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William Davis, MD, is a preventive cardiologist whose unique approach to diet allows him to advocate reversal, not just prevention, of heart disease. He is the founder of the Track Your Plaque program. He lives in Wisconsin. Nothing here should be construed as medical advice, but only topics for further discussion with your doctor. I practice cardiology in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


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Smoke more low-tar cigarettes!

Just kidding, of course.

But followers of the Wheat Belly discussion understand why we often repeat this message: Just because something bad is reduced or eliminated in cigarettes, it does not follow that cigarettes must now be good. Low-tar cigarettes still contain heavy metals like mercury, lead, and cadmium, as well as nicotine, naphthalene, arsenic, formaldehyde, ammonia and other toxic compounds. Low- or no-tar does NOT mean healthy. This may seem obvious, but it is surprising how many people–physicians and dietitians included–fall for such flawed logic when applied to nutrition.

So it goes with gluten in wheat, as well as secalin in rye, hordein in barley, zein in corn, and avenin in oats. If it were possible to reduce or eliminate gluten and related proteins in grains, could we declare that grains are now healthy?

No, not even close. Wheat and related grains still contain:

Phytates–that disturb digestion and block iron and zinc absorption by 90%.This is why grain consuming societies experience so much iron deficiency anemia, impaired immunity, and skin rashes.

Lectins–Wheat germ agglutinin is indigestible. It is thereby free to exert disruptive effects in the gastrointesinal tract and gain access to the bloodstream, where it yields potent inflammatory effects.

D-amino acids–Humans, as well as other mammals, have the digestive apparatus to break proteins down in to L-amino acids. But many of the amino acids in grains are the mirror image D-versions. The implications of this peculiar clash between incompatible species–non-ruminant humans and the seeds of grasses–are just starting to be appreciated.

Amylopectin A–The carbohydrate of grains that is responsible for its extravagant potential to raise blood sugar.

In other words, wheat and related grains are still quite terrible for health, with or without gluten. I highlight this issue because of this awful product: Gluten Cutter, a preparation that contains several enzymes that they purport digests gluten. They even go so far as to suggest–not overtly claim, as that would likely cross some FDA barriers–that even people with celiac disease can consume gluten if they take this supplement.

This is blatantly irresponsible. Don’t fall for it. Even if gluten digestion were complete (they have no data to prove it one way or another), there are all the other issues in wheat and other grains to contend with. And the price of even minor exposures to undigested gluten in people with celiac disease can be intestinal lymphoma, autoimmune diseases, and dysbiosis. The only reasonable use of this product would be to take it in case there is inadvertent gluten exposure that may be minimized by digestion.

There is more to wheat than gluten, more to rye than secalin, more to barley than hordein, more to oats than avenin. This is because Homo sapiens and seeds from the grasses in the family Poaceae are incompatible.

Posted in Gluten-free | 9 Comments

Why we START with wheat elimination

Mixhelle tells us why wheat elimination is the first and essential step in seizing back control over health and weight.

“I went wheat-free two weeks ago. And JUST wheat free. I understand the mechanisms of going low-carb for weight loss, but I was curious just how bad wheat alone can be.

“I already had a very healthy diet: I cook all my own meals, veggie heavy and quality grass fed and organic meats. I also am an athlete. I train for and play competitive rugby every other day. BUT I also have a huge sweet tooth that I indulged in regularly. And I drink moderate amounts of alcohol. I figured those were my problems to not having my body fat percentage able to drop, but I was ok with that. I’m not overweight, just not at my ideal figure. I’m 26 and socially active. I don’t want to give up my vices either.

“In two weeks of JUST wheat elimination, I am down 9 pounds and 4 inches off my waist. And I can see my abs. WHAT?! I have NEVER been able to see them outlined, despite my physical fitness being above average. They were always under a layer of little bit of fat and just bloat. I carry my fat in my hips/thighs. I didn’t know why my abs didn’t show more.

“I gorged on popcorn and skittles at a movie one night last week, essentially as dinner. Still woke up weighing less the next day. This would usually bloat me up and add water weight and I’d feel crummy about doing it. I was shocked. I felt fine and the scale was cool with it. I continue to have fruit or a sweet every day, and wine or gin and soda every other. And the bloat and weight keeps dropping.

“I stopped counting any calories. I’m estimating I’m eating over 2000 a day though, as lots of fats. I couldn’t lose anything at 1300 a day in calorie restriction.

“I NEVER feel hungry anymore. My training has improved markedly in two weeks. My persistent ankle sprain is gone. And my body fat has dropped almost 2% by doing nothing more or different than just eliminating wheat. And my cravings for sweets are gone too. I still eat them, but I’m not craving them. I can eat them cause they taste good.

