For years I have been recommending to people with intestinal imbalance—especially Candida overgrowth—a diet that avoids sugar and starchy carbohydrates. As it turns out, this diet is beneficial for much more than intestinal imbalance. A diet low in starchy carbohydrates and sugars has been found to be protective against certain conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and, according to a new study from the Mayo Clinic, cognitive impairment (a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease).

The researchers of this study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found that among 937 healthy subjects with normal brain function at the beginning of the study, 200 developed dementia or mild cognitive impairment by the end of the four-year study. Those subjects who ate a diet with a high percentage of carbohydrates were at greater risk of developing mild cognitive impairment or dementia, while those subjects who ate a diet with a higher percentage of fat and protein (and thus, lower percentage of carbohydrates) were at decreased risk. “This was a bit of a surprise,” stated lead author Rosebud Roberts, “I thought the big problem would be eating too little protein.”

Those people who got most of their calories from pasta, rice, bread, and other starchy carbohydrates were at higher risk, while those people who ate plenty of protein such as chicken or fish lowered their risk by 21 percent, and those who had a high fat intake from oils and nuts lowered their risk by 42 percent. Roberts said the culprit appears to be the sugar that is created when carbohydrates are digested. “Sugar fuels your brain, so you need some carbohydrates, but too much may stop the brain from using sugars effectively.”

This study is in line with my own recommendations in my latest PBS special and book; both called Heart of Perfect Health. A healthy diet that helps reduce silent inflammation—the underlying cause of most, if not all, chronic disease, including Alzheimer’s and heart disease—is one that is full of non-starchy vegetables and fruit, healthy fats, lean proteins, nuts, and seeds. Take notice of the foods you eat this week and if you find your carbohydrate intake is high, take steps to reduce it.