2 Slices of Bread increases blood sugar more than 2 Tablespoons of sugar!
I just finished the Book Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD. I feel like if you were to read this and if everything he proposes is true, then most of us would never eat wheat again unless we just didn’t care that it was making us fatter, increasing our cholesterol, increasing our risk for diabetes, and messing with our appetite control and more! However, I have read on a few websites that some of the studies that Dr. Davis uses may not be perfect. I just can’t help but wonder if a fraction of it is true. If so, then it’s definitely worth looking into. Especially if you have been struggling with appetite control, abdominal fat, cholesterol, GI discomfort, or diabetes.
I am not a scientist and I am not the best reader so I will not attempt to review all the studies quoted in this book. I do know that just in my family I’ve seen my Mom lose 30 pounds by eliminating wheat from her diet and my sister completely eliminate digestive issues. I myself have noticed a huge reduction in bloating, appetite control, energy, and when I eat little to no wheat products I have a lower body fat and my skin looks better too!
When I lived in California I had severe bloating, gas pains, and constipation. I could not figure out what it was. I was eating a vegan diet full of vegetables, fruits, “healthy whole grains”, legumes, and soy. I thought maybe it was the legumes, and then maybe tomatoes, maybe it was too much exercise, but I never thought of eliminating wheat. When I finally tried it and truly eliminated wheat from my diet for a full month, I felt amazing. My digestion was never better. My stomach was flatter. I swear my skin looked better too! I now eat wheat maybe once a week, sometimes not at all. I reserve it for very special foods that I love and I almost always feel the consequences after. It has been two years since I did the full month off wheat and I don’t feel like it’s that big of deal NOW. In the beginning it takes determination, experimentation, and a bunch of times to fail before feeling like you have a grasp. I just know how much better I feel, and really that is enough. But now after reading Wheat Belly I am wondering how many other people are unknowingly sensitive to the horrific effects of Wheat. How many people don’t know that it is raising their blood sugar, raising there bad cholesterol, and lowering their energy levels. So here are the proposed scientific facts to back up why you might want to think about trying a diet free of or with very little wheat. This is all according to Dr. William Davis, MD, the author of Wheat Belly.
My goal is to help you see the reasoning behind my disgust for wheat. I am going to walk you through the difference between the wheat of today and that of thousands of years ago, the hormonal responses of wheat and why it creates fat (specifically around the waist, the addictive qualities of wheat and why it feels like we can’t live without it, and if all that is not enough to make you remove it from your diet, I’ll explain why wheat increases triglycerides more than the fat in your diet. Are you ready?
The wheat we eat now is not the wheat that our ancestors ate: The first wheat was from about 3300 BC and it was call einkorn. This wheat had 28% or more protein than the Triticum wheat that we eat today. This einkorn wheat has naturally mated with other wheats and has been hybridized and modified numerous times by humans for centuries resulting in a very different product. Many of these changes were in order to increase crop yields but also chefs have changed it further and created thousands of “human bred offsprings” such as finer wheats perfect for cupcakes and wedding cakes and doughnuts. These very different wheats now have a crazy different makeup, notably a different gluten structure than the original wheat.
Today’s wheat is predominantly made up of a complex carbohydrate called amylopectin. Amylopectin is digested very efficiently and quickly and is responsible for wheat’s blood sugar increasing effect. According to Davis, other foods contain this Amylopectin too but a different variety. Bananas and potatoes contain Amylopectin B which is more digestible than the type found in beans (difficult to digest hence the discomfort) but wheat contains the easiest. This blood sugar spike is why eating two slices of bread can increase your blood sugar just as much or worse than drinking a soda!
Wheat increases blood sugar:
The spike in blood sugar is accompanied by a spike in insulin. This spike in insulin triggers the growth of fat specifically around the abdomen! This spike also explains why when you eat pancakes for breakfast you are hungry again in an hour and when you eat eggs you are satiated until lunch. Pancakes spike your sugar first, then in order to balance things out again, your blood sugar drops drastically making you feel ravenous! Eggs or protein and fat do not spike your blood sugar and therefore your blood sugar stays low and you do not have that same hormonal response.
