The Grain Industry vs. The Wisdom of Crowds

      221 Comments on The Grain Industry vs. The Wisdom of Crowds

Last night Chareva and I watched two episodes of the National Geographic series EAT: The Story of Food.  One was on sugar, the other on wheat.  If you’re looking for information on the health effects, look elsewhere.  The episodes were mostly about how these foods changed societies – and how much we love them!  The only warning about sugar was that it might cause diabetes, and the episode on wheat may as well have been written by the grain industry, with sections on The Miracle of Bread (the staff of life!) and The Magic of Beer.

I’ve mentioned in several posts that I’m a grammar grump, so I suppose this description in our on-screen cable guide should have served as fair warning that I wouldn’t like the episode on wheat:

My own grammar went immediately downhill when I read that one.  Good thing the girls weren’t in the room.  The expletives were out of my mouth before I checked the whereabouts of young ears.

I was hoping, of course, that the episode on wheat would be another example of the Wisdom of Crowds overwhelming the official dietary view of wheat as a health food.  Oh well.  I guess the crowd hasn’t crowded its way into the production offices at National Geographic just yet.

Nonetheless, it’s obvious the grain industry has seen the writing on the wall and is now fighting a defensive battle.  A reader alerted me to an article in the U.K. Daily Mail with the headline Wheat-free diet could be WORSE for your health, new report warns.  Take a look:

Stick-thin celebrities including Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Victoria Beckham, and Gwyneth Paltrow rave about their healthy ‘wheat-free’ lifestyles. 

Note to journalists:  if you want to scare people away from grain-free diets, it’s not an effective strategy to refer to grain-free celebrities as “stick-thin.”  There are millions of people out there who look nothing like a stick and would like to give it a shot.

Devotees claim going gluten-free can alleviate everything from tiredness and bloating to spotty skin and hair loss.

I’m a fan of wheat-free diets, but trust me on this:  if you’re bald, giving up wheat won’t resurrect your hair follicles.  Best you can do is compensate by growing a beard that some readers like and some readers don’t.

But wheat-free diets ‘lighten the wallet and not the waistline’, according to a scientific report due to be published later this month.

The report comes as a poll by Weetabix found 32 per cent of British people avoid wheat because fad diets like the Paleo Diets and Wheat Belly diet warn against gluten.

There’s that Wisdom of Crowds effect that has them scared witless.  Paleo?  Wheat Belly?  Has either ever been given a stamp of approval by the official experts?  Hardly.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  And yet both are catching on for the simple reason that people are telling each other how much better they feel after giving up the grains.

In a report due to be published by Warwick University, experts will argue that there is little evidence behind the claims made by popular wheat-free diets.

Good luck with that argument, you wild ‘n’ crazy experts.  Because here’s the cold, hard truth:  when people ditch wheat and find relief from arthritis, gastric reflux, asthma, psoriasis, etc., etc., they tend not to give a rat’s ass what the (ahem) experts say.

Dr Robert Lillywhite, senior research fellow at Warwick Crop Centre, said: ‘The scientific evidence behind many of the most popular wheat free diets is surprisingly thin. It may perhaps be the case that most will only lighten your wallet, rather than provide longer-tern health benefits, by encouraging you to switch from low cost cupboard staples to specialist foods intended for those who genuinely need to avoid gluten.

Yeah, yeah, yeah … only 1% of the population has celiac disease, blah-blah-blah.  I don’t have celiac disease either – I had the lab test run out of curiosity, since wheat was causing me problems.  Those problems went away when I ditched the wheat (although the baldness stubbornly refused reverse itself).  Thanks to the Wisdom of Crowds, people are learning that you don’t have to be officially diagnosed with celiac disease to be damaged by wheat.

‘We are delighted that Weetabix are investing in a review of the science in this area but of course we won’t be able to comment further on this work until the research is complete.’

Weetabix … you mean the people who make these?

Yeah, I’m sure that will be an objective review.

A quarter of people under 34 said they buy less cereal and bread because of the latest diet craze.  This could be why 90 per cent of British people eat less than half of the recommended 30g of fibre a day.

Eating the recommended amount of fibre can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and some cancers, and can also improve digestive health, doctors advise.

Claire Canty, Senior Brand Manager at Weetabix said: ‘The research highlights the misconceptions about whole wheat and how people might be mistakenly avoiding it.

No, I’m pretty sure people are avoiding it on purpose.

‘Whole wheat has been shown to be important to gastrointestinal health, thanks to its high fibre content and range of micronutrients.’

Riiiiiight.  Gotta eat your wheat if you want a healthy digestive system.  That explains all the people in health forums online sharing stories of how adding wheat to their diets caused all kinds of nagging health issues to go away.

Go ahead, Weetabix spokespeople and other eat-your-grains types.  Find those stories online.  Send us links to all those “wheat saved my life!” posts on social media.

You can’t, because they don’t exist (other than any planted by the grain industry, of course).  But there are plenty of compelling stories being shared by people who gave up grains.

I’ll recount one of those in my next post – a story from one of Chareva’s relatives whose health was saved by the Wisdom of Crowds.

