We’ve had it drummed into our heads that grains are healthy. In fact how many of you think of the term “heart-healthy” when you see the words “whole grains”? This is because it is written all over cereal boxes, loaves of bread and whole-wheat pasta packages, and before we know it we believe it. The same way a lot of us still believe saturated fats will kill us instantly. Ugh. It’s only in the last couple of years that I decided to bypass all the crap recommendations fed to us by the USDA and big industry, and have started researching this myself.

Luckily there are a few people out there who are finally speaking out about some of the myths we’ve been taught. One of the most informative books I have read recently was a book called “Wheat Belly” by William Davis.

I’d kind of like to print the entire thing out here, but that might take a while, so instead I will pull out a few highlights.

  • The wheat in our diets today does not even closely resemble the wheat from 75 years ago. It has been so cross-bred over the last decades that it is now a completely unrecognizable grain. And none of these modifications were ever safety tested. 5% of the proteins expressed in modern wheat are completely new and can wreak havoc on the body.
  • Modern wheat contains far higher concentrations of the protein Gluten which has been linked with countless diseases. Even low amounts of gluten are damaging in some way to the gut, as it is impossible for the human body to digest. Gluten can affect nearly every tissue in the body, including the brain, skin, endocrine system, stomach, liver, blood vessels, smooth muscles and even the nucleus of cells. Because the range of symptoms associated with gluten intolerance is so broad and nonspecific, many patients and doctors don’t suspect gluten may be the cause. Gluten is such a big topic, so we’ll cover that more specifically some other time, but for now it’s safe to say everyone would do better without it.
  • Wholewheat bread increases blood sugar more than table sugar… just two slices of wholewheat bread have a glycemic index of 72, compared to two tablespoons of pure sucrose, which have an index of only 59. Now we all know sugar is not good for us, but did you know wheat is even worse? Still happy feeding that to your “sugar-free” kids?

wheatBelly_BreadSnickers

  • 75% of the glucose in wheat is Amylopectin A, which is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream causing blood sugar spikes, and massive insulin production which then leads to fat being deposited around the tummy – hence the title “Wheat Belly”
  • This roller coaster of high and low blood sugar leads to insulin resistance which is the precursor of diabetes. Visceral (or tummy) fat also produces estrogen in both sexes, leading to the growth of breast tissue in men – man-boobs anyone?
  • High blood sugar levels increase the numbers of Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) in the body. These are literally responsible for the aging of the body – causing things like stiffening of arteries, cataract formation, arthritis, dementia, kidney dysfunction and even wrinkles. So wheat effectively makes you age faster
  • Wheat stands alone as a food with potential central nervous system effects and has been associated with various mental illness such as schizophrenia, autism, dementia and ADHD
  • Wheat does not only effect people with Celiac disease. Even those with celiac disease do not experience classic symptoms and may not be aware of their sensitivity. Symptoms can include migraines, arthritis, joint pain, depression, fatigue, hypothyroidism, to name but a few
  • Wheat’s unique capacity to stimulate insulin production causes a flood of triglycerides from the liver to enter the blood stream which drives VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) which creates small LDL particles; the most frequent pattern expressed in people with coronary heart disease. So much for saturated fat being the problem!
  • Not only is wheat is a very nutrient-poor food (especially compared to vegetables and meat), but it also contains anti-nutrients called phytates, which actually hinder the absorption of nutrients ingested from wheat and other foods. These phytates grab hold of minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium found in the whole grain, creating an insoluble and undigestible complex. As these nutrients are no longer in a usable form, they are not absorbed into the body—and you don’t get the benefits. So even though many wheat products are fortified with vitamins, eliminating wheat conversely increases the absorption of these vitamins from other food sources.
  • Wheat is addictive. “The protein unique to wheat, gliadin, a component of gluten proteins, is odd in that it is degraded in the human gastrointestinal tract to polypeptides (small proteins) that have the ability to cross into the brain and bind to morphine receptors. These polypeptides have been labeled gluteomorphin or exorphins (exogenous morphine-like compounds) by National Institutes of Health researchers. Wheat exorphins cause a subtle euphoria in some people. This may be part of the reason wheat products increase appetite and cause addiction-like behaviors in susceptible people. It also explains why a drug company has made application to the FDA for the drug naltrexone, an oral opiate-blocking drug ordinarily used to keep heroine addicts drug-free, for weight loss. Block the brain morphine receptor and weight loss (about 22 pounds over 6 months) results. But there’s only one food that yields substantial morphine-like compounds: yes, wheat….
    “To food manufacturers wheat is like nicotine in cigarettes: the best insurance they have to encourage continued consumption.” William Davis

Still want that bagel?

So, that’s just a selection of issues associated with this grain – I haven’t even begun to go into detail here. The more I learn the more I know I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole. I have been wheat free for 2 years now and have seen massive health-improvements and body-composition improvements as a result.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – do you consume much wheat? Have you tried cutting it out?

Further reading:

http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/

http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2011/oct2011_Wheat-The-Unhealthy-Whole-Grain_01.htm

http://chriskresser.com/50-shades-of-gluten-intolerance