Then Wheat creates fat, specifically visceral fat: These spikes and dips in insulin are directly responsible for fat accumulated around your waistline, specifically around your visceral organs. This visceral fat is different than the fat you accumulate in your buttocks or thighs or arms. This fat is able to elicit a huge amount of inflammatory phenomena such as abnormal cytokines, or cell-to-cell hormone signal molecules, such as leptin, resistin, and tumor necrosis factor. The terrible thing is that the more visceral fat there is then the more abnormal signals are released into the blood stream. If I have lost you thus far then here is the breakdown. Visceral fat is not just lazy fat, it is active. It is like an endocrine gland or pancreas. Dr. Davis states that because wheat is so easily converted into sugar it creates a blood sugar spike. This then causes an insulin spike. This insulin spike is because the pancreas releases more insulin in response to the sugar spike. The problem comes when the pancreases’ ability to produce insulin is exceeded by the amount of sugar. Then diabetes occurs. But you might not have diabetes and still be feeling these effects. Because the insulin spike causes visceral fat accumulation. Remember that visceral fat causes an inflammatory response within our bodies. This inflammation has the unfortunate capability of causing muscles and the liver to be less responsive to the insulin! That means that more must be produced by the pancreas. This is a vicious cycle of increased insulin, decreased response. It all translates to not being able to use the energy (carbohydrates) that you are eating because your body cannot convert them. Instead your body is converting it into fat.
“Nutritionist established the fact that wheat increases blood sugar more profoundly than table sugar thirty years ago!”
Wheat is an appetite stimulant:
Usually about an hour or two after we eat wheat containing foods we experience an extreme feeling of hunger. This is because the normal response to high blood sugar and the necessary release of insulin causes a drop in blood sugar. This drop results in a the release of a hormone that promotes hunger. You feel like you have to get some food fast!
Wheat effects your brain:
Have you ever tried to stop eating bread at a restaurant and felt a bit out of control? Maybe it has happened with cookies at a party. Moseying back for another and another and another. Science has shown us that wheat has a real effect on our brains that explains this feeling of need or intense craving for wheat. Dr. Christine Zioudrou and her colleagues exposed rats to the polypeptides from gluten after it is digested. These polypeptides have the amazing ability to get past the blood brain barrier. Once through the barrier, these polypeptides bond to the brains morphine receptor, which is the same receptor that opiate drugs bind to! So this explains the feeling that you want to continue eating bread or pasta or the craving for it in the first place.
A need for wheat, carbs, sugar, can lead to feelings of addiction and depression. According to an article in the Huffington Post, “Consuming sugar stimulates the release of the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin. Constantly over-activating these serotonin pathways can deplete our limited supplies of the neurotransmitter, which can contribute to symptoms of depression, according to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, functional medicine expert and author of Why Isn’t My Brain Working?”
An article in the Alternative daily says “Junk food is 8x more addictive than cocaine.” this is a bold statement but it may have some truth if you look at what Dr. Davis is saying about the way it passes to the brain.
Even more extreme is the research that shows how Schizophrenics have experienced serious decreases in symptoms when wheat is removed. Dr. Dohan conducted studies in the 1960’s and when wheat was removed from their diets for four weeks there were serious decreases in auditory hallucinations, fewer delusions, and less detachment from reality. Then in England at the University of Sheffield the studies were repeated with the same conclusions! Small samples have also demonstrated that autistic children experience an improvement when gluten is removed from their diet.
How can we deny the effect that wheat has on our mental health. It may not be as severe as decreasing our delusions as in the case of schizophrenics, but eliminating it from our diet can decrease the ups and downs of blood sugar. Keeping blood sugar from spiking and dropping will keep our moods more stable, increase our focus, and decrease our brain fog!
Wheat and your heart health:
First things first. There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to cholesterol and health. I could go into a ton of details here but the bottom line is that the size of LDL particles determines whether they are dangerous to your artery walls or not. LDL stands for Low Density Lipoproteins. What most of us don’t realize is that there are large LDL and small LDL. It’s the small LDL that are the ones capable of getting trapped within the walls of arteries. The drug industry has lumped these both into the heading of “high cholesterol” which is misleading. It is not cholesterol that we should be looking at. It is the small LDL.
Ok, so I said I wasn’t going to get too detailed but I think you need some more information. Both small and large LDL’s are created by VLDL (very low density lipoproteins). Diet determines whether these VLDLs are turned into small or large LDLs. The more VLDLs released by the liver and the more triglycerides increased due to diet the more likely you are to have an unhealthy amount of small LDL particles in your body!
Carbohydrates and therefore wheat trigger high blood glucose, higher insulin, therefore higher deposition of visceral fat, and more visceral fat means an increase in VLDL and triglycerides, all of which cascade into greater amounts of small LDL particles.
But doesn’t eating fat give you more triglycerides? Not a simple answer but an important one. When you eat fat you do ingest triglycerides. However, this ingestion shuts down our bodies natural production of it’s own triglycerides. This results in little or no change in triglyceride levels.
But when you eat carbohydrates you stimulate insulin. This elicits a fatty acid syntheses in the liver and therefore floods the blood stream with triglycerides. Wheat literally increases into triglycerides!
