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Gluten or Glutton?

Overweight or Obese?

It’s not your fault. It’s the wheat


     Forget about fat, sugar and all the sodium in fast food and packaged food. There’s a new culprit in town that is causing your body to gain weight: wheat.

According to Dr.William Davis, author of the best-selling book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health, the grain that has been the staple of the human diet for thousands of years is making us sick and fat.

Unfortunately, most of the logic in this book is flawed and incorrect but it does not matter to Dr.Davis as he collects his millions from the sale of the book.

His first claim is that “genetically altered” modern wheat is not the same as that grown hundreds or even thousands of years ago and is the cause of rising obesity rates, and a myriad of diseases, including celiac disease, diabetes, heart disease and even schizophrenia.

Of course his remedy is to follow the Wheat Belly diet, and then your excess fat and all your symptoms, digestive upset, joint pain, skin rashes and even foggy thinking will simply disappear. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is and unfortunately his diet is not only difficult to adhere to, but it simply does not work.

Wheat Belly is just another diet book that puts all the blame on just one food, food group or food ingredient. By now we should all know that it is not just the refined sugar, or the fat, or the carbohydrates, but a collective assortment of all the above in excessive proportions along with a sedentary life style that causes obesity. Of course if you stopped eating wheat, that would mean eliminating bread which contains high amounts of sugar and salt and this would definitely result in weight loss. You may even give up other wheat products such as muffins and donuts and experience further weight loss. The fact is, it is not the wheat or the gluten in the wheat; it is the highly refined processing that produces sugary and salty breads and sweets that contribute to our obese society.

Dr. Davis does not even blame the wheat but puts all the blame on a protein called gluten which is in the wheat.  According to his book, years of traditional wheat breeding have created changes in the structure of gluten, alterations potentially harmful to human health. The problem is that all the data used to come to this conclusion was gathered from experiments done in a laboratory and not from farms where conventional plant breeding takes place.

When the lab results were sent to Dr. Brett Carver, wheat genetics chair in agriculture at Oklahoma State University, he found that none of the wheat grown in North America was developed through the process that Dr. Davis used to grow wheat in his laboratory. Dr.Carver also stated that the gluten composition of farmed wheat has not changed dramatically in over 100 years.

Many people are afraid of genetically engineered crops which may have foreign genes, genes from other plants or animals, inserted into their genetic codes. However, nowhere on this entire planet is wheat a product of genetic engineering and even Dr. Davis, who wrote the book, agrees with this statement.

As I said earlier, it is easy to make a connection between wheat and obesity because of all the fattening substances we produce with wheat such as cookies donuts and highly processed breads loaded with sugar and salt. When you compare the populations of European and Asian countries to ours, you find that they actually consume more wheat per capita than we do but they have much lower obesity rates. It is not the wheat, but what you use it for in your diet.

The highly processed wheat products that we consume in North America lead to increased levels of insulin which can actually drive appetite and fat storage. And, once again, it is not the wheat alone but the kind of lifestyle we live.

We live in what is called an “obesogenic” environment that encourages us to eat and drink more calories than we expend. Ours cars take us everywhere. Walking is no longer an option. Everywhere we go highly processed and fast foods are available. There is a hot dog stand in front of Canadian Tire. Can you take the kids or grandkids to a hockey game or soccer game without eating some fast food while they play? The most popular area of the shopping mall is the food court. In spite of all those remodelled kitchens that ad glamour to our older houses, they are being used less and less as sitting down to a home cooked family meal becomes the exception rather than the norm.

Wheat alone is not the culprit in obesity but there is strong evidence to show that the grain may be implicated in numerous diseases. We have seen a fifty fold increase in Celiac disease since 1950 according to the Mayo Clinic but researchers are not really certain why this has occurred.

Celiac disease is an inherited disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack the small intestine when gluten, found in wheat, rye and barley is consumed. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss and, in children delayed growth. The weight loss and delayed growth are simply the result of nutrients not being absorbed into the gut and distributed throughout the body. But many symptoms of celiac, such as bloating, skin rashes, joint pain, anemia and infertility are more subtle and do not involve the gut. That is why a person may have this disease half their life and never know it because it was not diagnosed.

Wheat Belly Diet

In spite of everything I have said, you have read the book and decided to go on the Wheat Belly diet. What does it look like and can you stay on it? In my opinion, it is basically a low-carb diet that causes your body to convert fat into carbs and thus the burning off of stored fat causes weight loss.

Besides giving up wheat, you must also give up potatoes, corn, processed gluten-free foods such as breads and crackers, juices, dried fruit, soy products and energy bars. You are allowed gluten-free grains such as buckwheat, millet and Quinoa but serving sizes must be less than ½ a cup. Milk, yogurt and cottage cheeses must be limited because of its fat and sugar content and fruit is limited to very small serving sizes.

You are allowed to eat all the vegetables you want, eggs, nuts, seeds, olives avocados and picked vegetables.

It’s sort of like an Atkins diet without all the meat and although it may be healthy, I don’t think many people could stay on this regimen for very long.

As far as Celiac disease is concerned, you can get a blood test to see if you are predisposed to the disease and even a biopsy of the upper intestine. However if you do have the disease you must be on a gluten-free diet for life which means you cannot be on the Wheat Belly Diet.

The incidence of Celiac disease is one person in a hundred yet only 5 to 10 percent of these people are properly diagnosed and aware they have the disease.

After the dietary changes they actually will be quite healthy and have a normal life expectancy.

Losing weight and keeping it off is not about fad diets and blame. There are many factors that contribute to our obese society and life must be lived in moderation without extremes. It is simply calories in and calories out. The Wheat Belly book is an interesting read but it is not the answer to our obesity epidemic.



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