Is Wheat Bad for You?

I think this thread properly belongs here in Cafe Society. If not, sorry.

So I read this book, ‘‘Wheat Belly.’’ In it, the author, who is a cardiologist, blames wheat for just about every ailment from obesity to autism to arthritis. The idea, I guess, is that the hybridized dwarf wheat we eat today is nothing like the emmer wheat of our ancestors, and has never been tested for the safety of human consumption. Wheat products (even the whole grain kind) apparently also spike the blood sugar like whoa. Supposedly wheat is responsible for the accumulation of visceral, or belly fat.

There is some interesting science here, but I feel like this guy is completely credulous. He plays fast and lose with the data and it’s hard to tell sometimes whether he is stating fact or opinion. He also too readily dismisses other factors, speaking of the ‘‘miraculous transformation’’ of his clients who cut wheat from their diets, but kind of ignoring the fact that wheat products are generally processed and sugary and calorie-dense. It seems evident to me that if you stop eating doughnuts, pizza and bagels, you’ll lose weight, but not necessarily because of the wheat per se.

That said, I’ve decided to cut wheat from my diet for a month just to see what happens. I used to have severe IBS which seems to have increased along with my recent increase of wheat consumption. I have been biopsied for celiac but tested negative, but according to this guy, you can test negative for celiac and still have a wheat sensitivity. I also have a lot of joint inflammation which is also supposedly caused by wheat. So far it has just been a few days and I’m having what I presume to be significant withdrawal symptoms because I have been tired as all hell, barely keeping my eyes open all day tired. Today is the first day I’ve woken up without immense fatigue.

Anyway, what do you all think? Has anyone here tried cutting out wheat with significant results? Is anyone else skeptical of the science here? Just interested in some feedback on this idea.



My completely uninformed $.02:

  • Is wheat some hugely-obvious, stare you in the face sign of bad health - like, say smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol to excess? Nah.

  • Is there likely some truth that some forms of wheat - and the processing that the wheat goes through as commercial foods are created - can affect some set of the population? Sure, that makes sense - there’s a lot of stuff out there that is fine for most but an issue or even dangerous for a few.

  • Now, is there always a short list of hyped concerns? Of course - Too much fat!!! Too much salt!!! Too many carbs!!! At any given time, is there a short list of hyped concerns? Always.

So - what’s an average person to do? Well, given the current list of hyped concerns, if you think there’s a chance you might be in the group that IS affected, see what happens if you change for a bit.

Since wheat seems to = poison is some circles ;), it certainly is getting hyped. It sounds like you have a reasonable concern about whether you might be in the affected group, so you are taking a shot and testing that premise. Makes great sense and best of luck with it.

I know of a few folks who have done the same - some have seen results and made the switch off of wheat for good. Others saw no difference and after a month or two, went back to eating wheat. Whatever works…

I call bullshit right there. Humans have been eating it for many years now; I don’t know how you can claim it’s never been tested. We’re testing it right now!

And don’t forget excessive bangs in online messaging!!!

A good general rule: If the book isn’t a double-blind, rigorously peer-reviewed study over a number of years on human subjects, it’s bullshit.

The book cites peer-reviewed studies, and talks quite a bit about general scientific research on nutrition, but I feel like the exact conditions of those studies aren’t always clear, and often the science is too far beyond me to properly evaluate. For example, ‘‘when served a gluten-free diet, one group…’’ But what does that even mean? Was the control group eating chips and cake or more healthy wheat products? Also, it’s difficult for me to evaluate the studies on wheat intolerance markers in diabetic populations because I don’t know anything about blood tests for wheat intolerance or how chemical markers work. There’s also a lot of, ‘‘This hasn’t been studied yet, but if it were, I think…’’ :rolleyes:

The impression that I get from reading the book is that wheat hasn’t really been studied all that much, other than within the context of celiac disease.

So the author argues that this is in fact why we are so incredibly unhealthy as a nation.

Part of the problem, I think, is that it’s really hard to control for other factors when it comes to studying wheat consumption. Wheat so often goes hand-in-hand with sugar and processed foods. To make a really good study I think you would have to only provide the ‘‘healthy whole grains’’ kind of wheat that is touted by many nutritional organizations. For instance, plain shredded wheat for breakfast every day being the only variable. I dunno.

“Withdrawal symptoms”? By what mechanism is that supposed to work, exactly?

If it’s not meat or a plant you can’t eat raw, it’s bad for you. How bad? Depends.

Apparently wheat gluten binds with the opioid receptors of the brain.

I understand that the heroine blocker Naltrexone works similarly for wheat. (I think that’s the case for sugar, too, IIRC.)

Richard Dawkins in his book “The Ancestors Tale” says that humans were naturally gluten intolerant for most of our evolution. Its been a while since I read the book. I think the theory was that early humans ate a wide variety of seeds (plus fruit and roots) which contained very little gluten.

