Warning: Sugar and Wheat Will Make Your Brain Swell

Dr. David Perlmutter

Dr. David Perlmutter

In the 1973 Woody Allen movie Sleeper, we follow the travails of Miles Monroe, jazz musician and owner of the Happy Carrot Health Food Store. Miles dies in 1973, but he is reanimated two hundred years later into a crazy dystopian future. Miles is the victim of unauthorized cryropreservation. (Don’t you just hate it when that happens.) Anyhow, Miles is taken in by Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton) and her wacky band of radical chic revolutionaries. Sleeper is one of Allen’s funniest movies, with none of the Bergmanian angst of the writer/director’s later movies. (I’m not suggesting that Allen’s early movies were necessarily better than his later ones, just funnier. Crimes and Misdemeanors, a dark and brooding “later” Woody Allen film, is a masterpiece.)

At one point in their struggles against the risibly inept future totalitarian power structure, Miles complains to Luna that he misses his old life running The Happy Carrot. Luna attempts to disabuse Miles of his nostalgia by telling him that his so-called health food wasn’t really good for people and in the future science has proven that the healthiest thing we can eat is “deep-fried fat.”

It’s easy for Woody Allen to have fun lampooning the health food craze.  For one thing, the list of unhealthy foods just keeps growing and mutating: Red meat, processed food, eggs, pork, butter, sugar, gluten, dairy, saturated fat, corn syrup, sodium, margarine, cheese, cholesterol, fried food, barbecue, preservatives, seafood, soda, pasta, junk food.

Remember when eggs were supposed to be really bad for you? Now not so much. And fat used to be bad, but now we have good fat and bad fat.  It’s all so confusing.

Anyhow, several months ago I was eating cookies and doing housework and watching Public Television (I’m such a multi-tasker) when a man came on the tv and told me that my cookies were going to make my brain swell and probably give me Alzheimer’s Disease someday. (It’s not as crazy as it sounds; Americans who live to be eighty-five have a fifty percent chance of getting Alzheimer’s.)

That man’s name is Dr. David Perlmutter, and he convinced me that sugar is poison and wheat isn’t food.

So I gave up my cookie and chocolate habit and I quit eating bread, burritos and pasta. Life without bread is sort of weird. Bread is almost synonymous with food in our culture. When Jesus teaches his disciples to pray that God should “Give us each day our daily bread” (Luke 11:2) bread is not merely a metonym for all food but for spiritual sustenance as well. Jesus makes a similar analogy in Matthew 4:4. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

I didn’t go the full-Perlmutter; I still eat some carbs–some rice and potatoes and corn tortillas.  But I lost thirty pounds in a few months.  I was as skinny as I had been in college, down to a thirty-two inch waist. All my pants were falling down, so I got some new ones.  Then I gained back about ten pounds as my body adjusted to the new diet.  Unless disco comes back, I probably won’t be wearing those thirty-two inch waist pants any time soon.

People tell me I look good and I feel great; my moods and my energy levels are much more consistent.


by Richard W. Bray

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