The Anti-Carb Dogmatist

Dr. David Perlmutter rails against carbohydrates:

The neurologist and president of the Perlmutter Health Center in Naples, Fla., believes all carbs, including highly touted whole grains, are devastating to our brains. He claims we must make major changes in our eating habits as a society to ward off terrifying increases in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia rates.

After reading Perlmutter’s best-selling book on the manifold evils of carbs, and after talking with supporters and critics of the Paleo diet in the medical community, James Hamblin is unconvinced by the anti-gluten crusader:

Even as someone who was seriously skeptical of Perlmutter’s story, after reading his 336 pages—and watching his whole YouTube channel and most every TV appearance—I have found myself hesitating around grain. His message is so ardently and unwaveringly delivered. That is how one-sided pop-science works, though. [Dr. David] Katz wrote a tongue-in-cheek case that the 1974 advent of the Post-it note was the cause of the obesity pandemic, to show how easily correlations can be spun. If I read 336 pages on the evils of Post-its, I might set our office supply room on fire. …

When a person advocates radical change on the order of eliminating one of the three macronutrient groups from our diets, the burden of proof on them should be enormous. Everything you know is not wrong. Perlmutter has interesting ideas that I would love to believe. I’d love it if a diet could deliver all that he promises. There is value in belief. It’s what the Empowering Neurologist literally markets. His narrative comes with the certainty that you are doing something to save yourself from cognitive decline and mental illness, which is probably the most unsettling of disease prospects. With that belief also comes guilt; an idea that something could’ve been done to prevent a mental illness, when in fact it was bigger than us. To think that every time you eat any kind of carb or gluten, you are putting your mental health and cognitive faculties at risk is, to me, less empowering than paralyzing.