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221 thoughts on “The Grain Industry vs. The Wisdom of Crowds

  1. James

    Wheat isn’t at all much different than other grain sources. If you’re celiac it should definitely be avoided due to the fact that contains gluten. If bread causes you issues there’s a high possibility that you have gut bacteria that can’t handle certain carbohydrates found in grains. If you have been following a low carb diet you’re tolerance will be extremely low, generally.

    The problem I see with people giving up “wheat” and feeling better are much like vegans giving up meat and feeling better. Was it really just the meat and dairy causing problems? possiblly,, but I would more likely contribute their benefits to consuming more unrefined grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables that have important fibre’s and phytronutrients that benefit health.

    When I read about people giving up “wheat”, it ususally consists of them giving up refined junk wheat foods like white bread, cookies, french toast, cakes, biscuits, hot dogs, pies, sausage rolls, pastries, muffins, pizza’s, donuts and raisin toast.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      Giving up junk in general can definitely confuse the issue. But Dr. Davis had hundreds of patients who were told to make exactly one dietary change: stop eating wheat. In his book, he explains exactly how wheat (largely via the gliadin protein) causes so many health issues. So I don’t think it’s a matter of replacing bread with vegetables and deriving benefits from the vegetables.

      Reply
  2. James

    Wheat isn’t at all much different than other grain sources. If you’re celiac it should definitely be avoided due to the fact that contains gluten. If bread causes you issues there’s a high possibility that you have gut bacteria that can’t handle certain carbohydrates found in grains. If you have been following a low carb diet you’re tolerance will be extremely low, generally.

    The problem I see with people giving up “wheat” and feeling better are much like vegans giving up meat and feeling better. Was it really just the meat and dairy causing problems? possiblly,, but I would more likely contribute their benefits to consuming more unrefined grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables that have important fibre’s and phytronutrients that benefit health.

    When I read about people giving up “wheat”, it ususally consists of them giving up refined junk wheat foods like white bread, cookies, french toast, cakes, biscuits, hot dogs, pies, sausage rolls, pastries, muffins, pizza’s, donuts and raisin toast.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Giving up junk in general can definitely confuse the issue. But Dr. Davis had hundreds of patients who were told to make exactly one dietary change: stop eating wheat. In his book, he explains exactly how wheat (largely via the gliadin protein) causes so many health issues. So I don’t think it’s a matter of replacing bread with vegetables and deriving benefits from the vegetables.

      Reply
  3. Linda

    All this is very interesting and helps to reaffirm that I’m not crazy as the rest of my “carboholic” family thinks! Sadly, I indulged at Thanksgiving, and ate plenty of wheat- dressing, a roll, and the crust of pie, plus plenty of sugar. I am just now on Monday finally recovering from the pain! Unfortunately, I have some very real permanent damage to some joints after an ill-advised two month stint with statins before I did the research on my own. (When will I EVER learn not to trust what a doctor tells me???) But, after ditching all grains and going very low carb, the pain I had subsided and was entirely manageable. Only occasionally do I have a bout where I think I need some aspirin! But by two hours after the Thanksgiving meal, I was in REAL pain and really afraid to even walk around for fear of falling! An alarm bell finally went off in my brain and I went extremely low carb from Friday till now (late afternoon Monday.) Almost no carbs, plenty of fats, and definitely no grains at all, and tons of water. Today, I’m almost back to normal for me. I would love to talk to the generous people at Weetabix who so graciously funded that research! Jeesh! You’re right, Tom- a last ditch effort!

    Tom, if it’s all right with you, I would love to get Chuck’s recipe for the no-bake pumpkin pie with the coconut flour crust! May he post it on here, so everyone can see? I will definitely use that at Christmas and never say a word about how it was made, and see if the carboholics can tell the difference. Mostly, though I would love to have it for me. I often make frittatas, but would love to have a coconut crust recipe to make a quiche with.

    You mentioned having pizza with the wheat crust for your birthday, Tom. Obviously, you don’t have the horrible negative effects from wheat. I have been using the Older Brother’s Older Son’s Pizza dough recipe since it was posted, because I do love pizza and it fits the bill! I really love that recipe!

    Linda

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      Sure, Chuck can post the recipe here.

      I eat pizza maybe twice per year now. Sometimes it causes a bit of pain in my formerly arthritic shoulder, sometimes not. Probably a matter of the dose.

      Reply
  4. Linda

    All this is very interesting and helps to reaffirm that I’m not crazy as the rest of my “carboholic” family thinks! Sadly, I indulged at Thanksgiving, and ate plenty of wheat- dressing, a roll, and the crust of pie, plus plenty of sugar. I am just now on Monday finally recovering from the pain! Unfortunately, I have some very real permanent damage to some joints after an ill-advised two month stint with statins before I did the research on my own. (When will I EVER learn not to trust what a doctor tells me???) But, after ditching all grains and going very low carb, the pain I had subsided and was entirely manageable. Only occasionally do I have a bout where I think I need some aspirin! But by two hours after the Thanksgiving meal, I was in REAL pain and really afraid to even walk around for fear of falling! An alarm bell finally went off in my brain and I went extremely low carb from Friday till now (late afternoon Monday.) Almost no carbs, plenty of fats, and definitely no grains at all, and tons of water. Today, I’m almost back to normal for me. I would love to talk to the generous people at Weetabix who so graciously funded that research! Jeesh! You’re right, Tom- a last ditch effort!

