I received an email from “Dave” of Paleohacks (click here) that provides an excellent scientific perspective on the effects of modern wheat on health. How many times have I wrapped my Pharisaical tea-totalin’ robes around my Wheat belly and looked with some measure of superiority at guys with “beer bellies” throwin’ back cold brews — not realizing that the “bellies” stem from the same grains. Whether we eat our grains from “healthy” whole wheat toast, or corn chips, or a “nutritious” granola bar, or even in zero calorie sweeteners (maltodextrin), or drink them as a “fine” ale or “smooth” rye whiskey, it’s the grains that do the damage. Add sugar, as in Twizzlers (wheat) and we get a double bang for inflammation and un-health. Processed food giants put wheat in many products because its naturally addictive opiates keep us coming back for more. Here’s a great summary of the science behind the un-health of grains.
Is Modern Wheat Making You Fat and Sick?
Our hunter gatherer ancestors collected all they could from the ground for food including insects, berries, nuts, etc.
In their gathering, they found that the animals were eating grass, and they became curious. They broke it down and somehow incorporated wild wheat into their diet.
This grass was called Einkorn and had only 14 chromosomes.
Plants can mate with each other and combine chromosomes. At some point in time, the wild grass Einkorn mated with another type of wild grass and the offspring Emmer ended up with 28 chromosomes – this is the wheat that is mentioned in the Bible. However, this is not the wheat of today, that is for sure.
In the Middle Ages bread was a staple and very common food. Emmer mated with another grass which contributed more chromosomes to result in Spelt, Triticum landraces with 42 chromosomes.
In 1960, when the threat of world population explosion was imminent, there was an investment made in agricultural research where lots of money and time were devoted to new ways to increase wheat yield.
At this time, different strains of wheat were crossed over and over again to select certain characteristics and to introduce unique genes.
The resulting wheat yielded up to 10 times more per acre.
When this wheat was introduced to many third world countries, famine was greatly reduced within one year. Dr. Norman Borlaug received the Nobel Peace prize for his work creating this high yield strain of wheat.
Because this wheat is so prolific, it has taken over almost all of the world’s wheat supply.
There are also about a million acres of what is known as Clearfield Wheat being grown in the Pacific Northwest.
It is a semi dwarf strain of wheat that has had its seed and embryos exposed to a chemical, sodium azide, which is an industrial toxin.
The makers of Clearfield wheat claim that their wheat is a result of “enhanced, traditional plant breeding techniques,” making a distinction between genetically modified wheat.
However, although no gene splicing techniques were used, many other methods were, such as the purposeful induction of mutations using chemicals, high dose x-ray and radiation techniques to induce mutations coupled with cross breeding.
These methods might be far worse than genetic modification, according to Dr. William Davis, author of the book Wheat Belly.
♦ The government says eat more wheat – what is up with that?
The government tells us that we need to eat more grains, which generally means more wheat.
In the food pyramid, we are advised to eat 60% of calories from grains like wheat. The new food plate design also tells us to get at least 1/4 of our calories from wheat.
Here is why we need to stop listening to what our government is telling us about the food pyramid:
♦ Modern Wheat is a Serious Appetite Stimulant
It is estimated that up to 10% of the population has a sensitivity to the protein in wheat known as gluten (some estimate it may be higher, closer to 30%). However, the other 90% of people who consume wheat really should not be eating it either.
Here are a few reasons why:
Gluten is a two part protein that is comprised of gliadin plus glutenin.
Glutenin has a unique elasticity that gives us the ability to stretch our pizza or bread dough or even spin it over our heads, if we are inclined to do so.
Gliadin, the other part of the gluten protein, was heavily studied in the 1970′s by psychiatrists who found that if they took all of the wheat out of the diet of their patients with schizophrenia, they improved markedly. When they put the wheat back, they found that the condition worsened.
So the question asked was, what was in bread that led schizophrenics to hallucinate? It was traced back to the gliadin protein which, when ingested, enters the brain and binds to opiate receptors where it stimulates appetite.
In addition, gliadin, acting like an opiate in the brain, has other disastrous effects. For example, people with ADHD become hypersensitive and have behavioral outbursts, people with schizophrenia have major hallucinations, people who are bipolar become increasingly manic and those with eating disorders, such as binge eating, will develop food obsessions.
By 1985, everything at the supermarket with wheat in it came from the prolific semi-dwarf strain or a spinoff.
Interestingly enough, if you compare what happened to America’s weight prior to and after 1985 it is evident that there was an obesity explosion that is still happening today shortly after the “new” wheat was introduced.
[RY note: What is so desirable about “grain-fed beef”? To producers, it fattens up cows much faster than pasture grazing. To consumers, it produces well-marbled cuts of beef. Grains produce rapid weight and fat gains in cows, and humans. Fat does not make us fat as theorized (but never studied) in the 1970s. Carbohydrates like refined sugar and grains make us fat.
A huge increase in the number of diabetics also followed. Although cause and effect cannot be proven scientifically – it seems evident that we have all been fed an appetite stimulant.
♦ Modern Wheat Destroys Blood Sugar
Two slices of whole wheat bread raise blood sugar higher than 6 teaspoons of table sugar.
How does this happen when whole wheat is considered a complex carbohydrate that we are encouraged to eat more of?