“I cannot imagine how I would look/feel if I cut out the sweets and alcohol. I’m doing solely wheat-free for a month, and then incorporating the full better-insulin-control diet from the book to see where that takes me.

“Thanks for the book, the research and the results.”

As she correctly points out, removing wheat removes the driving, incessant desire for sweets and junk carbohydrates. The reverse is not true: remove candy, soft drinks, and other junk and lose the desire for junk carbohydrates or grains–doesn’t work that way.

No other food yields the peptide opiates yielded by partial digestion of the gliadin protein of wheat. Sucrose (table sugar), fructose, and other sweeteners can stimulate appetite via other mechanisms to a lesser degree, but none yield peptides (from protein) that act as opiates–none. This is why removing wheat is the first and most essential step in seizing back control over weight and health.

Advised by the USDA, the American Diabetes Association, and other agencies that grains should form the cornerstone of diet, is it any wonder that we live during worst epidemic of obesity and diabetes ever witnessed in the history of man on earth? Reject this absurd advice based on misinterpretation and dietary ignorance, and you are enlightened with the most powerful nutritional strategy for health known.

Posted in Wheat-elimination success stories | 63 Comments

Weight Watchers no more after 37 years

Carol posted this interesting comment about her weight loss and health success experienced after reading Wheat Belly:

I have been mesmerized by the book. Being a lifetime member of Weight Watchers since the age of 21 (now 58), I am amazed at how I feel and the weight lost.

“I have also suffered from severe scoliosis all of my life and have been on prescription naproxen for since 1987. Since I eliminated the wheat I have not taken any meds, I’ve lost my sweet and salty cravings that often consumed me. Now, with spring in the air, I have not had the sneezing and itchy eyes that I’ve suffered with in the past. I am also a breast cancer survivor, so the cancer linkage is interesting as well.

“I am a believer. I feel the best I have in years. I was also amazed at the weight loss–basically a 1 lb a day-–better than what I experienced with Weight Watchers.

You can indeed lose weight without the insights provided in Wheat Belly, but it is typically a painful exercise in deprivation, as many people will tell you when, in a program such as Weight Watchers, you are instructed to limit calories and portions. The opiate peptides that develop upon digestion of the gliadin protein in wheat are appetite stimulants. Any diet that contains wheat will therefore cause you to be hungry all the time, craving junk carbohydrates, especially when you try to cut calories.

Remove wheat, remove the gliadin derived opiates, experience a marked reduction in appetite with a drop in calorie intake of 400 calories per day (on average). You also remove wheat germ agglutinin that blocks leptin, the hormone of satiety. You also remove wheat’s amylopectin A responsible for blood sugar highs followed by blood sugar lows with mental fog, sleepiness, and desperate hunger. Wheat-free people are therefore freed from all the bonds of such appetite-controlling effects.

And what other dietary approach leads to relief from chronic pain, relief from allergies, and reductions in high levels of estrogen and prolactin that stimulate breast cancer growth? (The A5 pentapeptide from gliadin is an especially potent trigger for prolactin release.)

Cutting calories, reducing portion size, tallying up points . . . all while consuming an appetite stimulant. Why not just remove the appetite stimulant?

Posted in Weight loss, Wheat-elimination success stories | 34 Comments

Wheat Belly and “Hammer hands”

Read this incisive and insightful editorial on the Wheat Belly Lifestyle Institute website:

Hitting oneself in the hand with a rubber hammer reduces pain and swelling, human study finds

Author Gary Miller highlights the flawed logic used over and over and over again in nutrition studies: replace something bad with something less bad and the less bad thing must therefore be good. It is part of the collection of epidemiological studies used to bolster the “healthy whole grain,” high-fiber, and low-fat fictions that have seized mainstream consciousness over the years, offering conclusions where none should be reached.

Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Melissa’s No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake

















Here’s a beautifully simple and tasty recipe, courtesy of wheat-free champion, Melissa, of the Satisfying Eats blog. Melissa has her own jaw-dropping wheat-free success story to tell, including losing 58 pounds and finding relief from a number of health conditions.

No-bake strawberry cheesecake

There’s only a few minutes and a few simple ingredients between you and having this cheesecake!

Serves 4

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Sweetener equivalent to 1/4 cup sugar
6 strawberries, chopped
½ cup chopped pecans

In medium bowl, blend cream cheese at low-speed until smooth. Add cream, yogurt, vanilla and sweetener and blend until thick and smooth. Add strawberries and blend until the strawberries have released some of their juice and colored the batter pink. Taste for sweetness and adjust if needed.

