By Dr. William Davis
(This is a summary of Dr. Davis’s book on modern wheat – which has very helpful suggestions on weight loss, as well as other health issues. I will like to see more studies on this but am impressed enough so far to begin changing eating habits. I will keep you posted as more information develops.)
(A couple paragraphs from a CBS report: Davis said that the wheat we eat these days isn’t the wheat your grandma had: “It’s an 18-inch tall plant created by genetic research in the ’60s and ’70s,” he said on CBS this Morning. “This thing has a new protein in this thing called gliadin protein that is an opiate. This thing binds into the opiate receptors in your brain and in most people stimulates appetite, such that we consume 440 more calories per day.”
“We’re seeing hundreds of thousands of people losing 30, 80, 150 pounds. It’s really a wheat issue.” Davis suggests eating food such as avocados, olives, olive oil, meats, and vegetables. Advocating replacing white enriched products with whole wheat is just something less bad.)
Genetic Modification of Historical Wheat
So, what do we make of all this? “Wheat Belly” by Dr. William Davis, who is a preventative cardiologist, makes some very serious observations about modern wheat grain – even whole wheat grain! In his book, he explains the multi-faceted, widespread and far-reaching problems with the “staff of life” that has come to dominate food chain in many parts of the world. He takes us through the history of the wheat plant from an ancient grain to its current state as a modern, genetically modified grain.
Is there a difference? Dr. Davis explains the difference between hybrid plants, which can result in perfectly healthy foods to eat, vs the hybridization of wheat – which act very differently and may be at the root of many of current health problems.
Dr. Davis also discusses the genetic modification of wheat. He explains to us that “despite dramatic change in the genetic makeup of wheat and other crops, no animal or human safety testing was conducted on the new genetic strains that were created.” (p. 25) “Genetic differences…can make for substantial variation in composition, appearance, and quantities important not to just chefs and food processors, but potentially also to human heath.” (p. 30)
Dr. Davis explains that there are major differences between the physiological response to wheat as we eat it, vs other grains. Davis’ says that the unique structure of wheat’s complex carbohydrate makeup is the major contributor to the blood sugar dis-regulation caused uniquely by wheat and wheat-containing products. The response to wheat is more severe and more problematic than other complex carbohydrate-rich foods and experience blood sugar spikes.
“The complex carbohydrate amylopectin is rapidly converted to glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream and, because it is most efficiently digested, is mainly responsible for wheat’s blood-sugar-increasing effect… Aside from some extra fiber, eating two slices of whole wheat bread is really little different, and often worse, than drinking a can of sugar-sweetened soda or eating a sugary candy bar.” (p. 32,33)
Addictive Eating Behavior
While Dr. Davis spends the beginning portion of the book building a case against wheat for its high blood-sugar and diabetes-promoting effects, he goes on to explain how wheat is at the root of many other forms systemic breakdown as well. He explains how ill-health resulting from wheat consumption is not just all about gluten and other health problems of modern wheat. He also presents case-studies of various patients providing compelling, first-hand testimony to how life-changing simply removing certain foods from the diet can be.
“For some people, wheat is addictive. And, in some people, it is addictive to the point of obsession… Understanding that wheat, specifically exorphins from gluten, have the potential to generate euphoria, addictive behavior, and appetite stimulation means that we have a potential means of weight control: Lose the wheat, lose the weight.” (page. 44)
From schizophrenia, depression and brain fog to cravings and appetite stimulation, it’s Davis’ proposition that wheat is affecting our brains – significantly! But perhaps even more significant is the effect that wheat is having on our waistlines. Combine the addictive properties in the exorphins in wheat with the carbohydrates and fat in refined and processed foods and you have a perfect storm for obesity.
“From the perspective of the seller of food products, wheat is a perfect processed food ingredient: The more you eat, the more you want.” (p. 60) And while we’re upset about the way that we look with a “Wheat Belly,” the real problems are metabolic and systemic. The fat we gain in response to this “heart-healthy food” largely accumulates around our organs. “Visceral fat filling and encircling the abdomen of the wheat belly sort is a unique, twenty-four-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week metabolic factory. And what it produces is inflammatory signals and abnormal cytokines, or cell-to-cell hormone signal molecules, such as leptin, resistin and tumor necrosis factor. The more visceral fat present, the greater quantities of abnormals signals released into the bloodstream.” (p. 61)
A full, clear and detailed description of celiac disease is included in “Wheat Belly,” as it’s the most extremely diagnosed allergy to wheat that exists. Whether or not you have been diagnosed positively, however, Davis explains that presenting with symptoms of gluten allergies or even slight intolerances are affecting our health. While digestive distress and failure to thrive in children had previously been the most obvious effects of Celiac Disease, the affliction may result in no symptoms at all on a regular, daily basis for many years. However, it may present itself later in life as neurological impairment, incontinence, dementia or gastrointestinal cancer.
Some other conditions that are markedly connected to “latent” celiac disease or, as Davis calls it, immune-mediated gluten intolerance. These include dermatitis herpetiformis, liver disease, autoimmune diseases, insulin-dependent diabetes, neurological impairment and nutritional deficiencies.
Worth Keeping Up On
While all of this sounds like a story out of a science-fiction novel or like some sort of complex conspiracy theory, the reality is that we are playing with fire when we consume wheat products. These foods are marketed to us as healthy, but we’ve only seen a decline in health since abandoning traditional foods and saturated fats in animal products for the adoption of wheat and other refined grain products.
Davis’s propositions as to how wheat is negatively impacting our health line up extremely well to many of the principles talked about when adopting a pre-historic, Paleo or primal type of diet that shuns grains all together as any regular part of the diet. By doing so, we can more easily manage insulin and other metabolic hormones in the body, maintain proper pH levels, slow aging, decrease risks of heart disease, keep your brain thinking clearly and your waistline looking attractive.
Dr. Davis sets us up with a a 7-Day Wheat-Free meal plan including recipes at the end of the book. There are a few dietary recommendations that I would not agree with, but overall the plan looks mostly like a standard Paleo diet. The items I would not want someone to include are artificial sweeteners and American tofus.
As much as putting down the bagels sounds difficult (or nearly impossible) at first, it does get easier- especially when a healthier, happier and EASIER life awaits on the other side. If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not giving up wheat might benefit your health, I highly recommend reading this book. I would also recommend it if you’re ever faced with trying to educate someone else as to the powers of this seemingly innocuous food formerly known as the “staff of life.” Dr. Davis would probably agree with what Robb Wolf calls genetic wheat: “Satan’s excrement.”