Book Review: Wheat Belly

      368 Comments on Book Review: Wheat Belly

I receive occasional emails and comments from people who can’t believe wheat isn’t health food. Some have quoted Bible passages about our daily bread, the staff of life, breaking bread with family, etc. Others have pointed out that Americans ate plenty of bread and other wheat products 100 years ago, but weren’t as likely to be fat and diabetic as people today.

I usually reply that the wheat products we consume today aren’t the same as those consumed by people in Biblical times, or even in more recent times. But I didn’t realize just how different today’s wheat is until I read Wheat Belly, a terrific new book by Dr. William Davis, the cardiologist you may already know from his Heart Scan Blog.

The title, of course, refers to the big gut that so many people today are carrying around in front of them these days.  While he’s no fan of sugar or other refined carbohydrates, Dr. Davis believes wheat is a primary (if not the primary) driver of the rise in obesity we’ve witnessed in the past quarter century, and he makes a strong case for that belief.   But getting fat is hardly the only price we pay for our love of bagels, breads, cereals and muffins. As Dr. Davis explains in the book’s introduction:

While much of the Wheat Belly story is about overweight, it is also about the complex and not fully understood range of diseases that have resulted from it – from celiac disease, the devastating intestinal disease that develops from exposure to wheat gluten, to an assortment of neurological disorders, curious rashes, and the paralyzing effects of schizophrenia. Documented peculiar effects of wheat on humans include appetite stimulation, exposure to brain-active exorphins (the counterpart of internally derived endorphins), exaggerated blood-sugar surges that trigger cycles of satiety alternating with increased appetite, the process of glycation that underlies diseases and aging, inflammatory and pH effects that erode cartilage and damage bone, and activation of disordered immune responses.

And later, in Part One:

There’s hardly a single organ system that is not in some way affected by wheat products. The health impact of Triticum aestivum, common bread wheat and its genetic brethren, ranges far and wide, with curious effects from mouth to anus, brain to pancreas, Appalachian housewife to Wall Street arbitrageur. If it sounds crazy, bear with me. I make these claims with a clear, wheat-free conscience.

In the rest of the book, Dr. Davis back up those claims. He delves into quite a bit of nutrition science and some biochemistry, but writes in a clear (and often humorous) style that makes for easy reading. As a doctor who’s treated thousands of patients, he has the added advantage of being able to cite case histories from his own practice – patients who came to him unknowingly damaged by wheat, but were cured by wheat-free diets.

One patient, a thirty-eight-year-old woman, was told by her doctor that she’d have to have part of her colon removed and replaced with an external bag. After Dr. Davis talked her into going wheat free, her colon healed itself. Another patient, a twenty-six-year-old man, was experiencing so much pain in his joints, he could barely walk. Three different rheumatologists failed to identify a cause. When he visited Dr. Davis for a heart condition, Dr. Davis suggested he try a wheat-free diet for the joint pain. Three months later, the young man strode into the office pain-free and reported he’d been jogging short distances and playing basketball. His heart condition had cleared up as well.

Before the chapters detailing the many ways wheat can damage our bodies and brains, Dr. Davis begins by recounting the history of wheat itself. It’s a fascinating story — in a Stephen King sort of way, that is. Here are a few quotes from that chapter, which is titled Not Your Grandma’s Muffins: The Creation of Modern Wheat.

Bread and other foods made from wheat have sustained humans for centuries, but the wheat of our ancestors is not the same as modern commercial wheat that reaches your breakfast, lunch and dinner table. From the original strains of wild grass harvested by early humans, wheat has exploded to more than 25,000 varieties, virtually all of them the result of human intervention.

The first wild, then cultivated, wheat was einkorn, the great-granddaddy of all subsequent wheat. Einkorn has the simplest genetic code of all wheat, containing only 14 chromosomes.

Shortly after the cultivation of the first einkorn plant, the emmer variety of wheat, the natural offspring of parents einkorn and an unrelated wild grass, Aegilops speltvoides or goatgrass, made its appearance in the Middle East. Goatgrass added its genetic code to that of einkorn, resulting in the more complex twenty-eight-chromosome emmer wheat.

Emmer wheat, Dr. Davis explains, was probably the wheat of biblical times. Later the emmer wheat mated naturally with another grass and produced Triticum aestivum, the forty-two-chromosome wheat that humans consumed for centuries – right up until the past 50 years or so. That’s when the story of wheat becomes a bit of a modern Frankenstein tale.

Like Dr. Frankenstein, the scientists who created today’s wheat had good intentions: the goal was to produce more wheat per acre in a shorter span of time, thus vastly increasing yields and preventing worldwide starvation as the planet’s population swelled. To that extent, they succeeded. Geneticist Dr. Norman Borlaug, who created the short, stocky, fast-growing “dwarf” wheat most of us consume today, is credited with saving perhaps a billion people from starvation.

The problem is that dwarf wheat varieties were developed through a combination of cross-breeding and gene splicing. The result is a mutant plant with a genetic code that never existed in nature before. In fact, today’s wheat literally can’t survive in a natural setting. Take away the modern pesticides and fertilizers and it’s (pardon the pun) toast.

