High carb, low protein diets might help your brain stay healthy

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Eating pasta could be good for your brain. [Photo: Getty]

Eating a high carbohydrate diet containing pasta, bread and rice might help your brain stay sharp in later life, according to a new study.

Researchers found a eating pattern which is high in starchy carbohydrates and low in protein could help to stave off dementia.

Dementia is the term for a group of diseases associated with a loss of cognitive function, which affects 850,000 people in the UK according to Alzheimer’s UK. 

A diet where carbohydrates are increased but protein is kept to between 5-10% of calories is associated with healthier brain ageing, said the study published in Cell Reports.

In the study, which was conducted on mice, the subjects were fed a diet with a fixed fat intake but the amounts of starchy carbohydrates and protein were varied.

Mice eating the lower protein diets performed better in problem solving tests, which involve the hippocampus – the region of the brain which governs learning and memory. The hippocampus tends to decline in dementia.

Devin Wahl, author of the study, says: “There are currently no effective pharmaceutical treatments for dementia – we can slow these diseases, but we can’t stop them – so it’s exciting that we are starting to identify diets that are impacting how the brain ages.

Professor David le Couteur, who led the study at the University of Sydney, adds: ““The hippocampus is usually the first part of the brain to deteriorate with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

“However, the low-protein high-carbohydrate diet appeared to promote hippocampus health and biology in the mice, on some measures to an even greater degree than those on the low-calorie diet.”

What are starchy carbohydrates?

Starchy carbohydrates include bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and oats, according to the British Nutrition Foundation.

They are broken down in the body into glucose, providing fuel for our brain and muscles.

High fibre starchy carbohydrates like wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta and brown rice are said to be key components of a healthy diet.

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