Divide chopped nuts into each of 4 6-ounce ramekins. Using an ice cream scoop, divide cheesecake batter among ramekins (around 1/3 of a cup). Serve immediately or refrigerate for 1 hour for thicker texture.

Here’s Melissa’s “before” and “after”:

Melissa before and after

Doesn’t she look terrific? And she did it eating cheesecake!

Posted in Recipes | 19 Comments

Shame on the Chicago Tribune

A blatantly pro-wheat piece ran in the Chicago Tribune that bashes the anti-grain movement. Read it here.

Written by dietitian, Marsha McCullough, it is full of the oversimplifications and partial truths echoed by the wheat industry. (So it smells and looks like something either paid for by the wheat industry to be placed in the Tribune, or Ms. McCullough was paid to write. That’s how the big lobbies work. They generally cannot rely on “organic” commitment.)

Those with an allergy to wheat or other grains must avoid them. And the one percent of the population with celiac disease and the six percent with non-celiac gluten sensitivity must avoid all gluten, a protein found in grains, including wheat, rye and barley. With a doctor’s approval, most people with a gluten sensitivity can eat small amounts of uncontaminated oats; all other uncontaminated, gluten-free grains are typically allowed.”

Well, that’s a new concession: that people can have non-celiac allergies to wheat and that 6% of the population have “non-celiac gluten sensitivity,” or NCGS. Actually, the percentage of people with NCGS is in dispute with a recent effort at a consensus discussion from several celiac experts asking the question whether all irritable bowel syndrome sufferers, constituting 25-30% of the population, are really suffering from NCGS. The fact that the wheat lobby would allow such a concession is progress, so she starts off on a fairly positive note. Even conservatively, she allows that 7% of the population should not consume wheat–yet we are told by the USDA that everybody without exception should make “healthy whole grains” the centerpiece of diet.

It is a widely held fiction that oats are okay for people with celiac disease or NCGS: Yes, you can find oats without gluten or gliadin, but oats have a closely related protein called avenin that cross reacts immunologically in some people. The question of allergy is not as well charted out, but it is affecting a growing number of people, especially children suffering eczema and asthma, due to changes in wheat proteins, such as alpha amylase and trypsin inhibitors, as well as gliadin.

According to an August 2013 review in Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, multiple case reports suggest gluten can play a role in some autoimmune diseases beyond celiac disease, but large studies are lacking. Autoimmune diseases that occur most commonly in combination with celiac disease are autoimmune thyroid disease, autoimmune liver disease, type 1 diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome, and psoriasis.

Alright, now she’s playing games with us, choosing one review and suggesting that this review is the totality of evidence, and suggesting that autoimmunity only occurs alongside celiac disease. Not true. Dr. Alessio Fasano, while at the University of Maryland (now at Harvard) performed the elegant series of studies that first demonstrated that wheat (rye, barley) gliadins trigger the zonulin protein-mediated process that is the first step in autoimmunity. And this mechanism has nothing to do with celiac disease or NCGS, though it is partially dependent on the genetic variant of zonulin (“haptoglobin-2″) you carry. But essentially 90%+ of the population is susceptible to this effect.

From the perspective of “large studies,” we have a study of wheat removal in rheumatoid arthritis demonstrating partial remission. A search on PubMed will also reveal the explosion of studies exploring Dr. Fasano’s work further and documenting the close relationship of wheat consumption and autoimmunity. Yes, we need more data, but it all points fingers at wheat (and consistent with our anecdotal daily experience of multiple forms of autoimmunity receding with wheat elimination).

And, by the way, there is more to autoimmunity than wheat/gliadin removal, as chronic grain consumption distorts health in other ways, such as impaired absorption of nutrients over many years, disrupted cholecystokinin signaling for digestion, and changes in bowel flora (dysbiosis). All of this must be addressed for full recovery to occur after grains are removed. Just as an alcoholic doesn’t recover full health just by stopping the flow of bourbon, so a former wheat-consumer does not fully recover once the wheat/gliadin are stopped–the long-term consequences of wheat/gliadin consumption must be corrected, as well.

Gluten-free diets carry the concern of nutritional deficiencies, and completely grain-free diets only heighten that risk. Julie Miller Jones, PhD, CNS, LN, professor emerita of nutrition at St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minn., summarizes data showing grains provide the following amounts of nutrients in the U.S. diet: 70 percent of folate 60 percent of thiamin 50 percent of iron 40 percent or more of niacin, riboflavin, and selenium 25 percent of magnesium and zinc.”