What about The China study:
If you don’t already know about this study, than here is the breakdown. It was a twenty year study of the eating habits of Chinese people. It is most strongly associated with a pro-vegetarian stand. In his book, Dr. Colin Campbell claims that “people who ate the most plant based diets were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease.” In contrast he claimed that “people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease.” Is this true? Should we be eating a mostly plant based diet? What does that mean? Well, Denise Minger spent months crunching numbers and re-analyzing his studies. Her findings are astonishing.
She found that The BIG PROBLEM was that Campbell left out some of his findings.
Note that a correlation of 0 means no relationship. A correlation of 1.0 means the two variable coincide perfectly. A correlation of a negative means the two behave in opposite directions.
He assigned a correlation coefficient of 0.01 for animal foods correlating with cardiovascular disease.
He assigned -0.11 for fish protein.
What he did not mention:
Wheat has a correlation of 0.67!
Plant protein has a correlation of 0.25.
Other correlations to consider when it comes to Wheat:
0.46 with Cervical Cancer, 0.54 with hypertensive heart disease, 0.47 with stroke, 0.41 with diseases of the blood and blood-forming organs!
Then Denise decided to see where wheat stood within the data about body weight.
“Wheat is the strongest positive predictor of body weight…out of any of the diet variables.”
This study basically concludes that wheat is contributing to heart disease and obesity more than most other variables!
Wheat and your bones:
Our bodies stop growing around 18 and then begin breaking down after that. This breakdown is regulated by pH levels within your body. Diet can worsen our acidic state and therefore accelerate the breakdown of bone. If your body is highly acidic than calcium carbonate, and calcium phosphate are pulled from the bones to maintain the bodies pH of 7.4. Osteoclasts, which dissolve bone tissue to release calcium can also be a serious issue in an acidic body.
Hunter-Gatherer diets were very alkaline. This may not have played a large role in their longevity but may be a clue as to their health during their lives. Our current diets which consists of large amounts of grains, specifically wheat, have caused us to become very acidic. This condition is called acidosis. This acidosis leads to the above loss in bone tissue due to the pulling of calcium from the bones to maintain a safe pH level! So a diet that is acidic could be leading to your mineral depletion and possible accelerated bone loss. This means Osteoporosis and Ostepenia and possible hip fractures!
So should you consider eliminating wheat from your diet?:
I believe that it is totally worth eliminating wheat from your diet if you are having any of the following issues:
- Difficulty losing fat
- GI discomfort
- Skin issues such as eczema, acne, psoriasis,..
- Appetite control issues
- High Cholesterol
- Pre or diabetic
Weight Loss and the elimination of wheat:
If you are most interested in weight/fat loss or health, then consider the nutrient density factor. When I choose what to eat, I consider a foods nutrient density. This means how much nutrition will it provide me for the amount of calories it contains. This is especially important for anyone who is trying to decrease body fat. If you are decreasing your calorie intake, then you need to be carefully planning your meals so that you are not deficient in nutrients! Therefore choosing foods that are nutrient dense is very important. Example: One cup of Broccoli will give me a whopping 3.8g of fiber, only 6g of carbohydrates, 131% of my daily need for vitamin C, 278g potassium, and only 50 calories … as opposed to choosing two slices of bread which will give me the same amount of fiber and some b vitamins, but at a whopping 250 calories and about 30g of carbohydrates! This is what I mean when I say optimal nutrition. What foods can I choose that not only taste good but digest comfortably, give me energy, keep me from gaining fat, keep my heart healthy, help me perform at my best, and keep me satiated so that I am not on a hunger roller coaster!
I have the advantage of seeing what my clients eat and when they are successful at weight loss verses when they are not successful. Eliminating wheat is hugely helpful for weight loss. This may be a result of an actual sensitivity. However, it probably has more to do with the above mentioned nutrient density factor. If you are not eating low nutrient foods than you are eating more nutrient dense foods with less calories and less carbohydrates. It also helps that if you are not on a roller coaster when it comes to your blood sugar then it’s much easier to control portions, snacking, and food choices. Then like Dr. Davis says, wheat is inflammatory. So if you have less inflammation, then you will also accumulate less visceral fat!
So some of you will probably read this and then write it off because you are not ready to give up your wheat. But if you are at all interested in any of those above mentioned benefits then I strongly suggest you try eliminating from your diet for a minimum of month to see if you have any positive effects! I’d love to see your thoughts in the comments!
Two last notes:
If you do decide to eliminate wheat, do not replace it with “gluten free” products. These products contain starches and other added ingredients that are not good for your health. They are not nutrient dense. They will still spike your blood sugar and mess with your appetite.
Wheat Free Alternatives:
Most tests have not proven to be 100% conclusive as to whether or not you have a true gluten sensitivity. If you are actually allergic (celiac disease), then yes, you can definitely get tested. However Cyrex Laboratories has been recommended as the place to be tested if you feel you have a sensitivity and need scientific proof too.