Archive for September, 2011
Look as if the grain-industry people have been trolling the internet attempting to trash Wheat Belly, the outstanding new book by Dr. William Davis. How else do you explain an Amazon review written under the title The David Koresh of Medicine. Notice that the review doesn’t dispute any of the facts or science presented in Wheat Belly:
The author has no credentials, no credibility, just a small cult of terriby misinformed followers. Don’t be fooled by the high volume screech against wheat and grains.
I have to admit, it didn’t occur to me when I recommended Wheat Belly that Dr. Davis has no credentials. I assumed being a doctor who’s seen the benefits of a wheat-free diet in thousands of his own patients counted for something. I also figured that after poring over hundreds of studies on wheat’s health effects and thoroughly researching the history and genetic structure of wheat, Dr. Davis was qualified to write on the topic.
Allegations of “secret ingredients in wheat” to make you eat more, or comparisons to cigerettes. Seriously?!
Apparently the wheat lobby doesn’t require its job applicants to pass a spelling test. Are cigerettes similar to cigarettes?
Dr. Davis never claimed there are secret ingredients in wheat. He didn’t (as far as I know) don a Ninja costume or disguise himself as a plumber and break into the headquarters of Wheat , Inc. to pilfer documents. He simply described, based on published documents, how wheat has been modified during the past 50 years.
For over 8000 years wheat has sustained and grown human kind …
Eight-thousand years ago, humans (some of them, anyway) consumed Einkorn wheat. The main similarity between Einkorn wheat and today’s mutant wheat is they’re both called “wheat.” We also call both Thomas Jefferson and Adolph Hitler “humans,” but they produced rather different effects on other humans. What we ate 8,000 years ago has nothing to with the health consequences of eating a highly modified variety of wheat that’s only been around for the past 50 years.
And wheat didn’t “grow” humankind. Wheat shrunk humankind.
… oh and it tastes good when mixed with a little water and yeast.
That explains why nearly every brand of bread includes high fructose corn syrup high on the list of ingredients.
Every nutritionist and serious medical professional will tell you that bread is the most economical and safe source of essential nutrients.
Every one, seriously? That’s odd … I seem to recall a lot of conversations and interviews with nutritionists and medical professionals who agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Davis — who, despite having a good sense of humor, is a serious medical professional. So serious that he wrote a book about wheat.
In fact, bread is handed out in natural disasters because it sustains life without food safety issues or requiring refrigeration.
Tell ya what: if I’m ever starving because a tornado wiped out all the refrigerators within a 50-mile radius, I’ll eat some of the bread FEMA hands out. But the fact that bread doesn’t require refrigeration doesn’t in any way prove it’s good for us. Coca-Cola and heroin don’t require refrigeration either.
And now, suddenly it will kill you. Comical!
No, today’s mutant wheat doesn’t kill you suddenly. It’s more like slow torture.
This book is such a bone headed, misinformed way to just scare people into not eating.
Now wait a minute, Buster! Dr. Davis is 100% in favor of people eating. He just doesn’t want them eating a mutant grain product that will make them fat and sick.
As for secret ingredients, humm, apparently the author is ignorant of the food laws that regulate everything that goes into food and on food labels. Unlike some enforcement agencies, the FDA has some serious teeth behind its enforcement.
Well, that certainly negates all the studies demonstrating the negative effects of wheat that Dr. Davis cited in Wheat Belly. If the USDA and FDA are on the beat, mutant wheat (which is heavily subsidized by the same government that funds the USDA and FDA) simply has to be safe. That’s why they conducted all those tests on the stuff to make sure it wouldn’t cause any … no, wait a minute. Nobody ever conducted tests on mutant wheat to see if it’s fit for human consumption. Okay then, we’ll just have faith the USDA and FDA can tell if a food product is safe by looking at it. That works for me.
As for frankenwheat, again seriously?! Wheat, due to its ubiquitous presence in the world is treated as sacrosant from any GMO research or development.
I see. So when wheat went from being a wispy plant that couldn’t be harvested until it was five feet tall to a short, stubby little plant that’s harvested when it’s two feet tall — all in just the past 50 years – that was a natural mutation, was it? Boy, evolution works really, really quickly. I wonder what all those plant geneticists on the Monsanto payroll are doing all day. They’re probably just sitting around, playing poker and thinking, “Geez, I wish they’d let us develop some kind of hybridized new seeds that the company could patent and then force farmers to buy by threatening to sue them if some of those seeds blow onto their farms and start growing even if the farmers didn’t want the seeds in the first place.”
If you need real, science based information on healthy eating, check out [...] and leave this book and its cult in the compound.
I’ll try to read [...], but when I searched for […] on Amazon, all that came up was a kids’ book titled “Dot and Dash play Dot-Dot-Dot.”
I was hoping the grain lobby wouldn’t find out about our cult. For those of you who haven’t been recruited yet, we have a secret handshake that requires a lot of flexibility in the fingers — that keeps out the grain-lobby infiltrators who are suffering from wheat-induced arthritis. At our meetings, Dr. Davis sacrifices a goat and then we all spend hours enjoying ritual dancing around a bonfire on our pain-free legs. Sometimes we even dance naked. It’s not a sexual thing, you understand … we just like showing off our rash-free skins.
