If I ask people what makes up the majority of their diet many answer with the above mentioned wheat products. In fact it has been found that 20% of all human calories are made up of wheat products and that it’s these products that dominate the diet of most people in this country from breakfast through to lunch and dinner.
Wheat has been a part of the human diet for 1,000’s of years, it is thought that wheat was discovered up to 20,000 years ago and was first used to make porridge. Bread was later invented by the Egyptians and has been used in the human diet ever since.
So why are we now all of a sudden over the last few years claiming that wheat is bad for us?,
that it’s making us fat?,
causing type 2 diabetes?,
and causing many other modern diseases?
Surely if it’s been around for so many years it can’t be the cause of all these new diseases?
Or can it?
Dr William Davis MD is the author of ‘Wheat Belly’; he is a cardiologist working in the US. He has put over 2,000 of his at risk patients on wheat free diets and has seen some amazing results. He is convinced from his studies that it is wheat and not sugar or fat that is causing the obesity and diabetes epidemic in the US and Europe. He has also looked at the effects of wheat on celiac disease, arthritis, dementia among others and has had some amazing results. He has seen his patients lose loads of weight, their blood sugars have dropped, their asthma and IBS improved and skin problems disappear.
I am in the process of reading Dr Davis’s book and I thought this might be a great topic for my blog this week. It can be quite complicated so I have just kept to the basics and hopefully haven’t overcomplicated it too much.
The problem we have is that the wheat that we are consuming today and have been consuming over the last 20/30 years is not the same as the wheat that our parents and grandparents grew up with.
During the 1950s there was great investment given by the US government to look into how to develop higher yielding crops. One of these crops was wheat. If they could develop a higher yielding crop then this would solve the famine problems in many countries around the world.
Geneticists worked hard into making changes to the wheat and eventually developed a high yielding wheat crop that solved the problems of starvation in countries such as India and China.
The new ‘improved’ wheat crop was now, 2ft high (shorter plant grows faster and also produces less waste), with a thick stem and an unusually large seed head – very different to the wheat of the 1950s and 60s.
So this new crop not only looked different but generated 8, 9 or 10 times more wheat than its predecessor.
Geneticists had therefore changed the look, size, shape and content of the wheat and ended up with something completely different to the wheat that our parents/grandparents grew up with.
Although this was an amazing success in helping solve some of the world’s famine problems no one asked any questions about the effect the changes may have on humans and no testing (animal or human) were carried out to check its safety.
By now it’s thought that since about the mid 80s, 99% of the world’s wheat is made from this new strain discussed above.
It is therefore concerning when you look at the government advice on nutrition – we are told that a third of our diet should be made up of healthy whole grains. So, is this the correct advice? Or is this making us ill? Could this be one of the reasons why cases of diabetes and heart disease have rocketed in this country over the last few years?
Let’s have a look at the evidence!
Ok, so since we started consuming this new form of wheat in large quantities cases of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis to name just a few have skyrocketed.
So how do we know that wheat is to blame for the decrease in the health of our population? Surely soft drinks, sugar and sedentary lifestyles have contributed to the increase in obesity and diabetes? This could also be true but cannot alone account for all the health problems of the modern world. Many people eat what’s recommended by the government, exercise regularly and are still overweight and suffering with health problems.
Let’s firstly look at the effects of wheat on our blood sugar levels. I have before written about the Glyceamic Index – the effect food has on our blood sugar levels. Low GI foods for example fish, non starchy veg and nuts all have low GI – this means they have little effect on your blood sugar levels, leaving you fuller for longer and without cravings for sugary foods. High GI foods have a large effect on your blood sugar levels, meaning that you get a big high before your sugar levels drop again, leaving you hungry and craving sugary/starchy foods.
So table sugar has a GI of 59 – this has as expected a High GI. Interestingly both white and wholegrain bread have a GI of 69 and 72! Yes, that’s right, so consuming bread has a greater effect on your blood sugar levels than sweets, chocolate bars and sugar – that’s shocking considering we are recommended to eat these foods in large quantities!
As well we know foods that increase blood sugar the most can also cause diabetes!
If you therefore eat a muffin for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner your sugar levels will be going up and down throughout the day causing visceral fat, damage to the pancreas and eventually diabetes.
‘The sequence is simple: Carbohydrates trigger insulin release from the pancreas, causing growth of visceral fat; visceral fat causes insulin resistance and inflammation. High blood sugars, triglycerides, and fatty acids damage the pancreas. After years of over work, the pancreas succumbs to the thrashing it has taken from glucotoxicity, lipotoxicity and inflammation, essentially ‘burning out’ leaving a deficiency of insulin and an increase in blood glucose = diabetes!’ – Wheat Belly, Dr William Davis MD
As well as playing havoc with our blood sugar levels modern wheat is highly addictive resulting in an average consumption increase of 400 calories a day. Wheat contains a protein called gliadin which is an appetite stimulant; it makes you want to eat more wheat products as well as many other foods. The only way to stop this cycle and to stop us all getting bigger is to stop eating wheat!
Is it therefore a coincidence that since the US and UK government recommended cutting down on fat and eating large quantities of ‘healthy whole grains’ the instances of obesity and diabetes have increased and the health of both nations has decreased?
Personally I have dramatically cut down on my wheat consumption over the past year and I can honestly say that I have less cravings, my mood is more stable, I’m less fatigued and I’m much less hungry than before. Although I didn’t have any illnesses that needed curing I can see that removing wheat has had a really positive impact on my life, I feel happier, healthier and more energetic and I would certainly recommend giving it a go, you won’t regret it!