Proponents of grain-free diets voice concern about anti-nutrients in grains. Grains, especially whole grains, contain a substance called phytate that impairs the body’s absorption of some minerals. However, in populations with well-balanced diets, this may be of little consequence. There are ways to minimize phytate, too.

Ah, so she is aware of the phytate issue, the phosphorus-containing compounds in all grains that block 90% of iron absorption, 90% of zinc absorption, and at least 60-70% of magnesium absorption. In nations that have developed dependence on wheat and corn, iron and zinc deficiencies are rampant, affecting over 2 billion people. Consumption of grains provides no net increase in iron or zinc, nor of any other nutrient, because they are inaccessible. The second most common cause of iron deficiency anemia in the world (after blood loss): wheat consumption.

How to minimize phytate? Well, first of all, modern grains have been selected to be phytate-rich, as phytates serve to protect grains from pests, such as insects. So modern grains are more effective at blocking nutrient absorption than traditional grains. But she is correct: phytates can be minimized . . . . by genetic modification, GM. So she is essentially advocating that more GM crops be introduced, an argument that surely delights the agribusiness advocates.

Make no mistake: GM is an awful, crude, and desperately unhealthy process, despite the absurd FDA stand that GM crops are “substantially equivalent.” They are not and the science is bearing this out.

‘Breads made with longer fermentation times, such as Julia Child’s French bread (which requires at least 6 hours of rise time), and classic sourdough bread, have significantly lower phytate levels,’ Jones says. Lectins, another type of anti-nutrient in grains, also may be inactivated by lengthy fermentation, and some are destroyed by heat.

That is true: phytates are modestly reduced, but not eliminated. Lectins, on the other hand, are nearly impervious to heating, human digestion, or taking a beating at the hands of enthusiastic bakers. Wheat germ agglutinin, the lectin protein of wheat, rye, barley, and rice, remains remarkably intact despite such manipulations. But the reduction in phytates means that gliadin, glutenins, alpha amylase inhibitors, trypsin inhibitors, D-amino acids, amylopectin A are still there in all their glory, exerting autoimmune, intestinally disruptive, bowel flora-changing, allergy-provoking, and blood sugar-raising effects.

‘Some people reason that if they eat more broccoli, for instance, then it won’t matter if they don’t eat grains. But, thinking you don’t need grain fiber because you get a lot of vegetable fiber is like saying that if you get enough vitamin A you don’t need any vitamin C. That’s just plain wrong,’ Jones says. For example, beta glucan, the fiber best at lowering cholesterol, is present only in oats and barley. It’s grain fiber, rather than fiber from any source, that is linked with a reduced risk of colon cancer.

Several partial truths here. Jones and McCullough are referring to the presence of indigestible prebiotic fibers, or “resistant starches,” in grains, such as arabinoxylan, consumed by bowel flora and converted to butyrate, which does indeed exert healthy intestinal effects and metabolic benefits, such as reduced blood sugar.

But–given the fact that wheat has been consumed for only the last 10,000 years of human existence–how did humans obtain such fibers in the 2.5 million years prior to grains? Root vegetables. Root vegetable consumption is among the oldest documented foodstuffs to enter the diet of primates, found in even pre-Homo Australopithecus (e.g., robustus). Root vegetables are how non-grain consuming cultures, such as the Hadza of sub-Saharan Africa, obtain their prebiotic fibers–not grains. And most of the fiber in grains is cellulose–wood fiber–indigestible by humans. There is no inherent benefit to wood fiber consumption.

And the fiber data do not demonstrate that it is grain fiber that is most closely related to reductions in colon cancer risk. The data here tend to be sloppy, epidemiological studies of the sort that prove nothing. Taken as a whole, we could say that fiber intake reduces colon cancer risk, but we cannot say that it is grain fiber specifically. (I predict that the data will show, when clean data are finally generated, that it is the prebiotic fibers/resistant starches that are the truly protective component of foods, not the cellulose fibers.)

A 2009 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that healthy adults on a gluten-free diet for a month had a significant decrease in protective gut bacteria, while potentially unhealthy bacteria increased in number. These findings are similar to an earlier study of children with celiac disease following a long-term gluten-free diet (Journal of Medical Microbiology, 2007).

This is nonsense. She suggests that eliminating “gluten” is somehow unhealthy, an unhealthy and necessary evil to treat celiac disease. Yes, there are changes in bowel flora when you remove gluten, celiac or no, a process that requires months to years to correct. And they may not correct on their own, given the extensive disruption of digestion and intestinal health that derives from grain consumption. (We cannot create the healthy species we require, such as Lactobacillus plantarum, without introducing them through a probiotic or consumption of fermented foods.) The problem is not removing gluten; the problem is that bowel health is so disrupted that re-establishing healthy bowel flora requires efforts that go beyond gluten removal.