Perhaps overjoyed at the prospect of the feeding the world, the developers of modern wheat varieties weren’t interested in conducting tests to see if these genetically-modified strains were actually fit for human consumption. Dr. Davis believes they’re not. At the very least, we’re now consuming wheat that’s genetically different from what our ancestors consumed:

Analyses of proteins expressed by a wheat hybrid compared to its two parent strains have demonstrated that while approximately 95 percent of the proteins expressed in the offspring are the same, five percent are unique, found in neither parent. Wheat gluten proteins, in particular, undergo considerable structural change with hybridization. In one hybridization experiment, fourteen new gluten proteins were identified in the offspring that were not present in either parent plant. Moreover, when compared to century-old stains of wheat, modern strains of Triticum aestivum express a higher quantity of genes for gluten proteins that are associated with celiac disease.

Hybridization efforts of the past fifty years have generated numerous additional changes in the gluten-coding genes in Triticum aestivum, most of them purposeful modifications of the “D” genome that confer baking and aesthetic characteristics on flour. It is therefore the the “D” genome of modern Triticum aestivum that, having been the focus of all manner of shenanigans by plant geneticists, has accumulated substantial changes in genetically determined characteristics of gluten proteins.

In other word’s, this ain’t your grandma’s wheat.  Little wonder that when researchers compared blood samples taken from thousand of soldiers 50 years ago to blood samples from today’s soldiers, they found that celiac antibodies are five times more common today among today’s soliders.

Dr. Davis recounts an experiment he conducted on himself to compare the different impacts of ancient wheat and modern wheat on his blood sugar. He managed to find some einkorn wheat and made bread from it. Two slices of that bread raised his blood sugar from 86 mg/dl to 110. Not bad. Then he made bread from modern whole wheat – you know, the stuff the USDA says is the key to great health. Two slices raised his blood sugar from 84 mg/dl to 167. That’s diabetes territory. As Dr. Davis writes in another chapter after explaining the specific types of carbohydrates found in wheat:

Wheat products elevate blood sugar levels more than virtually any other carbohydrate, from beans to candy bars.

As the graph I displayed in a previous post showed, the typical American consumes somewhere around 1,000 calories per day in the form of sugars and grains.  Our dominant grain by far is wheat — wheat that was never part of the human diet until 50 years ago.

The rest of the book details the damage modern wheat can do to our bodies and brains, with plenty of references to both academic studies and case histories from Dr. Davis’ medical practice. He covers the addictive properties of wheat, the effects wheat can produce in our brains (including actual brain damage), and of course the many ways wheat can wreak havoc on our digestive systems. Compared to those chapters, the chapters on skin conditions, accelerated aging, and heart disease seem almost tame. Sure, it’s not good to produce mostly small, dense LDL … but heart disease will kill you later. Untreated celiac disease will make you miserable for life – and most celiac sufferers are never diagnosed.

This is an excellent book, and also an important book. A story a co-worker told me last week illustrates why: his wife suffered from debilitating headaches for years. She went from doctor to doctor, but none could offer an explanation or solution, other than pain medications that basically knocked her out. Then a few months ago, she mentioned the headaches to some acquaintances over dinner. One of them – not a doctor – told her the headaches could be caused by a reaction to wheat gluten and suggested she try a gluten-free diet. She did … and headaches went away.

As my co-worker told me, “I’m glad someone finally gave her the answer, but why did she have to hear this from some Joe Schmoe after years of suffering? Why didn’t any of the doctors we consulted think of that?”

The doctors didn’t think of that because they weren’t trained to think of that. Ask the vast majority of doctors for dietary advice, and they’ll tell you to limit your fats and eat your “healthy whole grains.” They can’t teach what they don’t know.

I hope you all read this book. But more than that, I hope you buy a copy and stick it in your doctor’s hands. The next time a patient shows up suffering from splitting headaches (or irritable bowel, or stomach cramps, or acne, or psoriasis, or depression, or emotional problems, or high triglycerides, or high blood sugar, or arthritis, or asthma), perhaps the doctor will take a careful dietary history and suggest trying a wheat-free diet before reaching for the prescription pad.

Next week I’ll be posting a Q & A with Dr. Davis.  I have a list of questions I want to ask, but if you have questions of your own, post them in a comment.  I’ll pick some to add to my list.

 


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368 thoughts on “Book Review: Wheat Belly

  1. StormCat42

    @Erica – I just went to Amazon to download it for the Kindle and it’s telling me that it’s available…

    @Tom – Thank you for reviewing this book… I’m new to IBS/Celiac and have been off all gluten products for a month now… To my amazement, almost all of my IBS/Celiac symptoms have disappeared, I seem to be more clear headed, and I’ve lost over 20 pounds! Who knew? The nice thing is, I’m finding many of my local restaurants are posting gluten-free menu items on their website!! (Makes being out with my friends soooo much easier!) I had no idea before this that wheat/gluten was so bad for us! But seeing is believing and brother, I’m a believer now! *smile* Thanks again for sharing this book! I can’t wait to read it tonight!

