How sweet it is!

Does wheat cause diabetes? Is the national message to eat more “healthy whole grains” to blame for the nationwide epidemic of diabetes? Can that bowl of bran cereal, English muffin, or plate of whole wheat pasta mean a life of drugs, insulin injections, and eight years shaved off your lifespan?

Yes, yes, and yes. Mind you, I am a vigorous advocate of the elimination of all wheat from the human diet. Even without hearing the rationale for this opinion, anyone reading the reams of testimonials on this blog can readily see that many, many people are experiencing substantial weight loss and health turnarounds by eliminating all things wheat.

But can we blame diabetes on wheat?

Yes, absolutely, as much as you can blame poor oral hygience for toothlessness in West Virginia. There are several reasons why wheat, more than many other food, causes diabetes:

–Any food that increases blood sugar to high levels (i.e., high glycemic index) also increases insulin to high levels. Repetitive high insulin leads to insulin resistance, which leads to visceral fat deposition, more insulin resistance, inflammation, etc., eventuating in diabetes.
–High blood sugar, such as that resulting from eating two slices of whole wheat bread, is toxic to pancreatic beta cells, the cells that produce insulin: glucotoxicity.
–Triglyceride-containing lipoproteins, such as chylomicrons and its remnants, are toxic to pancreatic beta cells: lipotoxicity.
–The gliadin protein of wheat stimulates appetite, causing the unwitting wheat consumer to eat, on average, 400 more calories per day, mostly from carbohydrates. 400 calories per day, 365 days per year . . . that’s a lot of extra calories, a lot of potential weight gain.
–The lectins of wheat (wheat germ agglutinin) are inflammatory, generating inflammation in multiple sites, such as joints, intestinal tract, and endocrine glands. Higher levels of inflammation and its various mediators (tumor necrosis factor, the interleukins, etc.) worsen insulin resistance, worsening the vicious cycle.

Some aspects of wheat (especially gliadin and lectins), of course, became much worse with the introduction of modern high-yield, semi-dwarf strains of wheat, compounded with the advice to cut your fat and eat more “healthy whole grains.” This deadly combination, reaching full volume in 1985, coincided precisely with the beginning of the explosion in diabetes in the U.S.:

Full data from the CDC here.

Sugars and processed foods made of such things as cornstarch and high-fructose corn syrup also make a major contribution. But these foods lack the direct inflammatory effects of lectins and the appetite-stimulating effects of gliadin. They are bad, but do not compare to the incredibly bad effects of this thing called “wheat.”

High-yield, semi-dwarf wheat was introduced into the U.S. in the mid-1970s, gained wider acceptance by farmers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, such that, by 1985, virtually all bagels, pizza, and bread originated with this darling of agricultural geneticists. The new gliadin of wheat (altered by several amino acids), a more effective appetite-stimulant than its predecessor, “old” gliadin, caused calorie consumption to increase by 400-500 calories per day. Americans gained weight. A several year lag followed before the uptick in diabetes began, as it requires 30,40, 50 or more pounds for most people to exhibit all the hallmarks of diabetes.

So we now have the world’s worst epidemic of diabetes ever witnessed since humans have walked on earth. Some “experts” argue that it’s genetics, it’s the overconsumption of Coca Cola and Mountain Dew. Others argue that it’s your physical inactivity, lives spent behind desks, looking at computer screens.

I personally became diabetic 20 years ago at a time when I was jogging 3-5 miles per day, cutting my fat, avoiding junk foods and soft drinks, and eating plenty of “healthy whole grains.” I wasn’t physically inactive nor did I indulge in junk carbohydrates. But I became diabetic. I believe this is the same situation experienced by millions, the people who are physically active, avoid junk and fast foods, and try to eat “healthy whole grains.”

20 years later, I exercise less intensively, don’t restrict my fat, and eat NO “healthy whole grains” like those made of wheat. My HbA1c: 4.8%, fasting glucose 84 mg/dl—on no drugs. I am no longer diabetic.

Let the Wheat Lobby and its supporters (read “pharmaceutical industry”) march out the “whole grains have been proven to healthier than white flour” argument. We all know that you cannot justify a food just because it is less bad than something else. Less bad does not necessarily mean good.

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78 Responses to How sweet it is!

