, but, if they’re the right kind, they may also assist you in living a longer, more productive life without succumbing to dementia. This is the premise of The Mindspan Diet, by Preston Estep III, Ph.D., the Director of Gerontology and advisor to the Genome Project. While researching his book, reports Innovatinghealth.org, the CDC told Dr. Estep that they believed dementia was the “sixth biggest killer in the developed world.” Estep takes issue with that assessment. He believes that dementia “kills more people than cancer,” yet admits that the current state of medicine doesn’t have a way to “measure [dementia] accurately and how pervasive it is.”
Dr. Estep utilized his vast experience in neuroscience, genetics and analytics to compile health statistics of populations around the world with two metrics in mind — life expectancy and the impact of cognitive decline on that life. As reported by the New York Post, Dr. Estep invented the phrase “the mindspan elite” to describe countries that have long life spans paired with low instances of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Japan is a top “mindspan elite,” followed by “Mediterranean France, Italy, Spain and Costa Rica.” When Estep compared the foods eaten by these nations, he discovered that bread, rice and pastas comprised 50 percent of their diets.
But these carbohydrate laden products are vastly different then the “highly enriched” breads and pastas consumed in the U.S., which Estep labels a “mindspan risk” country, due to the increasing rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s. America’s enriched pasta, rice and breads contain three times the iron as the non-enriched staples consumed by the “mindspan elites” in Costa Rica, Mediterranean France and Japan. “Substantial amounts of iron and other metals,” says Dr. Estep, are in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Estep is also concerned about the iron content in animal proteins. The high incidences of Alzheimer’s in the United States, the United Kingdom and parts of Northern Europe, which are known for high meat consumption, could “result in high body stores of iron [and] are likely a primary reason they have such a high dementia burden.”
For those concerned about diabetes risks due to an increase in carbohydrates from the breads and pastas, Dr. Estep told The Daily Mail that it’s iron, not carbohydrates, that “triggers an even greater insulin release than high GI (glycemic index) carbs.” Additionally, the insulin response to red meat is “almost double that of fish, and more than double that of pasta.”
Suggested foods to incorporate into your diet that will assist you in becoming a “mindspan elite,” include long-grain brown rice, Thai jasmine rice, basmanti white rice, parboiled long-grain rice, semolina wheat pasta and couscous. Breads, if possible, should be made from scratch with flour that has not been enriched with iron.
Oats are also included, but limit consumption to three times per week. Refined barley is also on the list, as are lentils, peas, sweet potatoes, hummus and beans, especially pinto beans.
Olive oil is “another common denominator of the mindspan elite,” Dr. Estep told the New York Post, because of its monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) content, which “has been linked to a decreased risk for breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. . . weight loss and lowering cholesterol.”
Dr. Estep has turned a few heads with his findings but he stresses he began with an open mind, and had no agenda to “favor bread over beef.” He was merely following the evidence of what the people who lived the longest, and had the lowest rates of dementia, were eating.
Related: Avoid food toxins and live longer by reading Food Forensics today.