And followers of these discussions know that a “gluten-free” diet can be a terribly unhealthy diet, including effects on bowel flora, if it includes cornstarch, tapioca starch, potato flour, or rice flour, as replacements, since they also distort bowel flora and provoke inflammatory effects of their own. A faulty solution does not mean the original premise was wrong.

“In the typical American diet, wheat supplies at least 70 percent of inulin and oligofructose, which are prebiotic starches that fuel the growth of good bacteria.”

That is true, but suggests that grains are indispensable. Americans have woefully inadequate intakes of prebiotic starches on the order of 3-5 grams per day. The solution is not more grains; the solution is more root vegetables such as legumes, lentils, chickpeas, and other foods–the way humans have done it for 2.5 million years until the widespread fictions, misinterpretations, and lore of grains entered our experience. (This is an entire discussion of its own–for future!)

All in all, despite the half-truths in this piece, it demonstrates that apologists for wheat are getting a bit more savvy. But I don’t envy their position, having to defend the role of grains in the human diet–because they never belonged in the human diet in the first place. Recall that grains entered the human experience during moments of desperation, a source of calories when foods we instinctively consumed–such as organs, bone marrow, meat, nuts, seeds, roots, and berries–fell in short supply. They were intended to be consumed when real food was unavailable. But, in a world overpopulated due to the cheap, large-scale production of grains, we are told that our diets should be dominated by this nutritional intruder.

If you were starving and found yourself standing in a field of wheat, would you celebrate your good fortune and feast on the seeds of this grass? No, you would die of malnutrition. Wheat was never meant for human consumption.

Posted in Wheat Belly counterattacks | 33 Comments

Grain bashing: It’s easy

When I chose to pick on grains, I found it exceptionally easy. There is no shortage of warts, scars, and defects in this class of plants co-opted into the service of the human diet.

I chose to pick on wheat first, as it is the worst of grains with more complex genetics and thereby a greater panel of unique proteins; it is among the most changed by the efforts of geneticists and agribusiness; and it plays such a dominant role in the human diet, comprising 20% of all calories worldwide, as much as 50% or more of calories for many people.

But just because other grains are not wheat does not make them good. After all, all grains are the seeds of grasses, grasses from the biological family Poaceae, relatives of the Kentucky bluegrass or rye grass that grow in your back yard.

Let’s talk about corn. Just as wheat consumption began around 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent when desperate humans wondered whether they could consume einkorn wheat that grew wild, so did inhabitants of Mesoamerica (now Mexico) wonder whether they could consume the teosinte grass that grew wild. Teosinte looks like a grass, as the mutation of a large seed head–”cob”–had not yet appeared. Domestication and cultivation of teosinte led to maize. Over time, farmers chose plants with larger seeds and seed heads that eventuated in something closer to the huge cob we all recognize today. Corn has the advantage of being very prolific: high yields. As strains with large seeds and cobs were chosen, yield in calories increased even more. Today, corn exceeds even wheat in millions of acres planted worldwide.

Teosinte plants. Image courtesy Univ. Missouri

Teosinte plants. Image courtesy Univ. Missouri

So what are the effects of consuming the seeds of another grass, the seeds of the corn plant, on humans? Let me list a few of the most prominent:

1) Just as the gliadin protein of wheat, rye, and barley triggers inflammatory reactions via several different mechanisms, so does the zein protein in corn. For instance, gliadin protein exposure has been associated with causing pancreatic beta cell autoimmunity, i.e., type 1 diabetes in children. So has the zein protein of corn. The zein protein can also recreate the response of celiac disease, though not quite as powerfully, even though corn is included in most “gluten-free” products. Corn can be gluten-free, but it is not free of proteins that act just like gluten (gliadin) or cross-react immunologically with it.

2) While many of the proteins of the seeds of grasses are indigestible, there is an exceptionally well digested component: amylopectin A. This is the carbohydrate of grains that is responsible for sending blood sugars sky-high. Problem: Most corn is not consumed as intact kernels, but as ground corn flour or cornmeal, reducing size to granules and increasing surface area for digestion exponentially. This is why, even though wheat raises blood sugar to high levels, cornstarch raises blood sugar even higher–the highest of any food. Modern corn strains are often chose for their higher amylopectin content–”sweet corn”–thereby containing higher levels of this blood sugar raising component.

3) What happens when corn plays a dominant role in diet, as it does in parts of South America and formerly did in the southern U.S. and Europe? People develop the “4 D’s”: diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and death, otherwise known as pellagra. Because corn products lack niacin and the amino acid tryptophan, over-reliance on corn as a calorie source makes people very ill.