I’m sure this campaign by the grain industry will succeed. Any day now, Dr. Davis will have a conversation with a patient something like this:
“So how do feel after being wheat-free for the past two months?”
“Well, Dr. Davis, I lost 25 pounds, my psoriasis cleared up, my arthritis went away, I’m sleeping better, I’m not depressed anymore, I think more clearly, and I stopped wheezing.”
“Excellent! So you’ll continue avoiding wheat?”
“Of course not.”
“Wheat has been sustaining humans for 8,000 years, Dr. Davis, so it has to be good for us. Besides, I don’t want to end up spending all day the airport banging on a tambourine and selling flowers to passengers.”
“But I never asked you to– why are you sticking your fingers in your ears?”
“I said, WHY ARE YOU STICKING YOUR FINGERS IN YOUR EARS?”
“My de-programmers told me not to listen to you.”
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Some interesting tidbits about the diets from bygone eras showed up in my inbox over the weekend. (As always, a hearty thank-you to the readers who brought these to my attention.) Since mainstream health journalists are apparently required to run out and get quotes from people who preach the standard dietary advice for every article they write, I thought I’d do the same this time around.
World’s Oldest Living Human
The government in Brazil has confirmed that one of the country’s citizens is the oldest known human alive:
While the Amazon rainforest is certainly known to be teeming with life, it turns out that the people who live there are too. Maria Lucimar Pereira, an indigenous Amazonian belonging to the Kaxinawá tribe of western Brazil, will soon be celebrating her birthday — her 121st birthday, to be exact. The truth behind Pereira’s remarkable longevity was recently discovered by the Brazilian government while performing a routine review of birth records — which, in her case, date back to 1890 — making her the world’s oldest living person.
Wow. Maria was in her twenties during World War One and was almost my age when Hitler invaded Poland. But she’s still alive and kickin’. She must base her diet on lots of heart-healthy whole grains.
Pereira credits her long-life to an active, healthy lifestyle, in addition to a diet rich in locally grown meats, fruits, and vegetables gathered in the forests around her home — free of the extra salt, sugar, and preservatives so commonly found in foods around the world. Her all-natural diet, along with frequent walks around town, has allowed Pereira to thrive while others, many years her junior, do not.
Meats, fruits and vegetables? You mean the world’s oldest resident spent more than a century consuming a paleo diet? For the sake of journalistic balance, I asked the good folks at the Grain Foods Foundation to comment:
A fad diet is still a fad diet, no matter how you dress it up.
Well, I always assumed people stop being swayed by the latest fads once they reach 100, but I see your point. However, what was I asking was: how did this woman manage to live so long without whole grains in her diet?
Cutting out one specific food is not only unrealistic, it’s dangerous. Omitting wheat entirely removes the essential (and disease-fighting!) nutrients it provides including fiber, antioxidants, iron and B vitamins.
So you believe Maria’s grain-free diet will make her susceptible to diseases?
But she’s 121 years old.
Maria’s diet runs completely counter to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the gold standard of scientifically-sound nutrition advice. The Guidelines call for the average healthy American to consume six one-ounce servings of grain foods daily, half of which should come from whole grains and the other half from enriched grains.
But she’s 121 years old.
Well, she’s not an American either, so she can ignore the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, but you can’t.
But she’s –
Let us explain it this way: Shut up.
Advice From a Cookware Company
In 1930 – when Maria was 40 years old – the Super Maid Cookware Company published a book titled The Business of Living, which included this passage:
Fat is the product of sugars and starches stored up instead of burned up. These foods are necessary to efficient living, regardless of type or tendency, but their use should be governed by personal need, not by taste or habit…as a matter of fact, a diet should be selected which is relatively low in these values (Sugars and starches). All foods are not alike in their carbon quantities and qualities. Some foods provide very little, others composed almost wholly of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. These foods are natural fuel foods. Nature has provided them for the purpose of energizing the body. A certain amount of storage is valuable. Nature has also provided for that, but it is undoubtedly not the intention of Nature that a diet is composed almost completely of this class of food. The following foods provide little else save potential heat which should be burned up, and if not burned up, will be stored as fat:
Potatoes, prepared after peeling, pies, cakes, cookies, cream puffs, polished rice, doughnuts, arrowroot, candies chocolates, jams, white flour products, sweet crackers, wafers, macaroni, graham flour, molasses, honey, corn syrup, maple syrup, cornmeal products, navy beans, cream soups and cream dressings, corn bread and butter, waffles, hot cakes, spaghetti, malted milk, chili, as well as any number of so-called prepared breakfast foods, especially if served with cream and sugar.
It will be noticed that these foods are found more frequently on the American table than perhaps any other single class. Our dietetic habits usually follow the lines of least resistance, and these foods seem to possess a certain charm for most people. Especially do they find favor with true carbon individuals.
The carbon individual is readily recognized by the rotund outline which characterizes every part of the physical make up. The head is round, the cheeks convex, the chin — well, there are usually two or three of them, each one following the rounding contour of the other. The neck is round and full, both front and back, the tissue is usually folding in symmetrical outline. The chest is round, full and well upholstered, with soft, folding tissues, gradually merging into a round, bulging abdomen; legs and arms are short, round and dimpled at joints, hands conical in shape, with short, smooth fingers. The whole outline is round.
