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Every so often when I find a book that I think people need to read, I’ll post a review.  

Wheat Belly Book Cover

In the 1970’s Dr. Robert Atkins, a cardiologist, published “Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution” after following a low-starch diet based on work  done previously by Gordon, Goldberg and Chosy in an article published in 1963 in JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association). Dr. Atkins replaced the idea of starches being an issue with the idea that carbohydrates (especially starchy ones) were an issue. Dr. Atkins diet was controversial to say the least, but regardless of the outcry from the industrial medicine community, it did work.  It worked for many people, including myself. Most of Dr. Atkins research was either ancedotal, or conducted himself.

In 2007, Gary Taubes, a scientific journalist, published “Good Calories, Bad Calories“, a lengthy tome that describes in detail how the medical research into dietary habits does not support the mainstream (media and goverment) claims that fat is bad for you and that carbohydrates are good.  In many ways, Taube’s book provides the links to the research which supports Atkins anecdotal suppositions.  Again, Taubes concentrated on carbohydrates as a whole.

Now, in 2011, another cardiologist, Dr. William Davis, points his finger at a specific carbohydrate, grains, with a particular emphasis on wheat, narrowing the culprit down much further. His book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, is the next step in the realization that processed foods, which are stuffed with cheap, subsidized wheat is the problem. Along with anectodal evidence, Davis provides references to over 250 studies and articles, which bolster his premise. 

Dr. Davis starts by giving us a history of wheat. He takes great care in pointing out how the wheat our grandparents ate, is not the same as what we eat as wheat today. Decades of hybridization to increase yields, gives us not only short, stubby fields with abnormally large heads of grain instead of the “amber waves of grain” we are so nostalgic about, but on a chromosome level, no longer resembles the ancient emmer and einkorn wheat that were the pre-cursors to the wheat we are familiar with. The change were not done with genetic engineering, but rather through hybridization, a process that solved some issues (such as increased yields and lower production costs), but never asked the question of whether the wheat that is now being produced is healthy for humans.  There was no testing done.

Its something I have pondered over this past year. As I reveal my self as gluten intolerant to people, I hear the same question over and over again. “Why are so many people being diagnosed with celiac and other allergies now? Why didn’t we hear about this when I was a kid?”  I’ve wondered that myself. I thought that maybe many of the allergies and intolerances were always there, and its just better testing that makes the diagnosis.  But now I wonder if we have manipulated our food supply to this point, where eating something that should be good for you, is now a deadly poison?

Davis speaks about how wheat is a complex carbohydrate which contains an enzyme that most readily converts to glucose (Amylopectin-A).  On the glycemic index (a database which describes how different foods affect blood glucose levels), 2 slices of whole wheat bread has a higher GI (72)  than table sugar (59). The higher the glycemic Index, the more your blood sugar spikes.  These are the same effects that both Atkins and Taubes describe in their books, Davis just gets more specific.

Davis goes on to talk about the effects of wheat on obesity, gastro-intestinal issue (hello celiac), diabetes, skin, eyes as well as effects on the brain. The arguments he makes are compelling. It once again reinforces my belief that not everything the goverment tells us is the truth.

I found this book to be well thought out, and much easier to read than Taubes, although I do think his book is important. Its something thats going on my book list and you can purchase it from Amazon right from that page.  I think the one place that the book is lacking is in the how do I diet section, which seems thin.  But then again, there are a ton of wonderful books out there in the low carb  and paleo world which can be substituted.

These three books have a lot in common.  They tell the truth, whether people want to hear it or not, they provide compelling evidence, be it anectodal or scientific studies and they drive the mainstream food industry absolutely nuts.  Just as the industrial food mavens screamed as loudly as they could about Dr. Atkins diet, misrepresenting it; just as they bombasted Gary Taube’s book for being “biased”; they are doing the same with Davis. (After all, its much easier to scream, “this diet will kill you” when you are a processed foods manufacturer who stands to lose a lot of money when people stop buying your products) For an example of this see Fast Company’s article on Nestle’s Chairman saying Organic Foods are wrong.


[Edit:  Dr. Michael Eades has posted his thoughts on this book. I thought his comments were thought provoking and wanted to link to it for easier reading]

On September 6th, Dr. Davis posted an open letter to the Grain Foods Foundation. He has opened it to reproduction, so I will be posting it here as well as linking to the original.