  1. Kerry says:

    Wheat causes diabetes! This makes total sense to me since I’m living it! I’ve had metabolic syndrome since I was a teen. My endocrinologist put me on metformin because it helps PCOS. Fast forward 20 years, still have metabolic syndrome, still have PCOS, still overweight taking metformin along with blood pressure meds.
    I spent three years on a very well known weight loss plan, low fat, low calorie, whole grains, fruits, etc. I lost 50 lbs. Not ONCE did my doctor EVER suggest that I lower either my blood pressure medication or my metformin. In fact, my fasting blood sugars were borderline high and my BP always felt iffy. Not to mention…I was hungry ALL the time. I fell off the wagon and gained 20 lbs. I’m sure I was eating excessive amounts of carbs, wheat, sugar, etc.
    Four months ago, I read Wheat Belly and eliminated wheat, sugar and most carbs from my diet. In 6 weeks, I lost 13 lbs. In three months, my fasting blood sugar went from 130 (on 1500mg metformin XR) to 85. I recently had to lower my metformin and my BP meds since I was getting dizzy. I currently eat about 35-50 net carbs daily…no wheat, sugar or grains. I’m now taking 1000mg of metformin XR a day and 25% less BP meds. My fasting blood sugar this morning was 77. :) I can’t wait to see what my doctor has to say about this. I hope he lowers my meds even more.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Absolutely excellent, Kerry!

      Now, why was this not the first piece of advice out of your endocrinologist’s mouth?

      • Kerry says:

        I saw the endocrinologist when I was in my late teens, early 20′s. My primary care doc took over the prescribing of metformin afterward and has been for the past 15 years. I have an appointment with him next week and will be telling him all about your book. I love to talk about the results I’ve gotten, so he’d better love to listen!

        • Dr. Davis says:

          I’m hoping that you are no longer diabetic, Kerry. Do you have any numbers to report?

          • Kerry says:

            I have an appointment with him next Tuesday. About a week from then, I will be able to give you my numbers from when I was on Weight Watchers, my numbers when I ‘fell off’ WW and my current numbers, four months wheat free. :)

          • Kerry says:

            Posted this on Facebook, but I promised it here, so I”m reposting:
            Just got my recent blood results back from the doctor so I can now give you all the stats. (I want to give explanations so this will be long, and I apologize that I can”t just make a chart.)
            In Feb. 2008 I weighed 194 lbs. (I”m 5”4, currently 38 y/o.) I was on 200mg/day of labetalol and 12.5 mg hctz for BP and 1500 mg metformin xr for insulin reistance. My FBS was 86, total chol was 142, HDL 40, LDL 43, Trig 296 (whoa!).
            I began WW in April of that year. While following the plan pretty closely, my weight went down to 150 and over the next year I had blood drawn approx. every 3 mos. and my stats looked like this: FBS 80-90, A1C 5.6, chol 120-150, HDL 34-43, LDL went up progressively from 46 to 92, and my trigs were 112-165.
            I “fell off” WW in 2011, gained 20 lbs. and for some reason didn”t have blood drawn after March of that year (insurance changes, possibly). I went low carb/wheat-free/sugar-free October 1, 2011. Two weeks ago, I decreased my meds on my own due to dizziness and am currently taking labetalol 100 mg am, 50mg pm and 1000mg metformin xr. I had blood drawn *after* med reduction. My current stats from last week are: Weight: 158, FBS 87, A1C 5.3, chol 154, HDL 52, LDL 84, and trig 88.
            I”m most excited by the jump in HDL, it”s the highest it”s been ever. The doctor also had me stop taking the water pill (yay for long car trips!).

      • LILLIAN PORTER says:

        Dr. Davis,
        I lost 20lbs rapidly on the older diet of the much maligned Dr. Atkins. I was then in my fifties, my lipids had been high (except the “good” cholesterol was low), my BP was starting to climb and my blood sugar had been up to 124. Though happily, eating a lot of fat and meat on the diet, my lipids – counterintuitively – corrected themselves and my blood sugar came down to 99. Later, in my sixties, having regained the weight, I did aerobics five days a week, weights 3 days a week and resumed a diet of salads, fruit and meat. (I would regularly, however, take detours to carb land. I notice that your patients symptoms often recurred after a few pretzels. This time I am not even going to put flour in my gravy. It took 2 yrs to lose 20 lbs on this regime. I came to believe that some folks are weight-loss resistant after a certain age.
        My kids had a friend whose parents were vegetarian. By the age of 7, she had juvenile diabetes and rheumatoid. Mom became more vigilant in administering the vegetarian diet. Last time I saw the girl she was playing Little League baseball and went on to be a college softball player. I suspect her auto-immune problems remain. Please comment on my own and her situation.
        Years ago I read ‘The Grandmother’s Conspiracy’. The author stated that once white flour was introduced to indigenous cultures, many women had to have c-sections to deliver because of the increased pelvic bone size.
        Your book was a Christmas gift on Kindle (can’t flip to the back). I am very excited about it. It confirms some of the things that Atkins said about when American eating habits changed. He said, if I remember correctly, that people stopped eating meat and fat after the FDA produced their food pyramid in 1972. (apparently, a couple of LAWYERS developed it). The outcome, as you show, resulted in the ballooning of weight and Adult Onset Diabetes Mellitus in children.
        Thank you so much for your work and for informing us, though you can not be popular with Big Food.