Sounds as if the cookware company was recommending people limit the sugars and starches in their diets. I figured the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines Committee would want to comment:
We agree with the Super Maid Cookware Company that Americans should limit their intake of sugar. Now if you’ll excuse us, we-–
But what about grains and other starches?
Uh … well, as we stated in our 2010 Dietary Guidelines, healthy diets are high in carbohydrates. So we agree with the Super Maid Cookware Company on some points, but still recommend Americans consume potatoes, polished rice, arrowroot, white flour products, sweet crackers, wafers, macaroni, graham flour, corn syrup, cornmeal products, navy beans, corn bread, waffles, hot cakes and spaghetti, as well as any number of so-called prepared breakfast foods, especially if served with skim milk.
And when you say recommend, you mean that for schools and other government facilities, you require those foods.
That’s right. We’re from the government and we’re here to help.
Aren’t you concerned that a lot more kids are growing up to be carbon individuals?
That’s why we support the EPA’s mandatory limits on carbon.
But I don’t see how that will offset-–
Yes, it’s important for all of us to support carbon offsets. Goodbye.
The Diet For Diabetics in 1915
Before insulin shots were developed, doctors treated diabetes with diet. Here are some quotes from treatment guidelines written by doctors for other doctors in 1915:
The “starvation treatment” of diabetes, as advanced by Dr. Frederick M. Allen of the Rockefeller Institute Hospital, is undoubtedly a most valuable treatment. At the Massachusetts General Hospital it has been used for several months with great success, and it is thought worth while to publish some of the diets, and details of treatment that have been used there, as a very careful control of the proteid and carbohydrate intake is of the utmost importance if the treatment is to be successful. In carrying out the Allen treatment the physician must think in grams of carbohydrate and proteid—it is not enough simply to cut down the supply of starchy foods; he must know approximately how much carbohydrate and proteid his patient is getting each day.
For forty-eight hours after admission to the hospital the patient is kept on ordinary diet, to determine the severity of his diabetes. Then he is starved, and no food allowed save whiskey and black coffee. The whiskey is given in the coffee: 1 ounce of whiskey every two hours, from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. This furnishes roughly about 800 calories. The whiskey is not an essential part of the treatment; it merely furnishes a few calories and keeps the patient more comfortable while he is being starved.
When the patient is sugar-free he is put upon a diet of so-called “5% vegetables,” i.e. vegetables containing approximately 5% carbohydrate. It is best to boil these vegetables three times, with changes of water. In this way their carbohydrate content is reduced, probably about one-half. A moderate amount of fat, in the form of butter, can be given with this vegetable diet if desired. The amount of carbohydrate in these green vegetables is not at all inconsiderable, and if the patient eats as much as he desires, it is possible for him to have an intake of 25 or 30 grams, which is altogether too much; the first day after starvation the carbohydrate intake should not be over 15 grams.
Hmmm … so far, the treatment seems to be all about severely restricting the foods that raise blood sugar. If they’re not careful, they’ll end up putting people on high-fat diets. Let’s skip ahead to their case reports to see what the actual diets were.
Case 1. A woman of 64, diabetic for two years. She was sent in from the out-patient department, where she had been receiving a diet of 50 grams of carbohydrate and 50 grams of protein. On this diet she was putting out 8 grams of sugar a day with moderately strong acetone and diacetic acid reactions in her urine. When the carbohydrate was cut in the ward to 30 grams, she put out 3 grams of sugar a day. She complained of severe pruritus vulvae. After sixteen days of this treatment she continued to put out from 0.1% to 0.2% of sugar a day. Allen’s treatment was then started, and after one day of starvation she was sugar-free and remained so for four days on a diet of carbohydrate, 20 grams; protein, 30 grams; fat, 150 grams.
A second starvation day, followed by two vegetable days, and a more careful raising of the diet—as follows—kept her sugar-free, and she was discharged so. Her diets were:
- Carbohydrate, 20 grams.
- Protein, 30 grams.
- Fat, 150 grams—1500 calories. No glycosuria.
- Carbohydrate, 30 grams.
- Protein, 30 grams.
- Fat, 200 grams—2000 calories. No glycosuria.
- Carbohydrate, 30 grams.
- Protein, 40 grams.
- Fat, 180 grams—2000 calories. No glycosuria.
- Carbohydrate, 40 grams.
- Protein, 40 grams.
- Fat, 180 grams—2000 calories. No glycosuria.
- Carbohydrates, 50 grams.
- Protein, 50 grams.
- Fat, 180 grams—2000 calories. No glycosuria.
Case 4. A Greek (male) of 48, diabetic for two months, entered Jan. 14, 1915, with 3.8% (65 grams) of sugar and moderate acetone reaction. There was no diacetic reaction present at entrance. After one starvation day he became sugar-free, but was kept on starvation one day longer and then started on vegetables in the usual way. After the third day a moderate amount of diacetic acid appeared in the urine and continued. The ammonia rose from 0.7 grams per day to 2.6 grams per day, and then varied from 0.3 to 1.5 grams per day. No symptoms of acidosis.
- Carbohydrate, 15 grams.
- Protein, 25 grams.
- Fat, 150 grams—1360 calories. No glycosuria.
- Carbohydrate, 15 grams.
- Protein, 25 grams.
- Fat, 200 grams—1571 calories. No glycosuria.