To:Ms. Ashley Reynolds
490 Bear Cub Drive
Ridgway, CO 81432
Phone: 617.226.9927
ashley.reynolds@mullen.comMs. Reynolds:I am writing in response to the press release from the Grain Foods Foundation that describes your effort to “discredit” the assertions made in my book, Wheat Belly: Lose the wheat, lose the weight and find your path back to health. I’d like to address several of the criticisms of the book made in the release:” . . . the author relies on anecdotal observations rather than scientific studies.”
While I do indeed have a large anecdotal experience removing wheat in thousands of people, witnessing incredible and unprecedented weight loss and health benefits, I also draw from the experiences already documented in clinical studies. Several hundred of these studies are cited in the book (of the thousands available) and listed in the Reference section over 16 pages. These are studies that document the neurologic impairment unique to wheat, including cerebellar ataxia and dementia; heart disease via provocation of the small LDL pattern; visceral fat accumulation and all its attendant health consequences; the process of glycation via amylopectin A of wheat that leads to cataracts, diabetes, and arthritis; among others. There are, in fact, a wealth of studies documenting the adverse, often crippling, effects of wheat consumption in humans and I draw from these published studies.“Wheat elimination ‘means missing out on a wealth of essential nutrients.’”
This is true–if the calories of wheat are replaced with candy, soft drinks, and fast food. But if lost wheat calories are replaced by healthy foods like vegetables, nuts, healthy oils, meats, eggs, cheese, avocados, and olives, then there is no nutrient deficiency that develops with elimination of wheat. There is no deficiency of any vitamin, including thiamine, folate, B12, iron, and B6; no mineral, including selenium, magnesium, and zinc; no polyphenol, flavonoid, or antioxidant; no lack of fiber. With regards to fiber, please note that the original studies documenting the health benefits of high fiber intake were fibers from vegetables, fruits, and nuts, not wheat or grains.People with celiac disease do indeed experience deficiencies of multiple vitamins and minerals after they eliminate all wheat and gluten from the diet. But this is not due to a diet lacking valuable nutrients, but from the incomplete healing of the gastrointestinal tract (such as the lining of the duodenum and proximal jejunum). In these people, the destructive effects of wheat are so overpowering that, unfortunately, some people never heal completely. These people do indeed require vitamin and mineral supplementation, as well as probiotics and pancreatic enzyme supplementation.I pose several questions to you and your organization:Why is the high-glycemic index of wheat products ignored?
Due to the unique properties of amylopectin A, two slices of whole wheat bread increase blood sugar higher than many candy bars. High blood glucose leads to the process ofglycation that, in turn, causes arthritis (cartilage glycation), cataracts (lens protein glycation), diabetes (glycotoxicity of pancreatic beta cells), hepatic de novo lipogenesisthat increases triglycerides and, thereby, increases expression of atherogenic (heart disease-causing) small LDL particles, leading to heart attacks. Repetitive high blood sugars that develop from a grain-rich diet are, in my view, very destructive and lead to weight gain (specifically visceral fat), insulin resistance, leptin resistance (leading to obesity), and many of the health struggles Americans now experience.

How do you account for the psychologic and neurologic effects of the wheat protein,gliadin?
Wheat gliadin has been associated with cerebellar ataxia, peripheral neuropathy, gluten encephalopathy (dementia), behavioral outbursts in children with ADHD and autism, and paranoid delusions and auditory hallucinations in people with schizophrenia, severe and incapacitating effects for people suffering from these conditions.

How do you explain the quadrupling of celiac disease over the last 50 years and its doubling over the last 20 years?
I submit to you that, while this is indeed my speculation, it is the changes in genetic code and, thereby, antigenic profile, of the high-yield semi-dwarf wheat cultivars now on the market that account for the marked increase in celiac potential nationwide. As you know, “hybridization” techniques, including chemical mutagenesis to induce selective mutations, leads to development of unique strains that are not subject to animal or human safety testing–they are just brought to market and sold.

Why does the wheat industry continue to call chemical mutagenesis, gamma irradiation, and x-ray irradiation “traditional breeding techniques” that you distinguish from genetic engineering? Chemical mutagenesis using the toxic mutagen, sodium azide, of course, is the method used to generate BASF’s Clearfield herbicide-resistant wheat strain. These methods are being used on a wide scale to generate unique genetic strains that are, without question from the FDA or USDA, assumed to be safe for human consumption.

In short, my view on the situation is that the U.S. government, with its repeated advice to “eat more healthy whole grains,” transmitted via vehicles like the USDA Food Pyramid and Food Plate, coupled with the extensive genetic transformations of the wheat plant introduced by agricultural geneticists, underlie an incredible deterioration in American health. I propose that you and your organization, as well as the wheat industry and its supporters, are at risk for legal liability on a scale not seen since the tobacco industry was brought to task to pay for the countless millions who died at their product’s hands.

I would be happy and willing to talk to you personally. I would also welcome the opportunity to debate you or any of your experts in a public forum.

Wiliam Davis, MD
Author, Wheat Belly: Lose the wheat, lose the weight and find your path back to health (Rodale, 2011)

2 Responses to “Book Review: Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find your Path back to Health”

  1. TigerTye says:

    Saw your blog on G+. Thanks for sharing this. I think I need to read this book. Mind if I put a link to your blog on my blog?

    Have a happy!

  2. Sandra Clark says:

    Feel free to link. It’s definitely a must read.