    Glad to year about your improvement.

  2. Emma

    Good luck getting doctors into this. Most of them are influenced by pharmaceutical companies as it is.
    I mean look at the heartburn industry.

    I’d like to ask Dr. Davis: if and will doctors really support this worldwide, not just a small segment?

    I’m sure the whole cereal, bread, and wheat industries would have a shitfit if this got out in the global arena of news.

  3. Rebecca

    The first I’ve heard of this was wondering is this talking about “gluten” free or “just wheat free”

    Depending on your sensitivity to gluten, you may need to go completely gluten free. Some people are fine with gluten in smaller amounts.

  4. Daniela Kunz

    Hi Tom,

    I am your former neighbor, Daniela – Lukas’s mom. I thought to also leave a comment here. Time ago, before your family moved to another subdivision here in this city, she asked me if I ever heard of or saw the video you made. I had no clue of this video until she mentioned it to me. It is very true on what you have been portraying. Have the studies also included the ancient way of wheat fermentation which remove the harmful enzymes of the outer layer of the grain and thus of no danger to people if prepared in the traditional ways of ancient times? I wonder on what I could learn more on that and if I have to cross out even the fermented and certified organic whole wheat or spelt I have been using for bread baking.
    I would love to hear some feedback on this from you. Let me know – I left a message on your voice mail today and am hoping to hear back from you or from your wife. Hope all is well and the girls like their new surroundings and school too!
    Greetings to all in the family!
    Daniela

    Hi, Daniela — Nice to hear from you. I’ll ask Dr. Davis if fermenting today’s wheat neutralizes the negative effects.

  5. Nowhereman

    @Be “Later the same day my vet chided me for not feeding our dog grains (who by the way is feeling much better since he went Paleo with us).”

    WTF!? You gotta be kidding… no really! What heck kind of a quack vet would prescribe GRAINS to a carnivore animal? O_O

    Maybe you need to go find another vet before this one kills your poor dog with malpractice.

  6. Robert

    Great review. Just went and bought it on amazon after reading this. (I love amazon prime, I’ll have it for some weekend reading!) Normally I like to buy books on my kindle, but I bought this in physical form so I can share with my parents.

    Hopefully this will finally convince them to try a low-carb/zero wheat diet. I’m hoping that maybe this will have an effect on a debilitating illness my father has been suffering from for over a decade now. No doctor can diagnose him and his symptoms are something I can’t even imagine living with everyday, much less work 60+ hours a week to provide for his family. He lives every day in constant pain, can sleep for 12 hours and been dead-exhausted, cannot lift his arm above horizontal without incredible pain, and a myriad of other issues.

    I’ve been especially concerned for him lately. I just found out a week ago he is on statins (with no prior heart disease of course) in addition to the cocktail of the other dozen drugs he takes to try and manage his pain. I’m honestly amazed I got him to agree to talk to his doctor about stopping them, and I have you to thank for that Tom. Without you, I would never have known. Maybe I can at least keep my father from forgetting who he is (as I’ve already seen his memory start to fade a bit) thanks to you.

    I’m a fathead for life now!

    Yeesh, statins. I hope he tries a grain-free diet. Worst possible outcome is that he misses grains for awhile.

  7. Be

    My question for Dr. Davis is what is his take on sprouted and soured grains? Is it still a matter of the type of wheat being sprouted or is it all bad for us? Is he even suggesting that less engineered grains are okay to eat or just less bad for us? I feel bad asking these questions till I’ve read his book, but you did ask for suggestions! Thanks!

  8. timmah

    I applaud the writer for making the effort to educate people. BUT…

    Maybe I’ve been watching too much Mad Men. I’m picturing food company execs in a Madison Avenue conference room with some Don Draper like guy explaining how this book changes the market, and the key to successful marketing to the health-conscious now is to play up the lack of wheat in products.

    “I realize your product is also grown with pesticides and herbicides. You’re missing the point: Your product is made from rice. Their product is made from genetically modified franken-poison.”

    When people substitute gluten-free fruity pebbles (they already play up the GF angle on the box) for their usual wheaties but don’t see any health benefit from it, they’ll decide that the book and the advice must be wrong and the Dr. is a crack-pot quack.

    We’ve seen it before. Conventional wisdom paints HF/LC diets as “extreme” diets where you lose only water weight and become nutrient deficient.

    Dr. Davis makes it clear in the book that gluten-free products that are high in other refined carbs aren’t the way to go.

  9. Matt

    My girlfriend and I eat a lot of spelt, as she finds that common wheat makes her ill while spelt doesn’t. If it’s not addressed in the book (I haven’t read it yet) I’d be interested to hear Dr. Davis’ thoughts on grains like spelt and kamut.