- Carbohydrate, 25 grams.
- Protein, 35 grams.
- Fat, 200 grams—1760 calories. No glycosuria.
- Carbohydrate, 35 grams.
- Protein, 40 grams.
- Fat, 200 grams—1838 calories. No glycosuria.
- Carbohydrate, 45 grams.
- Protein, 50 grams.
- Fat, 200 grams—2194 calories. No glycosuria.
- Carbohydrate, 50 grams.
- Protein, 60 grams.
- Fat, 200 grams—2347 calories. No glycosuria.
Only 50 grams of carbohydrates and up to 200 grams of fat?!! Sounds almost like the diet that crazy Dr. Bernstein recommends for diabetics. We’d best get a common-sense reply from diabetes educator Hope Warshaw:
Rather than throwing stones and continually citing Richard Bernstein, MD, who as far as I know has only written consumer books and not published one research paper on his recommendations, or discussing your own experience of one, how about providing/discussing citations of well conducted long term research studies in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes (or even prevention trials) who more successfully manage glycemia, lipids and blood pressure and eat healthfully on an intake of carbohydrate below 40% of total calories.
Uh … Dr. Bernstein has published research papers, and I just cited some case histories of people who got their diabetes under control by limiting carbohydrate intake. There are several more in the original paper if you click the link and—
Countless research studies do not show long term (greater than six months to a year) benefit of low carb diets on blood glucose, weight control, or blood fats.
That’s because those countless studies only lasted six month to a year. But if you look at case histories–
Nutrition recommendations for people with type 2 diabetes from the American Diabetes Association and other health authorities echo the recently unveiled U.S. 2010 Dietary Guidelines for carbohydrate: about 45 to 65 percent of calories.
But then the diabetics who consume that diet will have to take insulin shots, or their blood sugar will reach toxic levels.
The reality is that if blood glucose is out of control, it’s time to progress to blood glucose-lowering medication(s).
Don’t you think it’s better to control diabetes with food(s) instead of medication(s)?
Diabetics have a right to enjoy the same foods as everyone else.
But they don’t have the same reaction to those foods as everyone else. Dr. Bernstein found that each extra gram of carbohydrates causes glucose levels to rise by–
No need to write back unless you’ve got well conducted published research studies to share.
From Grandma’s Kitchen
I found this at my mom’s house. Turns out it belonged to my grandmother.
Since my grandmother only lived to be 95, I think it’s fair to assume her habit of cooking with butter ended her life prematurely. I sent the photo above to the American Heart Association. They sent back an updated version and suggested I hang it in my kitchen:
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All I can say is: Wow!
Yesterday my man Jimmy Moore posted his 500th podcast episode. That would be an accomplishment even if all he did was produce podcasts. But of course Jimmy also maintains a daily blog, appears regularly on local media reports about nutrition and health, produces a series of YouTube videos, attends seminars all over the country, produces a second podcast show featuring roundtable discussions with friends, and arranges the lineup of speakers for each year’s low-carb cruise and then emcees the cruise activities.
Oh, I almost forgot … he also managed to find time to write two books.
I have a theory that in the course of his research, Jimmy came across the key to cloning humans and now there are actually three “Jimmy Moores” getting all this work accomplished. I hope to someday snap a picture of all three of them in the same room.
Congratulations, Jimmy (or Jimmys). I believe your Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show has done more to educate the lay public about diet and health than even you can imagine.
I’m heading off to work now … and yes, I’ll be listening to one of your podcasts in my car.
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Here’s part two of my interview with Dr. William Davis, author of the excellent new book Wheat Belly. (Part one of the interview here.) If you haven’t read the book yet, I can’t recommend it highly enough. You’ll never look at a sandwich the same way again.
Fat Head: Dr. Robert Lustig believes excess fructose is singularly responsible for inducing insulin resistance and other aspects of metabolic syndrome. You blame wheat. When I started showing signs of pre-diabetes in my thirties, I consumed almost no sugar whatsoever – I knew sugar was bad for me – but I ate a lot of pasta, cereal, and bread. Describe how you believe wheat consumption can lead to type 2 diabetes even among those who don’t drink Big Gulps or eat Little Debbie snack cakes.
Dr. Davis: There’s no question that fructose is indeed a big problem in the diet of modern Americans. Like wheat, fructose sources like sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, and agave syrup increase visceral fat, increase blood sugar, and cause a curious delay in clearing of after-meal blood particles (chylomicron remnants) that lead to atherosclerosis. So Wheat Belly, of course, does not argue that the only problem in the American diet is wheat.
However, as many of us have learned, cutting out sugar and fructose sources is a great idea, but does not solve the entire problem, just one aspect. And wheat is the culprit in people who believe they are following a healthier path by including plenty of “healthy whole grains.”
Two slices of whole wheat bread increase blood sugar higher than table sugar, higher than many candy bars. Oddly, this doesn’t stop dietitians and the nutrition community from encouraging you to eat more of it. Eat more wheat, blood sugar rises increase in magnitude and frequency. This leads to higher and more frequent rises in insulin, which, in turn, creates insulin resistance, the condition that leads to diabetes.
Those high blood sugars are also intrinsically damaging to the delicate pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin, a phenomenon called glucotoxicity. Beta cells have little capacity to regenerate. Repeated beatings from glucotoxicity lead to fewer and fewer healthy, functioning beta cells producing insulin. That’s when blood sugar stays at persistently high levels — even when your stomach is empty: pre-diabetes, followed shortly thereafter by diabetes.