    Tom, if it’s all right with you, I would love to get Chuck’s recipe for the no-bake pumpkin pie with the coconut flour crust! May he post it on here, so everyone can see? I will definitely use that at Christmas and never say a word about how it was made, and see if the carboholics can tell the difference. Mostly, though I would love to have it for me. I often make frittatas, but would love to have a coconut crust recipe to make a quiche with.

    You mentioned having pizza with the wheat crust for your birthday, Tom. Obviously, you don’t have the horrible negative effects from wheat. I have been using the Older Brother’s Older Son’s Pizza dough recipe since it was posted, because I do love pizza and it fits the bill! I really love that recipe!

    Linda

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Sure, Chuck can post the recipe here.

      I eat pizza maybe twice per year now. Sometimes it causes a bit of pain in my formerly arthritic shoulder, sometimes not. Probably a matter of the dose.

      Reply
  5. B35X

    I sometimes wonder how kids at my school are able to consume the immense amount of sugar that they do with no noticeable side effects. A common sight I see is high schoolers walking in with 24oz Starbucks frappuccinos on a regular basis in the mornings. Not to deny that I haven’t had more than my fair share of them as well.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      Youngsters can get away with a lot more sugar when they’re still growing and are insulin sensitive. But it doesn’t always last. At one of my high-school reunions, I noticed a couple the formerly-ripped jocks who used to live on ice cream and soda had gotten huge as adults.

      Reply
  6. B35X

    I sometimes wonder how kids at my school are able to consume the immense amount of sugar that they do with no noticeable side effects. A common sight I see is high schoolers walking in with 24oz Starbucks frappuccinos on a regular basis in the mornings. Not to deny that I haven’t had more than my fair share of them as well.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Youngsters can get away with a lot more sugar when they’re still growing and are insulin sensitive. But it doesn’t always last. At one of my high-school reunions, I noticed a couple the formerly-ripped jocks who used to live on ice cream and soda had gotten huge as adults.

      Reply
  7. Boundless

    More on food producers noticing demand change:
    ‘We’re seeing a widespread rejection of traditional foods and brands and it’s leading to a seismic shift in some categories’
    http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Markets/Silverwood-partners-on-natural-organic-Annie-s-Suja-KRAVE

    By “traditional”, of course, they mean latter 20th century crap that used to sell big, and make people big and sick.

    I’m not sure why “Annie-s” is in the URL for that article. The article does not mention Annie’s, which until recently was an independent organic brand. It was acquired this year by General Mills, who are apparently trying to buy some cred with thoughtful eaters. The move is more likely to result in corruption and destruction of the brand.

    Reply
    1. Walter Bushell

      Ah, yes the classic business school move. Buy a company with a good reputation and cheapen the product and collect the difference until people catch wise. Most likely it takes a long time for people to realize the product is not what they were used to.

      And you have another brand in your arsenal and some people will like it.

      Reply
  8. Boundless

    More on food producers noticing demand change:
    ‘We’re seeing a widespread rejection of traditional foods and brands and it’s leading to a seismic shift in some categories’
    http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Markets/Silverwood-partners-on-natural-organic-Annie-s-Suja-KRAVE

    By “traditional”, of course, they mean latter 20th century crap that used to sell big, and make people big and sick.

    I’m not sure why “Annie-s” is in the URL for that article. The article does not mention Annie’s, which until recently was an independent organic brand. It was acquired this year by General Mills, who are apparently trying to buy some cred with thoughtful eaters. The move is more likely to result in corruption and destruction of the brand.

    Reply
    1. Walter Bushell

      Ah, yes the classic business school move. Buy a company with a good reputation and cheapen the product and collect the difference until people catch wise. Most likely it takes a long time for people to realize the product is not what they were used to.

      And you have another brand in your arsenal and some people will like it.

      Reply
  9. vtw

    So happy to discover this site! I’ve been eating low carb with no grains for about a year with all the health benefits (the people on this site) one can expect. Fast forward to the holidays (Thanksgiving in particular) and I decide because I’ve been so good all year I can indulge a little bit. Wrong! The ailments I totally forgot about like arthritis,headaches,acid reflux all reintroduced themselves to me and that environment inside of me I made so happy this last year was at war! Anyways Christmas will bring another test but this time I’ll be ready with my knowledge of failure which is really the best way to learn.

    Reply
  10. vtw

    So happy to discover this site! I’ve been eating low carb with no grains for about a year with all the health benefits (the people on this site) one can expect. Fast forward to the holidays (Thanksgiving in particular) and I decide because I’ve been so good all year I can indulge a little bit. Wrong! The ailments I totally forgot about like arthritis,headaches,acid reflux all reintroduced themselves to me and that environment inside of me I made so happy this last year was at war! Anyways Christmas will bring another test but this time I’ll be ready with my knowledge of failure which is really the best way to learn.

    Reply

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