    Also, your review makes numerous mentions of the fact that modern wheat wasn’t part of the human diet until recently. This is interesting in a historical sense, but it doesn’t tell us anything about health. A given food isn’t necessarily more or less healthy simply because your ancestor’s did or did not consume it. Even if it was the case that ALL foods not consumed by one’s ancestors (which ancestors? How many generations are nutritionally relevant? My ancestors from 100,000 years ago probably ate a lot of bugs.) were unhealthy, it wouldn’t follow that ‘not having been consumed by one’s ancestors’ was a health-related property.

    Penicillin and the polio vaccine are two examples of things that humans didn’t ingest until pretty recently that seem to have positive health benefits.

    True, just because a food is new doesn’t necessarily make it bad, but there’s the issue of introducing foods into our diets that we can’t possibly have had time to adapt to eating. Certainly the evidence supports the idea that today’s wheat is causing more harm than yesterday’s.

  10. charliex

    I’m sure your doctor will appreciate you bringing a big pile of books that may or may not be related to what you think is wrong with you.

    People cured by acquaintances at dinner who aren’t doctors! Yes people all that science and training is probably a giant waste and they’re really just ripping you off, please feel free next time you’re at dinner to discuss your worst health problems, possibly bring along some blood and stool samples and any anecdotal advice you got from the neighbours who knows someone whos friend recovered from cancer by being zapped by a 9volt battery .

    But why stop there ? get your legal and business advice at the same time!! think of the money you’ll save getting advice from acquaintances at dinner! At the very least you’ll go home with a fully belly, but haha of course not gluten !

    Hmmm, let’s see … I’m aware of many cases where doctors failed to find the root cause of a condition, but some educated consumer figured it out, leading to a cure for the long-suffering patient. The smart conclusion: doctors don’t know much about nutrition and health, since they’re taught almost nothing about nutrition and health in medical school. The idiotic conclusion: only someone who went to med school is qualified to offer opinions on nutrition and health, even though doctors are taught almost nothing about nutrition and health.

  11. Patricia

    I would like to ask Dr. Davis if wheat could be a contributing factor in the apparent rise in fibromyalgia and MS. It seems that everyone I talk to knows someone, or has someone in their family, that has MS.

    My sister was diagnosed with both about 15 years ago. In spite of numerous mainstream medical treatments she just kept getting worse until she ended up in a wheelchair for the majority of her day about 5 years ago, unable to take care of herself. It was difficult for her to carry on a coherent conversation; her emotions and brain fog made it so frustrating to talk to her.

    About a year ago I came across an article from one of the many health newsletters I receive about the effects of wheat on the digestive tract. Since my sister was suffering from extreme cramping, diarrhea, nerve pain, headaches, muscle weakness and balance issues that prohibited her from leaving the house, I suggested that she eliminate all wheat and gluten products (all grains in all its forms). I was hoping that this would at least stop her digestive issues.

    Well, long story short, one year later her “MS/fibromyalgia” has mysteriously reversed itself. She no longer has digestive issues, pain, headaches or muscle weakness with balance issues. The wheelchair is collecting dust. She has stopped taking all the recommended prescriptions and only eats whole natural paleo type foods, high fat, no grains in any form, supplemented with select vitamins and minerals.

    The doctors can no longer find anything wrong with her (other than “high cholesterol levels – 225 total with HDL of 79). It amazes us that she is told that diet could not have had anything to do with it and it was probably the medications that helped, or she’s in remission. Yeah, after 15 years it’s about time for remission!

    Of course, I, too eliminated wheat and all grains from my diet at the same time. My primary symptoms were weight gain, brain fog and fatigue. And I didn’t eat it but one or twice a week because I’ve always eaten low carb. HUGE difference since I gave up grains!

    We appreciate all you do, Tom.

    I’ll add that question to the list.

  12. Dana

    It seems as if even Dr. Davis can’t one-hundred-percent let go of the idea that wheat has ever been a healthy food in any way, shape, or form. Quite aside from the environmental consequences of growing it (grain agriculture, along with city-building, destroyed the cedar forests of Iraq and made it into the desert it is today), grain has always taken away from the health of people eating it in more than trace amounts. If you ask someone who works in paleopathology they’ll tell you they can tell the remains of someone from a farmer culture versus someone from a forager (hunter-gatherer) culture because the farmer will have more bone lesions, shorter stature, smaller cranium and he’ll be missing more of his teeth.

    Even in Weston Price’s work you’ll see, if you add up the numbers, that the bread-eating traditional Swiss had the most cavities of any of the traditional groups he studied, and the group with the fewest cavities was the traditional, near-carnivorous, grain-free Inuit.

    It seems like we got away with eating grain for a long time, doesn’t it? But we didn’t. All the health problems we’ve historically had, like extra susceptibility to infection and dangerous childbirth and short stature and underdeveloped brains? That had nothing to do with a lack of modern medicine. Some of us only regained our pre-ag average height in the mid-20th because of new (if incomplete) understandings about human nutrition. Others have never regained the height that was lost with the advent of agriculture–Turks, Greeks, and Arabs come to mind.

