Is modern wheat killing us?

First, I don’t want to proselytize; I don’t want to become a zealot. “Say not, ‘I have found the truth,’ but rather, ‘I have found a truth.’.” – Kahil Gilbran. I’m nearly as leery of the lone voice as the braying of the herd, though I’d rather be a lone voice than join a chorus.

So, consider or dismiss the following on your own. I believe there is some valid science here, and a lot of anecdotal evidence. I’m certain some of the ills of Industrial Food Production can be observed in every facet of our food. Is your bugaboo milk, meat, sugar, fat, carbs? Perhaps everything that was once healthy is becoming a poison because we’ve already poisoned the globe. Anything that makes us question what we ingest may have some value. (That should apply no less to what we take into our minds.)

Why wheat makes you fat | Wheat Belly

Posted on October 1, 2011 by Dr. Davis

How is it that a blueberry muffin or onion bagel can trigger weight gain? Why do people who exercise, soccer Moms, and other everyday people who cut their fat and eat more “healthy whole grains” get fatter and fatter? And why weight gain specifically in the abdomen, the deep visceral fat that I call a “wheat belly”?

There are several fairly straightforward ways that wheat in all its varied forms–whole wheat bread, white bread, multigrain bread, sprouted bread, sourdough bread, pasta, noodles, bagels, ciabatta, pizza, etc. etc.–lead to substantial weight gain:

High glucose and high insulin–This effect is not unique to wheat, but shared with other high-glycemic index foods (yes: whole wheat has a very high-glycemic index) like cornstarch and rice starch (yes, the stuff used to make gluten-free foods). The high-glycemic index means high blood glucose triggers high blood insulin. This occurs in 90- to 120-minute cycles. The high insulin that inevitably accompanies high blood sugar, over time and occurring repeatedly, induces insulin resistance in the tissues of the body. Insulin resistance causes fat accumulation, specifically in abdominal visceral fat, as well as diabetes and pre-diabetes. The more visceral fat you accumulate, the worse insulin resistance becomes; thus the vicious cycle ensues.

Cycles of satiety and hunger–The 90- to 120-minute glucose/insulin cycle is concluded with a precipitous drop in blood sugar. This is the foggy, irritable, hungry hypoglycemia that occurs 2 hours after your breakfast cereal or English muffin. The hypoglyemia is remedied with another dose of carbohydrate, starting the cycle over again . . . and again, and again, and again.

Gliadin proteins–The gliadin proteins unique to wheat, now increased in quantity and altered in amino acid structure from their non-genetically-altered predecessors, act as appetite stimulants. This is because gliadins are degraded to exorphins, morphine-like polypeptides that enter the brain. Exorphins can be blocked by opiate-blocking drugs like naltrexone. A drug company has filed an application with the FDA for a weight loss indication for naltrexone based on their clinical studies demonstrating 22 pounds weight loss after 6 months treatment. Overweight people given an opiate blocker reduce calorie intake 400 calories per day. But why? There’s only one food that yields substantial quantities of opiate-like compounds in the bloodstream and brain: wheat gliadin.

Leptin resistance–Though the data are preliminary, the lectin in wheat, wheat germ agglutinin, has the potential to block the leptin receptor. Leptin resistance is increasingly looking like a fundamental reason why people struggle to lose weight. This might explain why eliminating, say, 500 calories of wheat consumption per day yields 3500 calories of weight loss.

And, as in many things wheat, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Despite all we know about this re-engineered thing called wheat, eliminating it yields health benefits, including weight loss, that seem to be larger than what you’d predict with knowledge of all its nasty little individual pieces.

Why wheat makes you fat | Wheat Belly

A wheat farmer weighs in on Wheat Belly | Wheat Belly

I have been a wheat farmer for 50 yrs and one wheat production practice that is very common is applying the herbicide Roundup (glyposate) just prior to harvest. Roundup is licensed for preharvest weed control. Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup claims that application to plants at over 30% kernel moisture result in roundup uptake by the plant into the kernels. Farmers like this practice because Roundup kills the wheat plant allowing an earlier harvest.

A wheat field often ripens unevenly, thus applying Roundup preharvest evens up the greener parts of the field with the more mature. The result is on the less mature areas Roundup is translocated into the kernels and eventually harvested as such.