The complex carbohydrate of wheat is called Amylopectin A, which is highly sensitive to amylase, which we have in our stomach and mouth.
This makes it very easy to digest and raises blood sugar rapidly — even more rapidly and to a higher extent than pure table sugar.
Wheat for breakfast, wheat for lunch and wheat for snacks results in visceral fat that encircles the intestines, heart, liver and kidneys.
Repetitive high blood sugar over and over results in what Dr. Davis calls a “wheat belly.”
♦ Modern Wheat Causes Inflammation
When bacteria or a virus enters the body our immune system responds in many ways.
Plants do not have the same type of immune system, but they have lectins which are proteins that are toxic to mold, fungi and insects.
Some lectins are benign to humans like the lectin found in spinach while some are very toxic. The lectin in wheat (Wheat Germ Agglutinin) is a four part complex molecule.
When this lectin is isolated and given to rats in very small amounts, it destroys the small intestine. Average Americans consume about 10-20 mg of the wheat lectin in a day, that’s enough to do significant damage.
When we consume wheat the gliadin protein unlocks the normal intestinal barrier and allows foreign substances entry into the bloodstream – substances such as wheat lectin.
This is why people who eat wheat have autoimmune and inflammatory distress such as joint inflammation, bowel inflammation, acid reflux, inflammation of the brain, inflammation of the airways etc.
In fact, there is not one system that escapes the inflammatory assault of wheat.
♦ What Happens When We Remove Wheat From Our Diet?
First of all, taking wheat out of the diet is not as easy as might think – it is in a lot of foods – even ones we would not associate with having wheat.
For example, wheat is in Twizzlers, Campbell’s Tomato Soup, taco seasoning, frozen dinners, cereals, salad dressings, granola bars and a lot more.
Why is there wheat in so many products?
In 1960, we could find wheat only in things where we would expect to find wheat – breads, pastas, pancake mix, etc. Today is an entirely different story – wheat is in all kinds of foods where we would not expect to find it.
Is it possible that food manufacturers know a little something about wheat as an appetite stimulant (on top of the fact that is it heavily subsidized by our government and therefore artificially inexpensive)?
♦ Impact of a Wheat-Free Diet
Dr. Davis tells us that taking wheat [extended to “all grains” in his 2nd ed*] out of the diet will result in the following:
- Improved weight loss
- Reduced appetite
- Lowered blood sugar
- Reduced joint pain
- Reduced inflammation
- Improvement in cognitive function
- Reduced anxiety
- Reduced food obsessions
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced triglycerides
- Increased energy
- Improved sleep
♦ What About Gluten-Free?
Although going gluten free is a good thing because you avoid problems with gluten and gliadin, wheat germ agglutinin and amylopectin A, gluten-free foods contain other potentially harmful ingredients, mainly potato starch, rice starch, tapioca starch and corn starch.
These are the only foods that raise blood sugar almost just as high as the amylopectin A found in wheat.
Warning: If you choose to be gluten free, avoid the commercial gluten free products, at least until you educate yourself on the differences between the various gluten free products on the market.
(Dave’s note: If you choose gluten-free products, look for products made from nut flours, coconut flour, and bean flours as opposed to rice flours, tapioca, corn and potato starch… my good friend Kelley Herring shows you how to make amazing gluten-free and low-carb desserts here, which all use healthy low-carb, high-fiber flours and natural sweeteners instead of the blood sugar disasters that are most gluten-free products on the market today)**
♦ What Can I Eat?
Eat real, single ingredient non-grain foods as much as possible.
You can focus most of your diet on nuts, healthy fats, organic fruits/vegetables, grass-fed beef, organic chicken and turkey, wild caught salmon, organic eggs, coconuts, avocados, seeds, olive and hemp oils as well as a variety of other foods that are in their natural state.
The more processed and refined a food is, the more likely it contains wheat and other byproducts of the refinement process that are just too dangerous to your health.
-The Alternative Daily
*Wheat is the worst offender. In his second edition of Wheat Belly Total Health, Davis extends the restriction to all grains – even the highly touted quinoa (which is promoted as “more healthy” because it is high in protein). Eating oats and quinoa rather than wheat is like smoking low-tar vs. regular cigarettes – the nicotine is still addictive and the tar is still enough to cause cancer. Better not to smoke at all (ie, better to eliminate grains (and refined sugars) altogether.
Inflammation (caused by the oxidation of glucose derived from sugar, grains, and to a lesser extent, excess protein) is the root cause of diabetes, dementia, and cancers.
When carb intake is limited to less than 50 per day (Wheat Belly) or less than 20 per day (Nutritional Ketosis), inflammation decreases immediately throughout the body, making the long-term diseases it causes less likely to develop. The obvious tangible indicator of decreasing inflammation is the drop in fasting blood glucose levels. The goal is 70-90. (After 14 months, I maintain fasting blood glucose between 105-110, so I still have insulin resistant problems . . . but I’m continuing to heal as I stay away from sugars and grains.
** “Dave” of Paleohacks Blog ~ http://blog.paleohacks.com/start-here/
The Paleo diet shares the “no grains” pledge with Wheat Belly (Carbs < 50g per day) and Nutritional Ketosis (Carbs < 20g per day. moderate (70-90 g) protein).