    And I think the only reason it wasn’t far worse than that was because we were still eating what I refer to as “protective foods.” Weston Price talked about those–animal organs, fish and bird eggs, milk from cows that have eaten spring grass, and cod liver oil, and stuff like that. But in the last 75 years our use of these foods has severely declined.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Dr. Davis is on the right track. And I think a diet high in carbs exacerbates health problems in people not eating the protective foods. And the protective foods, with the possible exception of animal organs, tend to be expensive so we are not going to solve this problem across all socio-economic levels any time soon (if ever). So, even if today’s wheat were exactly the same as the wheat we ate 5000 years ago, I would still suggest it’s a good idea to lay off the stuff.

    That’s my opinion of grains. Maybe they weren’t as bad before, but I doubt they were ever good for us.

  13. Peggy Cihocki

    @Erica, I got it on my Kindle App for my iPhone from Amazon yesterday. You should be able to get it–check again. But it isn’t any cheaper than the Nook version, so if you have a Nook and can get it on that for $9.99…either way, you should be able to get it electronically.

  14. LXV

    I just finished the book (I preordered it on Kindle three days ago). Right now I’m eyeing my husband’s box of nutrisystem and wondering how mad he’d be if I threw it out. (Needless to say, we’re on different diets).

  15. Lori

    In the book, Dr. Davis advises readers to avoid frying foods. How to cook uncured bacon and uncured sausage, then? Is microwaving OK? (I remember your older brother baking bacon, but I don’t like to light the oven in the summer–no central AC in my house.)

    I haven’t gotten to the end of the book, so if this is covered, please disregard.

    I don’t eat many fried foods, but bacon and fried eggs are too good to pass up. I think the with low-carb diet, I’ll be fine.

  16. Joy Rosen

    Wonderful article, I will buy the book!

    What about other grains, like kamut, spelt, amaranth, and buckwheat? Are they all free from these negative effects? Is emmer wheat ok to eat?

    Thanks!

    I’ll ask.

  17. Joe Lindley

    A potential question for Dr. Davis: practically speaking do his patients usually go on wheat-free diet or do they go all out and go wheat-free and sugar-free. In other words, does it work to remove all the wheat-based carbs and still allow the dieter to have sugar. It seems like the sugar would derail the wheat-free diet. Thanks!

  18. Underground

    “I’ll ask Dr. Davis if fermenting today’s wheat neutralizes the negative effects.”

    Bread is one thing, but you start stompin on beer and you’ll have a fight on your hands from a lot of folks. 😉

    I know not to mess with the beer-drinkers. They’re a rowdy bunch.

  19. Jen

    The information about the soldiers and celiac antibodies is fascinating, especially taken in hand with the information about how wheat itself has changed. Hearing celiac disease (which I have) referred to as a “fad” has already become tiresome, not the least because wheat products are not healthy or nutritious anyhow! That there are doctor-types treating it as a fad troubles me, though. With all of the evidence stacked against wheat-eating, their continued clinging to it, even in the face of a real disease such as celiac, I don’t know how they can keep insisting people stuff themselves on grain products.

    Looking forward to the interview. I’ll be interested in the answer to Fred Hahn’s question myself.

    There is a tendency for a disease to be diagnosed more often simply because more doctors are looking for it. But in the case of celiac, comparing the blood samples is pretty clear evidence that the actual incidence has gone up.

  20. Alexandra

    @DeborahM and Tom… I agree on the dairy.. In the paleo community, when someone wants to become leaner, they often mention cutting dairy entirely. Milk is, after all, designed to get a 60 pound newborn calf up to 500 pounds in a year or less. If memory serves, Dr. Atkins advised limiting cheese to no more than a few ounces a day.

    Best of luck!

  21. Jim Anderson

    I’m pretty sure it was wheat that wreaked havoc on my digestive system for years before I went low-carb. That problem has resolved itself. From the sound of it, I got off lucky. I think I’ll wait a while before trying any of that old-time wheat, though. See how the rest of you do.

  22. Emma

    Good luck getting doctors into this. Most of them are influenced by pharmaceutical companies as it is.
    I mean look at the heartburn industry.

    I’d like to ask Dr. Davis: if and will doctors really support this worldwide, not just a small segment?

    I’m sure the whole cereal, bread, and wheat industries would have a shitfit if this got out in the global arena of news.

  23. Daniela Kunz

    Hi Tom,

    I am your former neighbor, Daniela – Lukas’s mom. I thought to also leave a comment here. Time ago, before your family moved to another subdivision here in this city, she asked me if I ever heard of or saw the video you made. I had no clue of this video until she mentioned it to me. It is very true on what you have been portraying. Have the studies also included the ancient way of wheat fermentation which remove the harmful enzymes of the outer layer of the grain and thus of no danger to people if prepared in the traditional ways of ancient times? I wonder on what I could learn more on that and if I have to cross out even the fermented and certified organic whole wheat or spelt I have been using for bread baking.
    I would love to hear some feedback on this from you. Let me know – I left a message on your voice mail today and am hoping to hear back from you or from your wife. Hope all is well and the girls like their new surroundings and school too!
    Greetings to all in the family!
    Daniela

    Hi, Daniela — Nice to hear from you. I’ll ask Dr. Davis if fermenting today’s wheat neutralizes the negative effects.