So the wheat we are advised to eat more of is not the solution to the diabetes epidemic that is expected to include one in two Americans in the near future, and 346 million people worldwide — eating more “healthy whole grains” is, I believe, the cause of this situation. And removing it sets us back on a course to stop or even reverse it.
Fat Head: You describe in Wheat Belly how today’s dwarf wheat contains more gluten proteins and causes a more dramatic rise in blood glucose than the wheat our great-grandparents consumed. But Jared Diamond and others have made a convincing case that switching to a grain-based diet caused humans to become shorter, fatter and sicker even in pre-biblical times, when today’s mutant wheat didn’t exist. So would you say wheat has gone from being a good food to a bad food, or from a bad food to an even worse food?
Dr. Davis: I’d go for the second choice, going from a bad food with adverse health consequences in some people, to an incredibly bad food with adverse health consequences for nearly everybody.
Of course, if you were starving and the only food you had was bread, you should eat the bread. There’s no question that wheat, as the product of early agriculture, served to feed humans when the spoils of the hunt or gathering failed. As Dr. Diamond points out, this calorie-filler, hedge against the poor return of the hunt, and convenience food had adverse health consequences even in early humans and in its earliest forms, such as einkorn and emmer.
We know for a fact that wheat consumption has been unhealthy for humans for as long as we’ve consumed it from observations such as those pointed out by Dr. Diamond: humans being shorter, fatter, and sicker (bone disease, dental decay, cancer, perhaps atherosclerosis) with wheat consumption, as well as descriptions of the ravages of celiac disease as long ago as 100 AD.
It’s the changes introduced by geneticists over the past 40-50 years, coupled with dietary advice to consume more wheat, that have conspired to create this current mess we are in, turning wheat from a problem ingredient into a health scourge exerting adverse health effects on an international scale.
Fat Head: Let’s talk about some of the specific health problems that may be caused or accelerated by wheat. One of my readers has a sister who was cured of multiple sclerosis after giving up wheat. Others have told me they were cured of fibromyalgia, ADD, or depression. Are they all nuts, or do “healthy whole grains” have something to do with those conditions?
Dr. Davis: Even though I have witnessed the incredible effects of wheat elimination in thousands of people over the past several years, even I still learn new lessons about its effects. It seems a week doesn’t go by that I do not learn about some new health benefit of wheat elimination.
I too have heard countless cases of marked relief, occasionally cure, of fibromyalgia, ADD, and depression. I have only a couple of instances in which I’ve witnessed improvements in multiple sclerosis, since the disease is uncommon in the population I see in my cardiac practice and my online heart health experiences. But, given the reach of wheat into so many aspects of health, I would not be the least bit surprised to see substantial remission of the disease, given the potential central nervous system inflammatory effects of wheat components.
Unfortunately, most of my colleagues dismiss this as pure coincidence, despite the fact that it can be turned on with wheat consumption, turned off with wheat elimination, turned on again at will—repeatedly, reproducibly, and in many, many people. The notion that whole grains are healthy has so deeply infiltrated the thinking of people in healthcare that they are very resistant to changing their views.
I liken this situation to living in a village where everyone draws their water from the same well. One day, 9 out of 10 people get sick drinking from the water; they get better when they stop drinking the water. Out of convenience, they return to the well for water and 9 out of 10 promptly get sick again; get better again with stopping. On again, off again in the majority. Do we demand a clinical trial to prove that there is indeed a problem? Do we insist that it’s all in people’s imaginations and that the diarrhea and malnutrition that results from drinking the tainted water is due to something else? That is the situation we find ourselves in with this thing being sold to us called “wheat.”
I don’t think I’m causing a case of mass hysteria, with everyone crazily pitching their wheat products out with the trash because I said so. People are relating their experiences of substantial weight loss without calorie restriction, relief from multiple conditions across an impressive range of diseases, as well as subjective feelings of increased well-being and mood. In fact, I would say elimination of wheat is the most incredible and consistently effective strategy I have ever witnessed for improving health that I have seen in practicing medicine for 25 years.
Fat Head: I gave up wheat and other grains primarily to lose weight, then I was pleasantly surprised when several nagging health conditions went away soon after … psoriasis, mild asthma, gastric reflux, and arthritis among them. How often do you see results like mine, and why does wheat cause those conditions in the first place?
Dr. Davis: Results like yours are the rule, not the exception. In fact, it’s only the occasional person who says, “I lost 3 pounds in a month but nothing else happened.”
Conservatively, I would estimate that 70% of people experience a substantial benefit beyond weight loss. It might be relief from a chronic rash like psoriasis, relief from struggles with airway and sinus health like asthma and chronic sinus infections, relief from gastrointestinal problems like acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome, or it might be relief from run-of-the-mill arthritis or inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid. The range of conditions caused or worsened by this thing is nothing short of astounding.
There is no single component of wheat that accounts for its myriad adverse health effects. The gliadin protein is responsible for direct inflammatory effects, while also stimulating appetite. The gluten protein is responsible for the destructive inflammatory effects on bowel and central nervous system health. The lectins in wheat likely underlie the increased intestinal permeability to multiple foreign proteins that cascades into inflammatory and autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The amylopectin A is responsible for the expansion of visceral fat in the abdomen, the “wheat belly” that in turn leads to inflammation, insulin resistance, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease.
