Wheat the Strife of Life
Reproduced from Wheat Belly by Dr William Davis, US Cardiologist
Spring 2013 True Natural Health Magazine
FLIP THROUGH YOUR parents’ or grandparents’ family albums and you’re likely to be struck by how thin everyone looks. The women probably wore size-four dresses and the men sported 32-inch (80 cm) waists. Overweight was something measured only by a few kilos; obesity was rare. Overweight children? Almost never. Any 42-inch (106 cm) waists? Not here. Ninety kilogram teenagers? Certainly not.
Why were the June Cleavers of the fifties and sixties, the stay-at-home housewives as well as other people of that era, so much skinnier than the modern people we see at the beach, mall or in our own mirrors? While women of that era typically weighed in at 50 or 52 kilos, men at 68 or 75 kilos, today we carry 20, 35 or even 90 kilos more.
The women of that world didn’t exercise much at all. (It was considered unseemly, after all, like having impure thoughts at church.) How many times did you see your mom put on her jogging shoes to go out for a five-kilometre run? Exercise for my mother was vacuuming the stairs. Nowadays, I go outdoors on any nice day and see dozens of women jogging, riding their bicycles or power walking – things we’d virtually never see 40 or 50 years ago. And yet, we’re getting fatter and fatter every year.
My wife is a triathlete and triathlon instructor, so I observe a few of these extreme exercise events every year. Triathletes train intensively for months to years before a race to complete a 0.6- to 4-kilometre open-water swim, a 90- to 180-kilometre bike ride, and finish with a 21- to 42-kilometre run. Just completing a race is a feat in itself, since the event requires up to several thousand calories and spectacular endurance. The majority of triathletes adhere to fairly healthy eating habits.
Then why are one third of these dedicated men and women athletes overweight? I give them even greater credit for having to cart around the extra 14, 90 or 110 kilos. But, given their extreme level of sustained activity and demanding training schedule, how can they still be overweight?
If we follow conventional logic, overweight triathletes need to exercise more or eat less to lose weight. I believe that this is a downright ridiculous notion. I am going to argue that the problem with the diet and health of most Americans is not fat, not sugar, not the rise of the Internet and the demise of the agrarian lifestyle. It’s wheat – or what we are being sold that is called ‘wheat.’
You will see that what we are eating, cleverly disguised as a bran muffin or other flour-containing item, is not really wheat at all, but the transformed product of genetic research conducted during the latter half of the twentieth century. Modern wheat is no more real wheat than a chimpanzee is an approximation of a human. While our hairy primate relatives share 99 percent of all the genes found in humans, but with longer arms, full body hair and lesser capacity to win the jackpot at Jeopardy, I trust you can readily tell the difference that that one percent makes. Compared to its ancestor of only forty years ago, modern wheat isn’t even that close.
I believe that the increased consumption of grains – or more accurately, the increased consumption of this genetically altered thing called modern wheat – explains the contrast between the slender, sedentary people of the fifties and overweight twenty-first-century people, triathletes included.
I recognize that declaring wheat a malicious food is like declaring that Ronald Reagan was a Communist. It may seem absurd, even unpatriotic, to demote an iconic dietary staple to the status of public health hazard. But I will make the case that the world’s most popular grain is also the world’s most destructive dietary ingredient.
Documented peculiar effects of wheat on humans include appetite stimulation, exposure to brain-active exorphins (the counterpart of internally derived endorphins), exaggerated blood sugar surges that trigger cycles of satiety alternating with heightened appetite, the process of glycation that underlies disease and ageing, inflammatory and pH effects that erode cartilage and damage bone, and activation of disordered immune responses.
A complex range of diseases results from consumption of wheat, from coeliac disease – the devastating intestinal disease that develops from exposure to wheat gluten – to an assortment of neurological disorders, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, curious rashes and the paralysing delusions of schizophrenia.
If this thing called wheat is such a problem, then removing it from the diet should yield outsized and unexpected benefits. Indeed, this is the case. As a cardiologist who sees and treats thousands of patients at risk for heart disease, diabetes and the myriad destructive effects of obesity, I have personally observed protuberant, flop-over-the-belt belly fat vanish when my patients eliminated wheat from their diets, with typical weight loss totalling 9, 14 or 22 kilos just within the first few months. Rapid and effortless weight loss is usually followed by health benefits that continue to amaze me even today after having witnessed this phenomenon thousands of times.