  24. Nowhereman

    @Be “Later the same day my vet chided me for not feeding our dog grains (who by the way is feeling much better since he went Paleo with us).”

    WTF!? You gotta be kidding… no really! What heck kind of a quack vet would prescribe GRAINS to a carnivore animal? O_O

    Maybe you need to go find another vet before this one kills your poor dog with malpractice.

  25. Ellen

    The more research I do for my sites, the more convinced I am that gluten and indeed, general grain consumption is the root of most modern disease, and especially autoimmune diseases like diabetes, lupus and arthritis.

    I see wheat related health issues in people all around me.. a guy at work struggles with horrible heartburn.. told him about wheat, he tells me he can’t give it up. Another woman has thyroid issues, and her daughter is a celiac. She had no idea that as a direct relative, she was most likely wheat sensitive as well. Several other people complain of terrible joint pain. I try to tell them, but I get the weird looks a lot.

    I quit eating all gluten grains several years ago and no longer have GERD, or joint pain, or brain fog, or any of the other weird health issues I used to have. I know immediately if I’ve accidentially ingested gluten – get heartburn immediately and stomach pain and breathing issues shortly after.

    I am so looking forward to reading this book. I ordered it a month ago and hope to have it in my hands this week. I hope it goes viral!

    I hope it goes viral too, especially among the medical community.

  26. Matt

    My girlfriend and I eat a lot of spelt, as she finds that common wheat makes her ill while spelt doesn’t. If it’s not addressed in the book (I haven’t read it yet) I’d be interested to hear Dr. Davis’ thoughts on grains like spelt and kamut.

    Also, your review makes numerous mentions of the fact that modern wheat wasn’t part of the human diet until recently. This is interesting in a historical sense, but it doesn’t tell us anything about health. A given food isn’t necessarily more or less healthy simply because your ancestor’s did or did not consume it. Even if it was the case that ALL foods not consumed by one’s ancestors (which ancestors? How many generations are nutritionally relevant? My ancestors from 100,000 years ago probably ate a lot of bugs.) were unhealthy, it wouldn’t follow that ‘not having been consumed by one’s ancestors’ was a health-related property.

    Penicillin and the polio vaccine are two examples of things that humans didn’t ingest until pretty recently that seem to have positive health benefits.

    True, just because a food is new doesn’t necessarily make it bad, but there’s the issue of introducing foods into our diets that we can’t possibly have had time to adapt to eating. Certainly the evidence supports the idea that today’s wheat is causing more harm than yesterday’s.

  27. TheGame

    You’ve stooped so low now as to criticize Norman Borlaug, a man who saved a billion people from starvation. If only we could aspire to become a bald, chunky, wierd stanced, psuedo-nutritionist blogger like yourself Tom. The world would surely be a better place. I guess he should have done it with grass fed beef and all would have been well, eh Tom?

    And in which part of the post did I criticize Borlaug? Are you talking about the part in which I said his intentions were good and that he’s credited will saving a billion people? None of that negates that fact that the wheat he developed is a mutant variety, untested for human consumption, and contains far more gluten proteins that the wheat it replaced. If you’re too immature to accept facts, that’s your problem.

  28. Dana

    It seems as if even Dr. Davis can’t one-hundred-percent let go of the idea that wheat has ever been a healthy food in any way, shape, or form. Quite aside from the environmental consequences of growing it (grain agriculture, along with city-building, destroyed the cedar forests of Iraq and made it into the desert it is today), grain has always taken away from the health of people eating it in more than trace amounts. If you ask someone who works in paleopathology they’ll tell you they can tell the remains of someone from a farmer culture versus someone from a forager (hunter-gatherer) culture because the farmer will have more bone lesions, shorter stature, smaller cranium and he’ll be missing more of his teeth.

    Even in Weston Price’s work you’ll see, if you add up the numbers, that the bread-eating traditional Swiss had the most cavities of any of the traditional groups he studied, and the group with the fewest cavities was the traditional, near-carnivorous, grain-free Inuit.

    It seems like we got away with eating grain for a long time, doesn’t it? But we didn’t. All the health problems we’ve historically had, like extra susceptibility to infection and dangerous childbirth and short stature and underdeveloped brains? That had nothing to do with a lack of modern medicine. Some of us only regained our pre-ag average height in the mid-20th because of new (if incomplete) understandings about human nutrition. Others have never regained the height that was lost with the advent of agriculture–Turks, Greeks, and Arabs come to mind.

    And I think the only reason it wasn’t far worse than that was because we were still eating what I refer to as “protective foods.” Weston Price talked about those–animal organs, fish and bird eggs, milk from cows that have eaten spring grass, and cod liver oil, and stuff like that. But in the last 75 years our use of these foods has severely declined.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Dr. Davis is on the right track. And I think a diet high in carbs exacerbates health problems in people not eating the protective foods. And the protective foods, with the possible exception of animal organs, tend to be expensive so we are not going to solve this problem across all socio-economic levels any time soon (if ever). So, even if today’s wheat were exactly the same as the wheat we ate 5000 years ago, I would still suggest it’s a good idea to lay off the stuff.

