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.