  2. Kara Yonts says:

    Dr. Davis,
    I’m a huge fan :) Started my website this month, and I’m going to be blogging about how life goes as I start my wheat-free journey! I had planned on doing my first giveaway (for when I reach 100 likes on Facebook) and giving away a copy of your book that I’ve bought. Then I got to thinking… would it be possible to get a signed copy from you to give away to one of my (randomly selected) Facebook fans? If possible, email me at to let me know. Thanks Dr. D! I’ll be linking people over to your blog, I’m sure… :)


  3. Janice says:

    Quite frankly, eating in general is depressing. The healthiest way to eat is certianly not the most cost effective and if you’re not in a large area with a Whole Foods or similar, it’s even tougher. The organic produce at my local grocery is not only expensive, but I think doesn’t move fast enough. Quality is definitely iffy.

    I was reading a much earlier post about dairy raising insulin. I wonder if that’s because it comes from the milk of cows who are fed such prodigious amounts of grain? Ugh. I want to throw up when I think about the way in which animals are raised, fed, and slaughtered.

    Genetically screwed with wheat, soy, and corn; grain-fed animals squashed in pens and up to their knees in feces and mud; hens stuffed together so they can’t move and worse; fruit full of pesticides, picked before its time that takes ages to get to market; vegetables coated with chemicals….

    Did you know there is sugar in the list of ingredients for Planter’s peanuts?
    Did you know that “nutricious” Nutella has some nasty stuff listed first on the label? (I can’t remember what it is, but I remember going “Gross” and putting it back on the shelf)
    What happened to luscious, red-through strawberries?
    What happened to long, oval watermelons WITH SEEDS IN THEM?
    Why are some of my lemons now ALSO lacking seeds?

    Let’s hope the pendulum has swung far enough the other way that it will now move toward the middle, leaving us more choices for healthy eating rather than increasingly fewer.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      I think it will happen, Janice, provided you and I vote with our wallets.

      It means planning your backyard garden now and keeping herb pots on your kitchen shelf. It means subscribing to a CSA, if available in your area. It means going to farmers’ markets. More grocery stores are starting to serve this market, as well. As the market expands, prices will drop, also.

  4. juliette says:

    Hi, are old varieties of wheat no good as well? I don’t do well on anything but the flour I get from my local mill, who grows only old varieties. Is all wheat bad? Are there any studies you can point me to that compare the old varieties and the new?

  5. Jan says:

    Are we allowed to use Coconut Sugar in this plan?

  6. WILL Barber says:

    I was politely asked to leave the endocrinologist office at my local VA when I said to the MD, who is an endocrinologist:
    “I don’t think you understand diabetes and you certainly don’t understand how to control blood sugars. You have given me contradictory information ever since I have been here. I read your recommended diet and it includes many foods that raise blood sugars. Let me show you.”
    My voice began to rise as I pointed to some of the foods he recommended (foods and recipes that contained flour, sugar (small amounts are o.k. he said in the margin), potatoes, oatmeal, rice); people were looking in the exam room to see what was going on.
    I then said:
    “I am surprised they gave you a license to practice medicine, especially in the field of diabetes.”
    He then said: “I think it would be best if you left my office and found another doctor.”
    I did find another doctor and he has actually read Wheatbelly..

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Ah, Will: a fellow agitator!

      Endocrinologists should not have M.D. behind their name, but “007″: License to Kill. That would better describe their level of understanding.

      If their advice was just ineffective, that would be bad enough. But they are actively involved in CAUSING the disease, then dispensing drugs to treat their mistakes. Incredible and absolutely unforgivable.

      Please be sure to come back and update us on your progress!

