and grain-based foods are all around us. We love our bagels, pasta,
bread and breakfast cereals. For many, the thought of eliminating these
staples from our diets seems wholly unreasonable, if not ludicrous. But
a growing number of people are switching to wheat-free diets — and for
very good reason. As science is increasingly showing, eating wheat
increases the potential for a surprising number of health problems.
Here's why you should probably stop eating wheat.
Without a doubt, wheat plays a major role in our diets. It supplies about 20 percent of the total food calories worldwide, and is a national staple in most countries.
as is well known, some people, like those with celiac disease, need to
stay away from it. The problem is that their small intestine is unable
to properly digest gluten, a protein that's found in grains. But wheat
is being increasingly blamed for the onset of other health conditions,
like obesity, heart disease, and a host of digestive problems,
including the dramatic rise in celiac-like disorders.
So what's going on? And why is everybody suddenly blaming wheat?
answer, it appears, has to do with a whole lot of nastiness that's
present in grain-based foods. Wheat raises blood sugar levels, causes
immunoreactive problems, inhibits the absorption of important minerals
and aggravates our intestines.
And much of this may stem from the fact that wheat simply ain't what it used to be.
Indeed, today's wheat is a far cry from what it was 50 years ago.
in the 1950s, scientists began cross-breeding wheat to make it hardier,
shorter, and better-growing. This work, which was the basis for the
Green Revolution — and one that won U.S. plant scientist Norman Borlaug
the Nobel Prize — introduced some compounds to wheat that aren't
entirely human friendly.
As cardiologist Dr. William Davis noted in his book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health,
today's hybridized wheat contains sodium azide, a known toxin. It also
goes through a gamma irradiation process during manufacturing.
as Davis also points out, today's hybridized wheat contains novel
proteins that aren't typically found in either the parent or the plant,
some of which are difficult for us to properly digest. Consequently, some scientists now suspect
that the gluten and other compounds found in today's modern wheat is
what's responsible for the rising prevalence of celiac disease, "gluten
sensitivity," and other problems.
doubt, gluten is a growing concern — and it's starting to have a serious
impact on our health, and as a result, our dietary choices.
is a protein composite of gliadin and glutenin that appears in wheat as
well as other grains like rye, barley, and spelt. It's also what gives
certain foods that wonderful, chewy texture. Gluten also helps dough to
rise and keep its shape.
The problem, however, is in how it's metabolized. According to Alessio Fasano, the Medical Director for The University of Maryland's Center for Celiac Research, no one can properly digest gluten.
"We do not have the enzymes to break it down," he said in a recent interview with TenderFoodie.
"It all depends upon how well our intestinal walls close after we
ingest it and how our immune system reacts to it." His concern is that
the gluten protein, which is abundant in the endosperm of barley, rye,
and wheat kernels, is setting off an aberrant immune response.
Specifically, the gliadin and glutenin are acting as immunogenic anti-nutrients.
Unlike fruits, which are meant to be eaten, grains have a way of
fighting back. They create an immunogenic response which increases
intestinal permeability, thus triggering systemic inflammation by the
immune system, what can lead to any number of autoimmune diseases,
including celiac, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and so
also believes that gliadin degrades to a morphine-like compound after
eating, what creates an appetite for more wheat; his claim, therefore,
is that wheat actually has an addictive quality to it.
When someone has an adverse reaction, it's because gliadin cross talks
with our cells — what causes confusion and a leak in the small
intestines. Fasano explains:
The effects of gluten and gliadin clearly vary from person to person. But as a recent study
showed, nearly 1.8 million Americans have celiac disease, and another
1.4 million are likely undiagnosed. And surprisingly, another 1.6
million have adopted a gluten-free diet despite having no diagnosis.
addition, it's estimated that about 18 million Americans have
"non-celiac gluten sensitivity," which results in cramps and diarrhea.
Wheat also raises blood sugar. As Davis notes, the glycemic index of wheat is very high (check out this chart from Harvard to see how various foods rank).
It contains amylopectin A, which is more efficiently converted to blood
sugar than just about any other carbohydrate, including table sugar.
two slices of whole wheat bread increases blood sugar levels higher
than a single candy bar. Overdoing the wheat, says Davis, can result in
"deep visceral fat."
Wheat can also trigger effects that aren't
immediately noticeable. Small low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles
form after eating lots of carbohydrates — which are responsible for
atherosclerotic plaque, which in turn can trigger heart disease and
stroke. And in fact, it has been shown that a wheat-free diet can improve glucose tolerance in individuals with ischaemic heart disease.
which are a class of molecules, can be found in beans, cereal grains,
nuts, and potatoes. And when consumed in excess, or when not cooked
properly, they can be harmful.
Now, most lectins are actually quite benign, and in some cases they can even be therapeutic — like fighting some forms of HIV.
But the problem with some lectins,
like the ones found in whole grains, is that they bind to our insulin
receptors and intestinal lining. This increases inflammation and
contributes to autoimmune disease and insulin resistance. It also facilitates the symptoms of metabolic syndrome outside of obesity.
are also a problem, a compound that's found within the hulls of nuts,
seeds, and grains. Phytic acid cannot be digested by humans. And worse,
it binds to metal ions like calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. In turn,
any minerals that might be provided by consuming grain-based foods are
not well metabolized. So phytates, combined with gluten, make it
difficult for the body to absorb nutrients — which can lead to anemia
Lastly, a common argument
in favor of continuing to eat whole grains is that they provide
necessary fiber. This is actually a bit of a myth. As nutrition expert
Mark Sisson has noted,
"Apart from maintaining social conventions in certain situations and
obtaining cheap sugar calories, there is absolutely no reason to eat
And indeed, we can get adequate amounts of insoluble fiber simply by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.