    That’s my opinion of grains. Maybe they weren’t as bad before, but I doubt they were ever good for us.

  29. Lori

    In the book, Dr. Davis advises readers to avoid frying foods. How to cook uncured bacon and uncured sausage, then? Is microwaving OK? (I remember your older brother baking bacon, but I don’t like to light the oven in the summer–no central AC in my house.)

    I haven’t gotten to the end of the book, so if this is covered, please disregard.

    I don’t eat many fried foods, but bacon and fried eggs are too good to pass up. I think the with low-carb diet, I’ll be fine.

  30. Joy Rosen

    Wonderful article, I will buy the book!

    What about other grains, like kamut, spelt, amaranth, and buckwheat? Are they all free from these negative effects? Is emmer wheat ok to eat?

    Thanks!

    I’ll ask.

  31. Underground

    “I’ll ask Dr. Davis if fermenting today’s wheat neutralizes the negative effects.”

    Bread is one thing, but you start stompin on beer and you’ll have a fight on your hands from a lot of folks. 😉

    I know not to mess with the beer-drinkers. They’re a rowdy bunch.

  32. Bonnie

    Are Fritos (no wheat flour, just corn) okay? I read about this in Women’s World and I think I really like it. How do you stop losing once down to your ideal weight. Years ago I went on Atkins diet and really lost a lot, but didn’t know how to stop the weight loss and was actually getting too thin, so stopped it and eventually gained my weight back plus some. I only have a few pounds to lose right now, then what?

    Dr. Atkins recommended slowly increasing your carb intake once you reach your ideal weight until you find your maintenance level. Just don’t put sugar or wheat back into your diet to get your carbs.

    Check the label on those fritos. I’m sure it’s a chemical horror show.

  33. Dan

    Can’t wait to get this book. I’m currently studying to become a speech language pathologist, and I’m convinced that negative reactions to gluten is a primary cause of stuttering, similar to epilepsy.

  34. Ellen

    The more research I do for my sites, the more convinced I am that gluten and indeed, general grain consumption is the root of most modern disease, and especially autoimmune diseases like diabetes, lupus and arthritis.

    I see wheat related health issues in people all around me.. a guy at work struggles with horrible heartburn.. told him about wheat, he tells me he can’t give it up. Another woman has thyroid issues, and her daughter is a celiac. She had no idea that as a direct relative, she was most likely wheat sensitive as well. Several other people complain of terrible joint pain. I try to tell them, but I get the weird looks a lot.

    I quit eating all gluten grains several years ago and no longer have GERD, or joint pain, or brain fog, or any of the other weird health issues I used to have. I know immediately if I’ve accidentially ingested gluten – get heartburn immediately and stomach pain and breathing issues shortly after.

    I am so looking forward to reading this book. I ordered it a month ago and hope to have it in my hands this week. I hope it goes viral!

    I hope it goes viral too, especially among the medical community.

  35. TheGame

    You’ve stooped so low now as to criticize Norman Borlaug, a man who saved a billion people from starvation. If only we could aspire to become a bald, chunky, wierd stanced, psuedo-nutritionist blogger like yourself Tom. The world would surely be a better place. I guess he should have done it with grass fed beef and all would have been well, eh Tom?

    And in which part of the post did I criticize Borlaug? Are you talking about the part in which I said his intentions were good and that he’s credited will saving a billion people? None of that negates that fact that the wheat he developed is a mutant variety, untested for human consumption, and contains far more gluten proteins that the wheat it replaced. If you’re too immature to accept facts, that’s your problem.

  36. TonyNZ

    On diseases of civilization in general, what would you make of the pathology of gout?

    Dr. Richard Johnson believes gout is mostly caused by excess fructose producing excess uric acid.

  37. Bonnie

    Are Fritos (no wheat flour, just corn) okay? I read about this in Women’s World and I think I really like it. How do you stop losing once down to your ideal weight. Years ago I went on Atkins diet and really lost a lot, but didn’t know how to stop the weight loss and was actually getting too thin, so stopped it and eventually gained my weight back plus some. I only have a few pounds to lose right now, then what?

    Dr. Atkins recommended slowly increasing your carb intake once you reach your ideal weight until you find your maintenance level. Just don’t put sugar or wheat back into your diet to get your carbs.

    Check the label on those fritos. I’m sure it’s a chemical horror show.

