Energy for the Brain
Myth Busting

Does the Brain Need Carbs?

In the past, the American Diabetes Association and the nutritionists that subscribe to their dogma would tell diabetics to eat at least 45g of carbs per meal, or 130g of carbs per day. Now, rather than admit they were wrong, the ADA simply states that there is no ideal macro nutrient amount. While this is an improvement, it still begs the question; why did they recommend at least 130g of carbs in the first place? And why do so many organizations and professionals still tell patients that they need to eat tons of carbs?

One of the most common reasons they give is because our brain needs glucose, and since carbohydrates are chains of glucose molecules, we need to eat carbs. This is a half-truth, stemming from an excerpt in the book Dietary Reference Intakes: The essential guide to nutrient requirements.” by the Institute of Medicine. This book is basically a bible in the nutritional world, and just about every recommendation for at least 130g carbs/day, from the WHO to the USDA, references this book as the reasoning.

The Truth Hidden in the Lie

But there is something fishy going on here. When you actually look at the chapter about carbohydrates, it does say in the summary of Chapter 6 on Dietary Carbohydrates and Starches that..

” The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for carbohydrate is set at 130 g/d for adults and children based on the average minimum amount of glucose utilized by the brain. “

Page 265

Yet, when you actually look into the part of this chapter explaining glucose used by the brain, you get a completely different story. While it does say that the brain utilizes 130g of glucose for energy, it also mentions that this glucose does not have to come from carbohydrate. Yes, you read that right. We don’t need carbs for that. In fact, the book mentions point-black that..

” The lower limit of dietary carbohydrate compatible with life apparently is zero, provided that adequate amounts of protein and fat are consumed. “

Page 275

The book goes on to mention indigenous tribes such as the Maasai, a warrior tribe who ate nothing but meat, blood, and milk. It also explains how you actually can get glucose from a process known as gluconeogenesis, and that the brain can get most of it’s energy from ketones via ketosis. It even says the following..

” Nevertheless, even the brain can adapt to a carbohydrate-free, energy-sufficient diet, or to starvation, by utilizing ketoacids [ketones] for part of its fuel requirements. “

Page 277

I don’t think this book could be any more clear. It explains, in the most obvious terms, that your brain doesn’t actually need carbohydrates at all. The very same book that the experts cite in order to spew their high-carb dogma actually refutes that very premise. And this isn’t explained in some random corner of the book, but merely 10 pages after the summary, in the same chapter! Isn’t that insane? It’d be funny if the results weren’t so tragic.

But… why??

Now we are forced to ask: Why do they summarize their findings with a recommendation that completely ignores their own literature? And why do entire organizations base their guidelines on this summary without ever reading into the chapter itself? Is this a simply an ignorant mistake, or something more?

Unfortunately, we may never know. Perhaps you can blame it on the vegetarian bias that has infested nutritional science since it’s inception. Or maybe the supposed experts are just too lazy to read. Either way, we can at least use their own evidence against them. The next time a doctor or nutritionist (or anybody else) tries to tell you that your brain needs carbs for energy, link them this article. Let them know the ridiculous hypocrisy rooted in that statement, and that the very book referenced to support that assumption actually proves it false.

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