He went on to say there is an ancient (in the DNA sense) population in Africa which is almost totally gluten intolerant right now.

When agriculture was discovered wheat was easy and reliable to grow so for the past 10,000 years humans have been adapting - evolving if you will - to digest gluten.

And by golly I do enjoy a rough loaf of bread. :smiley:

I know many people who are intolerant/allergic to wheat gluten, who came to that conclusion after drinking the organic, free-range kool-aid, cutting wheat from their diets, and OMG feeling a zillion times better!!

What they ignore (and vehemently deny could possibly relate to their change in feeling different) is that in cutting wheat they are also:

[li]Changing their relative intakes of fat/protein/carbohydrate[/li][li]Likely reducing the number of calories they are eating[/li][/ul]

For many people, making those changes will result in positive outcomes, as we all (as a population) eat too much and eat a lot of high-calorie, low-anything-else carbs.

However, I think it makes people feel better about themselves to blame an imaginary boogeyman for their health issues than to accept that maybe they were just making poor diet choices. “It’s not my fault I felt so lethargic all the time, it’s that wheat is toxic!”
Go ahead and reduce (or eliminate) your wheat consumption. If you feel better, then great! But, that doesn’t mean that wheat is inherently unhealthy or unfit for human consumption.

I don’t think you phrased that right. Any plant that you can’t eat raw is good for you? Caroots, broccoli, celery, tomatoes, pretty much any vegatable?

olive - sorry, and not meaning to pull the thread’s direction, but what do you think of my attempt at framing this issue contextually? There is a lot of back and forth about data, testing etc. - and if there are clear scientific smoking guns, let’s discuss them.

But there’s a long history of embracing a school of thought about eating, exercising, etc, to the point of accepting it as fact, only to find out that there is more to the story.

Hard not to factor that into this discussion, and why trying things out for yourself makes sense.

ETA: just reread Eonwe’s post. It feels like it overlaps a bit with mine - hope that’s okay Eonwe

The first level of bullshit in these things is to pull factoids out of your ass, or the anecdotal ass of others.

The second level of bullshit is to scrupulously cite expert testimony… wrong.

This may be something of a sweeping statement, but I can’t think of anything I’ve ever read, on any topic, in any field, that was correct/widely supported/sufficiently proven, that I couldn’t make sense of. That is, if as a reasonably intelligent, educated and widely read person, I read something and can make no sense of the author’s arguments - that at some level I have to depend on their “interpretation” or synthesis of the authoritative material - it’s almost certainly bullshit. I can think of many times my BS detector went off, and I was proven correct over time, by genuine experts in the field.

In most cases it’s extremely skewed interpretation or very selective assembly of geniune facts into a badly flawed theory. Piece by piece, you can’t fault it; as a whole, it’s whole-grain bull poop.

Let me rephrase without negations.

Plants you can eat raw are good for you. Also, meat is good for you.

Everything is else is less good for you to varying degrees.

What you are saying makes perfect sense to me. I’ve actually been eating clean (no processed food) for about 2.5 months now. Unsurprisingly, I have lost some weight and feel a lot better with certain chronic conditions. I think there is something to be said for eating whole foods, if only because it increases the nutrition density of what you are eating. I’m sort of thinking of wheat the same way. I’ve gotten into a bad habit of eating a PBJ sandwich for lunch, or having wheat pasta for dinner, and the fact that it’s whole grain doesn’t really make it a more nutritionally sound option than, say, a salad. So my main way of thinking is that while wheat probably won’t kill most people, a lot of wheat products can crowd out better choices. Does that make sense?

I also keep crashing after breakfast in the mornings, which is making me think I’m eating too carb-heavy. I’ve been very tired, almost falling asleep on the commute to work tired - one day I actually had to pull over. So my standard breakfast of whole-grain waffle with peanut butter may not be the best option - I am trying different things, like flax seed and greek yogurt and eggs, to see if that helps.

Cool - and yes, that certainly seems like a practical way to approach this. Sounds like you are paying good attention to how you eat and are making it better. Great, and continued luck with your progress…

You could say the same thing about milk. For most of human existence we would lose the ability to digest milk at about the age of natural weaning (IIRC, around 4, give or take). Once we domesticated animals and were able to harvest their milk, multiple populations developed mutations to digest milk into adulthood, because milk proved a great source of nourishment and populations with that mutation thrived.

I hear people rail against milk and I figure, for some people without the mutation, it’s sound advice. But for people who do have the mutation, milk is awesome. You can’t make a blanket recommendation because it all comes down to genetics.

Well, same with wheat as far as I’m concerned. I’m apparently in possession of mutated genes that allow me to digest wheat and milk. That’s pretty kickass and I like pizza, so that’s that.

Cassava Root

Wheat could be the problem or at least part of the problem. In addition, cheese (which is basically condensed milk) can cause fatique, as it is very “thick” and very hard for the body to digest.