Fat Head: So it’s primarily the gluten and lectins in wheat that cause so many digestive problems, or is there something else involved too?
Dr. Davis: Incredibly, although wheat’s effects on disrupting digestive health is ubiquitous—it’s certainly a lot more than celiac disease—there has been little exploration as to the why. So I can only speculate on why wheat exerts such widespread and frequent gastrointestinal effects.
It likely has to do with the gliadin, gluten and lectins—one or a combination of any of them. I’m also convinced that there are components of wheat beyond these three that exert adverse health effects that explain why I see that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, i.e., removal of wheat seems to yield greater health benefits than each unhealthy component would suggest.
Fat Head: Are all types of gluten equally bad, or are some worse than others? If some are worse, is the gluten from today’s wheat particularly damaging?
Dr. Davis: The amino acid structure of gluten can vary widely, although all gluten shares the characteristic viscoelasticity desired by bakers and consumers, the property that allows the pizza maker to toss the dough in the air to shape pizza crust and allows dough to be molded into multiple forms from pita pockets to ciabattas.
The worst, most harmful glutens are the recent varieties created by geneticists. The changes introduced into the “D” collection of genes (“genome”) characteristic of modern semi-dwarf wheat likely account for the quadrupling of celiac disease in our time, the doubling just in the past twenty years. Less destructive forms of gluten are those found in the ancient wheat forms, such as einkorn, emmer, and spelt—less destructive, not non-destructive.
My view: Gluten, in all its forms but especially its modern forms, is potentially so destructive to human health that the ideal solution is to say goodbye to it completely.
Fat Head: Do you advise your patients to go wheat-free, or wheat-free and sugar-free? I’m asking because if they give up both, some people would say it’s the sugar that was causing the problems, not the grains.
Dr. Davis: Yes, sugar is on the no-no list. There is no question that, at least for some people, especially younger people, sugar exposure in soft drinks, junk foods, and snacks is a big problem.
However, just eliminate sugar and eat more “healthy whole grains” and most people do not lose weight, but gain weight. This is the struggle of people who believe they are following healthy advice to limit sugary snacks and eat more “healthy whole grains” who then find themselves 30, 40, 50, 100 pounds overweight.
Switch the order, i.e., eliminate all wheat, and desire for sweets is nearly always markedly reduced, since the appetite-stimulating gliadin protein of wheat is now gone. It is a far easier task to eliminate wheat first, rather than to eliminate sugars first.
And, of course, it’s not just about weight. It’s about all the other effects of wheat that even sugar cannot provoke, such as joint inflammation, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, skin rashes, brain effects, water retention, etc.
Fat Head: In Dr. Weston A. Price’s book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, he described how people in traditional societies soaked or fermented their grains before consuming them. Do you believe that makes grains less of a health hazard, or is today’s mutant wheat too full of problematic proteins to be made safer by those methods?
Dr. Davis: Soaking and fermenting turn wheat, a bad thing, into a form that contains fewer lectins and less gluten (among some other changes), a less bad thing. But we’ve got to be careful not to fall into the same trap that fooled nutritionists and “official” agencies: Replace a bad thing (white flour) with a less bad thing (whole grains), then consuming plenty of the less bad thing is good for you. That’s the flawed logic that led us to this mess.
Soaking, for instance, reduces lectin content by about 35% — better, but not great. You can still be exposed to all the adverse effects of wheat, which include gliadin protein appetite stimulation, high blood sugars from amylopectin A, inflammatory responses from gluten and glutenins, and increased intestinal permeability to foreign proteins by lectins.
Likewise, sourdough fermentation that reduces the carbohydrate/sugar content still leaves the other undesirable aspects of wheat intact. Better, sure, but still not great.
Even geneticists are trying to re-engineer wheat to make it less harmful. One area of research is to try to remove all the most destructive gluten sequences. As usual, they understand the plant genetics but have no understanding whatsoever of the effect of consumption of this plant on human health.
So no matter what a baker or geneticist does to dress this thing up, it remains essentially the same, with all the same appetite-triggering, mind-affecting, inflammatory, autoimmune, and weight-increasing effects.
Fat Head: What about other grains, such as kamut, spelt, oats, amaranth, and buckwheat? Are they good for us, or just not as bad?
Dr. Davis: Kamut and spelt are evolutionarily older forms of wheat. So they do not share the most destructive changes introduced into the “D” genome of modern wheat . . . but they are still wheat. It means they contain gliadins (though a less potent appetite stimulant compared to its modern counterpart), lectins that increase intestinal permeability, and they increase blood sugar.
Oats do indeed have modest immunologic overlap with wheat. But the problem with oats lies in their extravagant capacity to increase blood sugar. A bowl of slow-cooked, organic, stone ground oatmeal—no added sugar—can increase blood sugar in a non-diabetic to 150 mg/dl, 200 mg/dl, sometimes higher. In a pre-diabetic or diabetic, 300 mg/dl is not uncommon. One of the strategies I teach patients is to check blood sugars one hour after a meal to assess the severity of blood sugar rises; this is when I saw, time after time, extravagantly high blood sugars after oats.