This practice is not licensed. Farmers mistakenly call it “dessication.” Consumers eating products made from wheat flour are undoubtedly consuming minute amounts of Roundup. An interesting aside, malt barley which is made into beer is not acceptable in the marketplace if it has been sprayed with preharvest Roundup. Lentils and peas are not accepted in the market place if it was sprayed with preharvest roundup….. but wheat is ok.. This farming practice greatly concerns me and it should further concern consumers of wheat products.

A wheat farmer weighs in on Wheat Belly | Wheat Belly

Wheatopia | Wheat Belly

Consumption of modern high-yield semi-dwarf wheat leads to:

Weight gain–especially visceral fat in the abdomen, i.e., inflammatory fat
Diabetes, pre-diabetes–via the appetite-stimulating effects of modern gliadin, the blood sugar-raising potential of amylopectin A, and the inflammatory effects of lectins
Hypertension
Joint pain, arthritis–mostly due to lectins, perhaps gluten
Acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, worsening symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
Peripheral neuropathy, cerebellar ataxia, dementia–probably due to gluten
–”High cholesterol“–via increased triglycerides
Migraine headaches–your guess is as good as mine why this occurs!
Depression
Water retention, edema–likely via the increased bowel and vascular permeability of lectins

And those are just the common phenomena. In fact, look at the list above and you will be hard pressed to find someone who is not afflicted with at least one, if not all, of the listed conditions. It means that much of what we do in healthcare treating diabetes, joint pain, acid reflux, etc. is really just treating wheat consumption. We are treating the misguided advice to eat more “healthy whole grains.”

Acid reflux alone afflicts some 60 million people and results in 100,000 hospitalizations every year. In my experience, it’s a rare person who does not obtain total relief from acid reflux with wheat elimination. Eliminate wheat and watch hemoglobin A1c, the value that reflects your previous 60 days of blood sugar, plummet, converting many of the nation’s 28 million diabetics and 70 million pre-diabetics to non-diabetics and non-pre-diabetics.

While we fret about spiraling healthcare costs, the reorganization of healthcare delivery, the deterioration of the health of Americans, there is an incredibly simple and accessible solution to a big chunk of the problem: Eliminate the wheat.

Wheatopia | Wheat Belly

The Gliadin Effect | Wheat Belly

Posted on January 14, 2012 by Dr. Davis

Gliadin is a protein found within wheat gluten. It is, from a cold scientific viewpoint, a fascinating issue, a protean protein capable of incredibly varied biologic effects in humans. Among the things we know about gliadin:

–Gliadin is the most abundant protein in wheat, contained within gluten polymers.
–Gliadin of 2012 is different from the gliadin of, say, 1960, by several amino acids, part of the genetic transformation of wheat introduced to increase yield-per-acre.
–Gliadin is degraded to a collection of polypeptides called exorphins in the gastrointestinal tract. Exorphins cross the blood-brain barrier and bind to opiate-receptors to induce appetite, as well as behavioral changes, such as behavioral outbursts and inattention in children with ADHD and autism, hearing voices and social detachment in schizophrenics, and the mania of bipolar illness.
–People who consume gliadin consume 400 calories more per day; people who remove gliadin reduce calorie intake by 400 calories per day.

Incidentally, antibodies to gliadin are capable of binding to nervous system tissue and may contribute to immune-mediate neurological impairment, such as cerebellar ataxia and gluten encephalopathy. Gliadin, particular the omega fraction, is also responsible for allergic responses, including Bakers’ asthma and the odd wheat-dependent, exercise-induced analyphylaxis (WDEIA).)

The high-yield, semi-dwarf strains of wheat, invented in the 1960s and 1970s, was introduced to North American farmers in the late 1970s, who adopted it over the next decade. By 1985, virtually all wheat farmers were growing this high-yield strain. (Can you blame them? Per-acre yield increased about 10-fold, provided sufficient nitrate fertilizer was applied.)

The Gliadin Effect | Wheat Belly

How sweet it is! | Wheat Belly

But can we blame diabetes on wheat?

