Devotees of the recent paleo diet craze claim not only reduced body fat, but also increased mental acuity, as one of its benefits. But new research shows that cooked starches—commonly viewed as the most evil of carbohydrates—likely provided the fuel for brains that were growing larger and more sophisticated over time. The key, according to researcher Mark G. Thomas, an evolutionary geneticist at University College London, is glucose (evolution showed sugar to be the ultimate brain food).

Whether our brains need as much sugar today is certainly up for debate—some say fat is the key to a healthy neurological system, others insist it’s protein—but the evolutionary perspective on diet is a fascinating and often overlooked one. Despite the research, it’s probably best to practice—you guessed it—healthy moderation of carbohydrates, fats and protein in your diet. What effects have you noticed carbohydrates having on your brain?

 

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The New York Times: For Evolving Brains, a ‘Paleo’ Diet of Carbs