4) Corn has been genetically-modified, GM. Recall that modern wheat is not the product of GM, but of methods that predate GM (though not necessarily benign–remember mutagenesis?) 90% of corn sold today is GM corn: glyphosate-resistant, Bt toxin inoculated, or “stacked,” i.e., containing both. Emerging data suggest that neither GM nor glyphosate nor Bt toxin ingested by humans are benign and exert unanticipated effects, including endocrine disruption and cancer.

5) Allergy–Seen in its most exaggerated form in people who work with corn products, such as people who work in the pharmaceutical industry involved in pill production, a process that often includes cornstarch. As many as 90% of these people, over time, develop corn allergies. As in wheat, allergies are typically due to alpha amylase and trypsin inhibitors, as well as other proteins, many of them changed via hybridizations and GM.

That’s just a sample–I could go on. The point is that finding fault with the seeds of grasses is so darned easy. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a stalk of einkorn wheat or of teosinte. The problems started 10,000 years ago–0.4% of our time on earth as the Homo species–when humans tried to consume something that never belonged in the human diet in the first place, now made worse by the manipulations of agribusiness.

And, oh yes: We are told to eat more of it by our own USDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Posted in Corn, Grains | 76 Comments

What’s WORSE than genetic modification?

Genetic modification (GM) is coming under increasing scrutiny, despite the efforts of companies like Monsanto and Coca Cola to squash legislative action to require the labeling of genetically-modified foods.

GM refers to the use of gene-splicing technology to insert or remove a gene, a collection of techniques advertised by agribusiness to be precise, generating the desired characteristic, such as resistance to an herbicide, and nothing more. Of course, this is patent nonsense: Insert a gene to resist an herbicide, for instance, and there are unforeseen consequences in changing other genes alongside the inserted gene, alterations in epigenetic control over gene expression, interactions with the products of other genes, not to mention the uncontrolled nature of just where in the chromosomal collection the gene is actually inserted. We now have a number of reports, including a recent French study of glyphosate-resistant corn fed to rats documenting early deaths from large tumors, suggesting that genetically-modified foods, as well as glyphosate itself, are not as benign as advertised.

Stephen Colbert: Amber Waves of Frankengrain

Stephen Colbert: Amber Waves of Frankengrain

So could anything be worse than GM? Yes: Mutagenesis.

Mutagenesis refers to the intentional induction of mutations in an organism, usually using chemical methods, ultraviolet radiation, gamma rays, or high-dose x-ray. Geneticists make vigorous use of the methods of mutagenesis, as mutations can help define the function of various genes by turning them “on” or “off,” changing their code sequence, and other manipulations.

But key to understanding mutagenesis is that it is not a fully controllable process. If I aim a beam of gamma rays at a seed, embryo, cell, or other creature, plant or animal, I cannot predict what will happen, where in the genetic code changes will occur, or whether they result in viable or non-viable organisms.

Take a look at this study, for instance, from a Portuguese research group working with rice (not wheat): Microarray analyses reveal that plant mutagenesis may induce more transcriptomic changes than transgene insertion. (Transgenetic = GM. Yes: genetics is painful!) From the abstract:

We found that the improvement of a plant variety through the acquisition of a new desired trait, using either mutagenesis or transgenesis, may cause stress and thus lead to an altered expression of untargeted genes. In all of the cases studied, the observed alteration was more extensive in mutagenized than in transgenic plants. We propose that the safety assessment of improved plant varieties should be carried out on a case-by-case basis and not simply restricted to foods obtained through genetic engineering.

(Note that the genetics of rice are far simpler than the genetics of wheat. For instance, rice contains 24 chromosomes, while modern high-yield semi-dwarf Triticum species of wheat contain 42 chromosomes.)

In short, the techniques of mutagenesis have potential to exert greater genetic change and thereby more biochemical alterations in the plant than genetic modification. And the potential for unpredictable changes via mutagenesis are likely to be much greater in the more genetically-complex wheat plant than in rice.

So the mutated products of mutagenesis, such as imazamox-resistant Clearfield wheat, now grown on one million acres in the Pacific northwest, have been on store shelves for years. The Wheat Lobby is absolutely correct when it says that no commercially sold wheat today is genetically-modified. The wheat sold today, much of it the product of the techniques of mutagenesis, are the product of something potentially far WORSE.