I’ve seen dramatic turnarounds in health, such as the 38-year-old woman with ulcerative colitis facing colon removal who was cured with wheat elimination – colon intact. Or the 26-year-old man, incapacitated and barely able to walk because of joint pain, who experienced complete relief and walked and ran freely again after taking wheat off the menu.
Extraordinary as these results may sound, there is ample scientific research to implicate wheat as the root cause of these conditions – and to indicate that removal of wheat can reduce or relieve symptoms entirely. You will see that we have unwittingly traded convenience, abundance and low cost for health, with wheat bellies, bulging thighs and double chins to prove it. Many of the arguments I make in the chapters that follow have been proven in scientific studies that are available for one and all to review. Incredibly, many of the lessons I’ve learned were demonstrated in clinical studies decades ago, but somehow never percolated to the surface of medical or public consciousness. I’ve simply put two and two together to come up with some conclusions that you may find startling.
IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT
In the movie, Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon’s character, possessing uncommon genius but harbouring demons of past abuse, breaks down in sobs when psychologist, Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), repeats, “It’s not your fault,” over and over again.
Likewise, too many of us, stricken with an unsightly wheat belly, blame ourselves: too many calories, too little exercise, too little restraint. But it’s more accurate to say that the advice we’ve been given to eat more “healthy whole grains” has deprived us of control over appetites and impulses, making us fat and unhealthy, despite our best efforts and good intentions.
I liken the widely accepted advice to eat healthy whole grains to telling an alcoholic that, if a drink or two won’t hurt, then nine or ten may be even better. Taking this advice has disastrous repercussions on health.
It’s not your fault.
If you find yourself carrying around a protuberant, uncomfortable wheat belly; unsuccessfully trying to squeeze into last year’s jeans; reassuring your doctor that, no, you haven’t been eating badly, but you’re still overweight and pre-diabetic with high blood pressure and cholesterol; or desperately trying to conceal a pair of humiliating man breasts, consider saying goodbye to wheat.
Eliminate the wheat, eliminate the problem.
What have you got to lose except your wheat belly, your man breasts or your bagel butt?
The above is reprinted from Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD. Copyright (c) 2011 by William Davis, MD. With the permission of Rodale Books. It is, in fact, the ‘Introduction’ to the book.
Note: American Imperial measurement units have been converted to metric units.
To provide readers with further insight into the depth of this ground-breaking book, we print the chapter headings, which say it all. Here they are:
PART ONE – WHEAT: THE UNHEALTHY WHOLE GRAIN
Chapter 1. What Belly?
Cahpter 2. Not Your Grandma’s Muffins: The Creation of Modern Wheat
Chapter 3. Wheat Deconstructed
PART TWO – WHEAT AND ITS HEAD-TO-TOE DESTRUCTION OF HEALTH
Chapter 4. Hey, Man, Wanna Buy Some Exorphins? The Addictive Properties of Wheat
Chapter 5. Your Wheat Belly is Showing. The Wheat/Obesity Connection
Chapter 6. Hello Intestine. It’s Me, Wheat. Wheat and Coeliac Disease
Chapter 7. Diabetes Nation: Wheat and Insulin Resistance
Cahpter 8. Dropping acid: Wheat as the Great pH Disrupter
Chapter 9. Cataracts, wrinkles and Dowager’s Humps: Wheat and the Ageing Process
Chapter 10. My Particles Are Bigger Than Yours: Wheat and Heart Disease
Chapter 11. It’s All in Your Head: Wheat and the Brain
Chapter 12. Bagel Face: Wheat’s Destructive Effect on the Skin
PART THREE – SAY GOODBYE TO WHEAT
Chapter 13. Goodbye, Wheat: Create a Healthy, Delicious, Wheat-Free Life
DR WILLIAM DAVIS is a cardiologist and “seeker-of-truth in health”. In addition to writing, speaking, and practising preventive cardiology in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he is Medical Director and founder of the Track Your Plaque program for heart disease prevention and reversal. Dr Davis is currently serving as Vice President for Cardiology for ObesityPPM (ObesityPPM.com), a consulting firm to industry and government to provide solutions to overweight and obesity.