Amaranth and buckwheat are non-wheat grains that are, in effect, just carbohydrates. They lack the immunologic, neurologic, and appetite-stimulating effects of wheat. Like oats, however, they increase blood sugar, followed by all the adverse effects of this phenomenon (insulin resistance, glycation of the eyes, cartilage, arteries, and LDL particles). So I tell people to consume these grains in small quantities, e.g., no more than ½ cup servings (cooked) in the context of a diet with limited carbs (e.g., 40-50 grams per day for most people).
Fat Head: What kind of response have you had on the book, or is it too early to judge?
Dr. Davis: The response has been incredible. Within the first 9 days after its release, Wheat Belly made The New York times bestseller list.
But even more important to me, every day I am hearing about the difference this message is making in people’s lives: rapid weight loss where little or none was experienced before; relief from chronic pain; plummeting blood sugars, etc. What has been especially gratifying is that, thanks to the instant feedback of social media, I am hearing about these stories just days into readers’ experiences. Even in my office practice, I’d generally wait several months to get feedback on patients’ wheat-free results. Now I’m hearing about it literally within days. The outpouring of positive feedback has been absolutely wonderful and has further reinforced my conviction that this is one of the largest health issues of our time.
Fat Head: Have you heard from any of the so-called experts who insist that whole grains are part of a healthy diet? I take it you’re not popular with that crowd right about now.
Dr. Davis: Nutrition is an important topic. But it is also a surprisingly emotional topic. Dietitians and nutrition “experts” have been so deeply indoctrinated into the “whole grains are good” argument that their knee-jerk reaction is anger, that this is some passing silly fad for rapid weight loss. Anyone who has read the book realizes that is precisely what Wheat Belly is not. It exposes all the things you haven’t been told about this genetically altered grain, engineered to increase yield but also increase appetite.
Wheat trade groups, such as the Grain Foods Foundation, have issued press releases declaring their intention to launch a publicity campaign to discredit me and the message I bring with Wheat Belly. In response, I published an Open Letter to the Grain Foods Foundation that I also sent to various media, inviting them to join me in a public debate, TV cameras and all; they’ve not yet taken me up on my invitation—and I suspect they never will. With what I’ve uncovered, I doubt they want to allow a public airing of all these arguments.
Fat Head: Final question … Now that the book has been released, do you ever lie awake at night, wondering if the good people at Monsanto and Pillsbury are planning your demise? Because if I were you, I’d avoid dark alleys for awhile.
Dr. Davis: Thanks for the warning, Tom! This anti-wheat campaign makes enemies out of some very influential forces, including Big Food, multi-billion dollar agribusiness, wheat trade groups and, to my great surprise, the drug industry. I was recently shocked (though I suppose I shouldn’t be, knowing what some people are capable of) to learn that at least one wheat trade group is largely populated by people on the payroll of the drug industry. Now that is really a worrisome thing.
What keeps me focused on broadcasting this message, however, are the wonderful stories I keep hearing every day of people rediscovering lost health, relief from pain, etc., all by doing the opposite of what our official agencies tell us what to do and walking away from “healthy whole grains.”
Fat Head: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions, Dr. Davis. I hope the book sells a million copies.
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Two articles about inserting foreign substances into our intestines to achieve better health both happened to arrive in my email inbox today. We’ll start with the one that won’t make you lose your appetite.
Intestinal Device Mimics Bariatric Surgery’s Antidiabetic Effects
Improved glucose parameters, substantial weight loss, and increased incretin hormone levels can be achieved by the insertion of a novel, minimally invasive, intestinal device in obese patients with type 2 diabetes.
Hmmm … must be something that vaporizes refined carbohydrates as they come down the tube.
The use of a duodenal-jejunal bypass liner (DJBL) not only improves hemoglobin A1c and aids weight loss, but also appears to increase levels of glucagon-like peptide (GLP)-1 and peptide YY while in place, according to the findings of a small study presented at the annual meeting of the European Society for the Study of Diabetes.
Although the effects may be temporary, they could offer patients a reversible alternative to bariatric surgery that helps to kick-start weight loss and self-management of diabetes, said study author Dr. Charlotte de Jonge of Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands. “Not all patients want [bariatric] surgery, as it is permanent.”
I’d rather see someone with diabetes choose a reversible alternative over gastric bypass any ol’ day. But if the goal is weight loss and management of diabetes, why not try a reversible low-carbohydrate diet first?
The DJBL (EndoBarrier) is a 60-cm impermeable sleeve that is inserted and removed endoscopically, and which effectively blocks the duodenum and proximal jejunum in a manner similar to the Roux-en-Y-gastric bypass procedure. It is thought to work by creating a physical barrier between ingested food and the intestinal wall, and perhaps alters the activation of incretin hormones in the gut.
Good lord … so the key to treating diabetes is apparently to eat what you’ve been eating, but prevent your body from absorbing it. Right. And the key to avoiding headaches is to keep pounding your head on your desk, but put a pillow on the desk first.
Within 1 week after implantation, fasting and area under the curve (AUC) glucose concentrations were improved (11.4±0.5 mmol/L vs. 8.9±0.4 mmol/L and 1,999±88 vs. 1,535±53), respectively. In addition, AUC concentrations of GLP-1 increased from 2,584 at baseline to 4,112 at removal and PYY from 4,440 to 6,448 (P less than .01 for all comparisons with baseline).