Yes, absolutely, as much as you can blame poor oral hygience for toothlessness in West Virginia. There are several reasons why wheat, more than many other food, causes diabetes:

–Any food that increases blood sugar to high levels (i.e., high glycemic index) also increases insulin to high levels. Repetitive high insulin leads to insulin resistance, which leads to visceral fat deposition, more insulin resistance, inflammation, etc., eventuating in diabetes.
–High blood sugar, such as that resulting from eating two slices of whole wheat bread, is toxic to pancreatic beta cells, the cells that produce insulin: glucotoxicity.
–Triglyceride-containing lipoproteins, such as chylomicrons and its remnants, are toxic to pancreatic beta cells: lipotoxicity.
–The gliadin protein of wheat stimulates appetite, causing the unwitting wheat consumer to eat, on average, 400 more calories per day, mostly from carbohydrates. 400 calories per day, 365 days per year . . . that’s a lot of extra calories, a lot of potential weight gain.
–The lectins of wheat (wheat germ agglutinin) are inflammatory, generating inflammation in multiple sites, such as joints, intestinal tract, and endocrine glands. Higher levels of inflammation and its various mediators (tumor necrosis factor, the interleukins, etc.) worsen insulin resistance, worsening the vicious cycle.

Some aspects of wheat (especially gliadin and lectins), of course, became much worse with the introduction of modern high-yield, semi-dwarf strains of wheat, compounded with the advice to cut your fat and eat more “healthy whole grains.” This deadly combination, reaching full volume in 1985, coincided precisely with the beginning of the explosion in diabetes in the U.S.:

Full data from the CDC here. …

High-yield, semi-dwarf wheat was introduced into the U.S. in the mid-1970s, gained wider acceptance by farmers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, such that, by 1985, virtually all bagels, pizza, and bread originated with this darling of agricultural geneticists. The new gliadin of wheat (altered by several amino acids), a more effective appetite-stimulant than its predecessor, “old” gliadin, caused calorie consumption to increase by 400-500 calories per day. Americans gained weight. A several year lag followed before the uptick in diabetes began, as it requires 30,40, 50 or more pounds for most people to exhibit all the hallmarks of diabetes.

How sweet it is! | Wheat Belly

Wheat Belly: Quick and Dirty | Wheat Belly

Posted on October 13, 2011 by Dr. Davis

For everyone who asked for a simplified, essentials-only version of the diet I advocate in Wheat Belly, here it is.

This is the very same diet I advise for patients in my office that achieves spectacular reductions in small LDL particles (the #1 cause of heart disease in the U.S), as well as unraveling diabetic/pre-diabetic tendencies. The diet starts with the biggest step: elimination of wheat. But a healthy diet cannot end there, else you and I could eat no wheat but fill our calories with soft drinks and jelly beans. So the next step is to limit carbohydrates if your goal is to lose more weight and correct metabolic distortions like high blood sugar and small LDL particles.

Eliminate:
All wheat-based products (all breads, all breakfast cereals, noodles, pasta, bagels, muffins, pancakes, waffles, donuts, pretzels, crackers), oat products (oatmeal, oat bran), cornstarch-based products (sauces or gravies thickened with cornstarch, prepared or processed foods containing cornstarch, cornmeal products like chips, tacos, tortillas), sugary soft drinks, candies

Enjoy unlimited:
Vegetables-except potatoes; fresh or frozen, never canned
Raw nuts and seeds-raw almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts, cashews; dry-roasted peanuts (not roasted in oil); pumpkin and sunflower seeds
Healthy oils (unheated)-olive, flaxseed, coconut, avocado, walnut
Meats-red meats, pork, fish, chicken, turkey, eggs. (Consider free-range, grass-fed and/or organic sources.)
Non-wheat grains-ground flaxseed, chia seeds
Teas, coffee, water, unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk or coconut water
Cheeses—real cultured cheeses only (not Velveeta or single-slice processed cheese)
Avocado or guacamole; hummus; unsweetened condiments, e.g., mayonnaise, mustard, oil-based salad dressings; ketchup without high-fructose corn syrup; pesto, tapenades; olives

Limited:
Fruit-No more than 2 servings a day (one serving is a level handful), preferably in this order (best first): berries of all varieties, citrus, apples, nectarines, peaches, melons. Minimize bananas, pineapples, mangoes, and grapes
Fruit juices-only real juices and in minimal quantities (no more than 2-4 oz)
Dairy products-No more than 1 serving per day of milk, cottage cheese or yogurt, unsweetened (Fat content does not matter.)
Legumes/beans; peas; sweet potatoes and yams; rice (white and brown); soy
Dark chocolates-70-85% cocoa or greater; no more than 40 grams (approximately 2 inches square) per day
Sugar-free foods-preferably stevia-containing, rather than aspartame

Wheat Belly: Quick and Dirty | Wheat Belly

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