Posted in Genetic changes, Mutagenesis | 26 Comments

Diabetes Australia bungles dietary advice

A Wheat Belly Blog reader passed this exchange between his father and a dietitian representing the Australian Diabetic Association onto me. While nearly all of you are no strangers to the ignorance exhibited by defenders of the dietary status quo, it occasionally helps to hear their arguments articulated. You are readily reminded just how many “holes” there are in their arguments to consume more “healthy whole grains.”

My father was a very serious diabetic, but I slowly got him off the wheat last December. Now his diabetes is the best it’s been in 20 years!

He was so disappointed with Diabetes Australia for all the false information given to him over the years, that he wrote to them. Here is his email and their response:

Since I have give up eating bread and most wheat products, my sugar levels have never been so good.

If you really want to help diabetics, could you please let people know not to eat bread?


Dear Jack,

Thank you for your email comment regarding avoiding bread and wheat products to better manage diabetes. It is great that you have been able to better manage your blood glucose levels lately and this approach is working for you.

Most people with diabetes are able to tolerate eating bread that has a low glycaemic index (GI) if it is eaten in appropriate portions (i.e. 2 slices). Examples of low GI breads include wholegrain and sourdough breads. Most low GI wheat based products are also generally tolerated when eaten in appropriate portions, such as 1 cup of cooked pasta or ¾ cup All Bran cereal. People diagnosed with coeliac disease do need to avoid all gluten containing foods, including all wheat based foods.

Ultimately, the most important factor affecting blood sugar levels is the total amount of carbohydrate eaten at a time and therefore portion sizes are important. This carbohydrate could come from wheat based products such as bread or pasta or non-wheat based products such as sweet potato, milk or oats.

All types of high fibre/low GI carbohydrate foods are recommended as part of a balanced diet, so long as portion sizes are appropriate. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of fuel and they also provide us with essential B-group vitamins and are usually a significant source of fibre to help with lowering cholesterol and maintaining good bowel health.

However, we do recognise that everyone has different needs for amounts and types of carbohydrate foods. The advice that we provide to people with diabetes is general and a guide only and we encourage people to seek individual advice from a dietitian, based on their own individual needs

Alright, let’s tear apart this dietitian’s defense of the diabetic diet and “healthy whole grain” status quo. By making arguments such as we “need” grains for their fiber and B vitamins and that eliminating a “whole food group” is unhealthy, she neglects to recognize a number of issues:

1) All whole wheat products are high glycemic index foods.

2) Foods such as multigrain bread, oatmeal, and millet bread raise blood sugars to very high levels, but lower than high-glycemic index foods like cornstarch and whole wheat. They are therefore designated “low-glycemic index” foods. There’s nothing wrong with the concept of glycemic index; but there is something desperately wrong with the cutoffs for high- vs. low-glycemic index. Low-glycemic index foods should more correctly be called “Less-high” glycemic index foods. Typical blood sugar 30-60 minutes after 6 teaspoons table sugar: 170 mg/dl. Typical blood sugar after 2 slices of whole wheat bread: 175 mg/dl. Typical blood sugar after bowl of oatmeal: 167 mg/dl–less high, but still awful.

3) This is not just about the amylopectin A of grains. It’s also about gliadin derived peptides that act as opiates and stimulate appetite; it’s about intact gliadin, partially resistant to digestion, that initiates the first step in autoimmune diseases by increasing intestinal permeability; it’s about wheat germ agglutinin that blocks the cholecystokinin receptor and thereby leads to gallstones, pancreatic insufficiency, and dysbiosis; it’s about phytates that block absorption of iron, zinc, and magnesium.

4) Grain consumption leads to poor dental health. This was the first experience of grain-consuming humans: explosive tooth decay, periodontitis, tooth loss, crooked teeth in children.

5) Grain consumption changes oral and bowel flora. Changes in oral flora caused by grains contribute to the above changes in oral health. The implications of grain induced changes in bowel flora are only now coming to light.

6) Diabetes is about blood sugar. If someone starts with a blood sugar prior to a meal of 100 mg/dl, then eats a big piece of pork chop: blood sugar 100 mg/dl. If they eat a piece of multigrain bread: blood sugar 163 mg/dl or somewhere in that range, higher the more insulin-resistant and beta cell-challenged they are. In other words, eat foods that don’t raise blood sugar and you likely no longer need drugs to reduce blood sugar. Why would any diabetic association tell people to eat foods that raise blood sugars to such high levels? Could this have something to do with generous support from Cadbury Schweppes (the world’s largest soft drink and candy maker), AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk, or Sanofi Aventis, manufacturers of diabetes drugs and insulin preparations?

In my view, the various diabetes associations of the world have made substantial contributions to the epidemic of overweight, obesity, and worsening diabetes in millions of people, all while helping grow billions of dollars in revenues and profits for the food and diabetes industries.