When the device was removed at 6 months, a significant mean weight loss of 13 kg (P less than .001) had been recorded, with a mean loss of excess weight of 30% (P less than .001), said Dr. de Jonge. Importantly, mean HbA1c decreased from 8.4% at baseline to 7.0% at removal (P less than .001) and there was a reduction in the use of antidiabetic medication in all but one of the study participants.
Well, when you prevent much of what people eat from being absorbed, I’d expect their glucose levels to drop and their need for medication to drop with it. But Dr. Eric Westman and others have achieved the same result with diet. In one of his studies, 95% percent of the subjects who adopted a low-carb diet reduced or eliminated their need for diabetes medications.
If this procedure mimics the effects of gastric bypass, then I’d be worried that the people who have it done will become vitamin deficient and end up with brittle bones and other negative health effects. That’s what often happens with gastric bypass, as I wrote about in a previous post.
And now for the second article about intestinal invasion – if you haven’t eaten dinner yet, you may want to read this later. (To read the full article online, you need to register with MedPage Today.)
Fecal Transplant Flushes Insulin Resistance
Obese patients with a constellation of symptoms known as the metabolic syndrome improved insulin sensitivity with a fecal transplant from healthy thin donors, researchers here reported.
Recruiting those healthy thin donors must’ve required a clever sales pitch. I don’t even like to pee in a cup.
After six weeks, peripheral insulin sensitivity significantly improved in 18 patients who received feces from lean donors compared with those who received an autologous transplant (P<0.05), said Anne Vrieze, MD, of the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, and colleagues. There was also a trend toward improvement in hepatic insulin sensitivity but it wasn’t significant, they reported at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes Meeting.
“This confirms the potential role of gut microbiota in the disturbance of glucose and lipid metabolism in obesity,” Vrieze said during the presentation. “The challenge is to use this knowledge to develop therapies.”
Yes, it’ll be interesting to see how much Merck and Pfizer end up charging for skinny-guy poop. On a positive note, this could provide a whole new career for naturally-thin unemployed guys. As it is now, most of the people paid to create s@#$ are in government.
John Buse, MD, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, cautioned that the researchers didn’t yet present data on actual differences in gut bacteria after transplantation, but the idea was promising.
“It’s interesting,” he told MedPage Today. “There’s little data, so it’s hard to tell. But it’s a cool idea.”
Um … cool idea? No, a Victoria’s Secret model using coconut oil as an all-over moisturizer is a cool idea.
Animal studies affirmed an association between obesity and gut microbiota, as animals given bacteria from the feces of obese mice had a significantly greater increase in total body fat than those colonized with a “lean” microbiota, Vrieze said. But data on a clinical roll for gut microbiota are scarce.
I’m not sure what a clinical roll means. Perhaps they’re referring to those little round bread-like things you get in the hospital if they’ve put you on a heart-healthy low-fat diet.
Vrieze and colleagues enrolled 18 obese men ages 21 to 65 with metabolic syndrome who weren’t taking medication for their condition and who hadn’t used antibiotics in the last three months. All of them kept a food and exercise diary over the study period.
All patients had jejunum biopsies and a bowel lavage to clear their own native bacteria. They were then randomized to either allogenic transplant of feces from lean male donors or autologous transplantation.
I’m guessing the original proposal called for 500 patients, but only 18 didn’t run screaming from the room when the investigators explained, “Well, what we’re going to do is clear all the poop out of your bowels, then we’ll either insert some skinny guy’s poop in your bowels, or we’ll re-insert your own poop. No, sorry, we can’t tell you whose poop you’ll get. That would violate the double-blind protocol. What? No, you can’t ask the skinny guys to avoid spicy foods.”
Fecal transplantation programs — while far from common — actually are already in place at a few centers in the U.S. based on some evidence suggesting efficacy in tough-to-treat gastrointestinal infections with the bacteria Clostridium difficile.
Since the gut plays an active role in regulating hormones that impact both obesity and diabetes associated with obesity, the focus has expanded to bacteria in the gut.
If the procedure turns out to produce significant weight loss, I’m guessing fecal transplantation will become much more common. I’m also guessing that pretty much everyone who loses weight that way will lie about it.
“Oh, thank you. Yes, I’ve lost 60 pounds. Excuse me? Uh … well … I started doing Pilates every day.”
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A couple of quick weekend announcements.
Fat Head is now available on Netflix for our friends across the northern border. We hope to be moving into other international markets soon. I’ll keep you posted.
Join me on a podcast show
Dr. Robert Su asked me to join him for another Carbohydrates Can Kill podcast show sometime in the next couple of weeks. This time it will be a roundtable discussion show, and he proposed what I think is an excellent idea: inviting some Fat Head fans to call in and join the discussion, asking questions of Dr. Su or me.
We can only have a few people join us for the recording of the show, so to be fair it’s going to be a first-come, first-selected deal. Whoever is selected will need to available to call in when we record the show, which will probably be on a weekend.
If you’d like to participate, post a comment requesting to join the show — be sure to fill out the email field accurately, because that’s how Dr. Su will get in touch. (No one sees your email address in comments except me.) Once you see five or six requests in the comments, it means we’ve already filled the available spots.
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