  38. Michael Cohen

    RE Charliex

    I was doing all of the “right” things for most of my life. Avoiding sugar and ALL processed foods, and getting most of my calories from whole grains like organic brown rice, whole wheat chapattis and legumes.I minimized animal fats and ate almost no dairy. I exercised regularly and my job involved walking 2-5 miles every day. Yet with all of this my 60th birthday found me 40 lbs overweight. I developed GERD so severe that I ended up in the emergency room several times thinking that I was having a heart attack. I also suddenly developed really crippling Arthritis in my neck and shoulders. My cholesterol was “high” and so were my triglycerides. My DOCTORS (plural) solution for the GERD was a lifetime of nexium and prilosec. The solution for the arthritis was a lifetime of drugs like celebrex. The solution for the cholesterol,since my “low fat” diet was not working, was of course statins. A lifetime of toxic drugs was unacceptable to me so i did my own research and the cascade of information began. I eliminated ALL grains from my diet and went low carb. In two days the GERD disappeared. In ten days the arthritis simply went away. I lost over 20 lbs in six weeks without hunger or cravings. One day at a restaurant I had the equivalent of two slices of bread with a smoked meat platter and woke up the next morning with my neck and shoulder ablaze again.
    Two of the doctors I visited told me in the exact same wording that I would “Live Longer” if I took statins. I realized that this was probably what the drug reps are telling them to say to their patients. Many of my friends are doctors.The process of becoming a medical doctor seems to favor the type of person that can absorb and regurgitate large amounts of information.

    Unfortunately, they can only teach what they know, and what they know is how to prescribe drugs.

  39. Dan

    Can’t wait to get this book. I’m currently studying to become a speech language pathologist, and I’m convinced that negative reactions to gluten is a primary cause of stuttering, similar to epilepsy.

  40. JenB

    I bought some Emmer. The results were….flat. I need to try again, but it’s kind of expensive for experimentation with recipes made for modern wheat.

    Tom, Don’t answer the nuts that are trying to push your buttons. I thought you learned your lesson. 😉

    Sometimes conversing with the nuts makes for cheap entertainment.

  41. Andy

    “….suffering from splitting headaches (or irritable bowel, or stomach cramps, or acne, or psoriasis, or depression, or emotional problems, or high triglycerides, or high blood sugar, or arthritis, or asthma)………”

    My wife is a coeliac and she suffers from IBS, stomach cramps, acne and splitting headaches. She has never eaten gluten (voluntarily) in her life.

    Wheat is not the root of all evil, I eat wheat daily and never have headaches and no acne, my digestion is fine. Go figure.

    For many of us, yes, wheat is the root of all (or a lot of) evil. Some people smoke 2 packs of cigarettes per day all their lives and live to be 90, but I wouldn’t hold that up as evidence that smoking isn’t harmful.

  42. Nina

    Fine review, thank you.

    This link popped in my inbox. It’s a depressing mix of OK science and fluff, that ends with a puff for a pill. That’s right. Just take a tablet and see the pounds melt off you…..as if. Easier to toss out the bread, cakes and spaghetti.

    Nina

    http://www.doubleyourfatlossnow.com/presentation/

    Ugh. So it’s another condition caused my lack of medication, is it?

  43. TonyNZ

    On diseases of civilization in general, what would you make of the pathology of gout?

    Dr. Richard Johnson believes gout is mostly caused by excess fructose producing excess uric acid.

  44. damaged justice

    TheGame apparently isn’t aware that there is more than enough real food to sustain everyone even at current population levels. It’s not a question of production, but distribution. And no, I do not advocate forced redistribution.

    That’s a point I’ve made before: name any country where people are starving, and you’re naming a country either run by a dictator who uses starvation as a weapon, or a country hampered by a lousy command-and-control economic system instead of a market system.

  45. Michael Cohen

    RE Charliex

    I was doing all of the “right” things for most of my life. Avoiding sugar and ALL processed foods, and getting most of my calories from whole grains like organic brown rice, whole wheat chapattis and legumes.I minimized animal fats and ate almost no dairy. I exercised regularly and my job involved walking 2-5 miles every day. Yet with all of this my 60th birthday found me 40 lbs overweight. I developed GERD so severe that I ended up in the emergency room several times thinking that I was having a heart attack. I also suddenly developed really crippling Arthritis in my neck and shoulders. My cholesterol was “high” and so were my triglycerides. My DOCTORS (plural) solution for the GERD was a lifetime of nexium and prilosec. The solution for the arthritis was a lifetime of drugs like celebrex. The solution for the cholesterol,since my “low fat” diet was not working, was of course statins. A lifetime of toxic drugs was unacceptable to me so i did my own research and the cascade of information began. I eliminated ALL grains from my diet and went low carb. In two days the GERD disappeared. In ten days the arthritis simply went away. I lost over 20 lbs in six weeks without hunger or cravings. One day at a restaurant I had the equivalent of two slices of bread with a smoked meat platter and woke up the next morning with my neck and shoulder ablaze again.
    Two of the doctors I visited told me in the exact same wording that I would “Live Longer” if I took statins. I realized that this was probably what the drug reps are telling them to say to their patients. Many of my friends are doctors.The process of becoming a medical doctor seems to favor the type of person that can absorb and regurgitate large amounts of information.

    Unfortunately, they can only teach what they know, and what they know is how to prescribe drugs.

  46. Wil W

    Could you or Dr. Davis elaborate on why genetic complexity is viewed as inherently bad?

    Second, why is natural crossbreeding of wheat considered more desirable than human crossbreeding? Plants naturally crossbreed, so what is wrong with humans encouraging it?

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