I say thumb your nose or make some other meaningful gesture in their direction. Then go have a 3-egg spinach mushroom omelet oozing with olive oil.

Posted in Diabetes | 78 Comments

Ishi: The Last Hunter-Gatherer

One of the last true hunter-gatherers in North America was believed to be a man called Ishi, with a fascinating tale of the clash between indigenous cultures and early 20th century America. But a study of this man provides some insights into the lives of people living something close to a pre-Neolithic lifestyle, i.e., a life without agriculture.

I wrote this piece for my upcoming book, Wheat Belly Total Health, due for release in September, 2014.

An aboriginal Indian, clad in a rough canvas shirt which reached to his knees . . . was taken into custody last evening by Sheriff Webber and Constable Toland at the Ward Slaughter-house on the Quincy road. He had evidently been driven by hunger to the slaughter-house, as he was almost in a starving condition . . .

Where he came from is a mystery. The most plausible explanation seems to be that he is probably the surviving member of the little group of uncivilized Deer Creek Indians who were driven from their hiding place two years ago.

In the Sheriff’s office he was surrounded by a curious throng. He made a pathetic figure crouched upon the floor . . . His feet were as wide as they were long, showing plainly that he had never worn either moccasins or shoes. . . Over his shoulder a rough canvas bag was carried. In it a few Manzanita berries were found and some sinews of deer meat. By motions, the Indian explained that he had been eating these.”

The Oroville Register
August 29, 1911

Such was the reception a lone Indian received upon being trapped by turn-of-the-20th century Californians. As details were pieced together, it appeared that Ishi—-a Yahi Indian word for “man,” a name assigned to him, since it was customary to not use personal names in their culture else risk insult and invite bad magic—-was as close as anyone could come to a true primitive in a modern world, someone entirely unfamiliar with all the modern developments around him, having lived a life of virtually pure hunting and gathering his entire life. Yet the story of Ishi encapsulates many of the same phenomena we witness over and over again in the collision of primitive Homo sapiens with modern diet.

Following Ishi’s recovery, in an unprecedented decision, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs acquiesced to a peculiar request made by two University of California anthropologists, Drs. Alfred L. Kroeber and Thomas T. Waterman, to release the “wild man” to the charge of the University’s Museum of Art and Anthropology. Kroeber and Waterman then proceeded to provide Ishi with food, shelter, and protection, while studying his every habit and behavior.

As he learned to speak broken English and his anthropologist attendants learned to understand bits and pieces of Ishi’s native tongue, several details became clear: Ishi was the last surviving member of the Yahi Indian tribe, nearly exterminated during a massacre by marauding settlers eager for land in 1865, leaving only five survivors. Of those five were Ishi, his mother, sister, his sister’s husband, and a child. After many years of living in the wild, Ishi was the lone survivor. He continued to live much as his tribe’s ancestors had by hunting animals and fish and gathering wild vegetation.

Dr. Saxton T. Pope, a physician, recorded a thorough physical examination of him: “He was born probably about 1860 in northern California, consequently is approximately 54 years of age, but appears about 45. . . Musculature is well developed, with an even distribution of subcutaneous fat. . . The teeth are all present, strong, colored slightly brown, no evidence of decay or pyorrhea. . . His breath is sweet and free from the fetor common to the average white man . . . “

As Ishi’s time in Western society progressed, Dr. Pope made a number of other interesting observations: “He fed at the nearby Hospital and had at least two full meals daily, besides a luncheon of his own preparation. This was greatly in excess of any dietary heretofore possible to him. In consequence he increased in weight rapidly and became ungracefully fat.” Through it all, surely an unsettling shift from his hunter-gatherer origins to that of laboratory specimen, though civilly treated, Ishi was “always calm and amiable. . . he had the most exacting conscience concerning the ownership of property. He was too generous with his gifts of arms, arrowheads, and similar objects of his handicraft. . . With those whom he knew and liked he was remarkably talkative, rambling off into stories, descriptions, humorous episodes, and many unintelligible tales.” In short, despite the traumatic excision from his life and culture suffered at the hands of modern people, Ishi maintained a sense of humanity that charmed the people around him until his death from tuberculosis (a disease of the “white man”) in 1916.

The tragic and fascinating tale of Ishi is about as close as we get in our time to viewing what a nearly pure North American hunter-gatherer was like prior to the dietary acculturation that has now come to touch virtually every other human on earth.

Ishi: The Last Yahi: A Documentary History. Heizer RF, Kroeber T, eds. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979.

Posted in Evolutionary aspects of nutrition, Paleo Diet | 43 Comments


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