      • WILL Barber says:

        Get a load of this Apple Crisp recipe from the good folks at the American Diabetes Association; it’s on their web site if you want to look:

        Cooking spray
        ¼ cup packed brown sugar
        ¼ cup all-purpose flour
        ½ cup old-fashioned oats
        2 tablespoons margarine, softened
        1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
        ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
        1 teaspoon vanilla extract
        5 cups peeled, sliced red apples (about 5 apples)

        I am dizzy from just reading this recipe.
        I cringe when I see this kind of stuff and from people who are supposedly in the know.

        It gets worse:-)
        Now read this from the American Diabetes Web site:
        For many people, having about 45 to 60 grams (carbs) at meals is about right. Serving sizes make a difference. To include sweets in your meal, you can cut back on the other carb-containing foods at the same meal.

        For example, if you’d like to have cookies with your lunch, you need to substitute for another carb-containing food. If your lunch is a turkey sandwich with two slices of bread, here are the steps you would take to make the substitution:

        Your first step is to identify the carb foods in your meal. Bread is a carb.
        You decide to swap two slices of regular bread for two slices of low-calorie bread (with ½ the carbohydrate) and have the cookies—it’s an even trade.
        Your total amount of carbohydrate remains the same for the meal.

        O.K., so what did I eat this evening (about 15 minutes ago)
        Tofu, zucchini, onions, peppers, and a cucumber salad on the side. One of my favorite stir frys. For a nice little sweet: 70% chocolate, 2 very small squares is about 4 carbs. Dinner was about 18 carbs for a total of 22 carbs. Just right for me.

        Oh, one more thing. Just finished cleaning out my sweet daughter’s pantry: all flour products and sugar products are gone. She begged for me to keep the box of Saltines and I said sorry sweetie. We are all in this together. I took the trash with me so she couldn’t cheat a little, ha

        • Dr. Davis says:

          Good work, Will! Purge the shelves!

          Yes, the misguided advice of the American Diabetes Association is truly mindboggling. Hey, this would make a great blog post. Thank you for the suggestion!

  7. Pingback: The Dangers of Wheat

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  9. Boundless says:

    When the base article here was first posted, I recall responding (paraphrasing), in a reply I now cannot find, that …

    The chart doesn’t just represent a high level of a needless ailment, and it doesn’t show just an increase in a needless ailment. It shows an ACCELERATION of a needless ailment – an exploding pandemic. It might be expected to be causing urgent “sky is falling” proclamations from the usual suspects, with precise advice on what needs to be done immediately; but they are essentially silent.

    I have a couple of further comments about that:

    1. Can we get the historical trend charts for other ailments avoided by avoiding wheat? I’m guessing that a long list, from heart disease to acne, show similar trends, but I was not able to find any data at the time. It may be behind paywalls, perhaps routinely available to MDs.

    2. Grain advocates, grain apologists, diet “authorities” and medical professionals generally, need to be challenged on these charts. What is causing these trends? Just how does a conventional stay-the-course diet advice get these trends under control?

  10. Silvia says:

    It’s been about 7 years ago I started to eat more “healthy”, organic fruits and vegetables, juicing, and other healthy foods, organic chicken, including 100% whole grain bread and pasta. Instead of losing weight I was gaining . I was in need to buy more clothes that fit since what I had was tight and refused to go to a biger size I really was desperate and even lost hope to lose the weight since I could no longer walk and exercize as I used to due to a knee injury. In the interview with Dr. Oz and Dr davis this past december I was really amazed.
    I started my no wheat lifestyle on january 14, 3 days later I had a headache that lasted for a few days, very sleepy, bad cravings but didn’t give up once I understood wheat is a drug. THANKS Dr. Davis for his book. I have lost 7 pounds. sooo happy, but even better 14 days later I started with and energy that really I didn’t know what to do with it. hahaha,,,, since I have a torned meniscus and can’t walk much. I feel great!!!!!!! when Im sitting down I no longer think to get up, I just get up. I have more concentration, no longer a procastinator. I know I can lose 20 pounds soon.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      You are on your way, Silvia, now that you have the answer!

      And very good on surviving your wheat withdrawal!

  11. Alex James says:

    Hi Dr. Davis,
    I’m just wondering about wheat and the Glycemic Load… although wheat is obviously sky high on the Glycemic Index, it scores low on the Glycemic Load, due to the fibre content. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for the elimination of wheat from the diet! This is not a defense of wheat; wheat is, for lack of a better term, evil. :) I’m just wondering how GL plays into this – could someone not argue that although wheat has a higher GI than sucrose, it doesn’t raise blood glucose and insulin as high or as quickly as sucrose, due to the fibre content? And people often have fat and protein with their bread (ie. eggs, nut butters) – could it not be argued that those elements slow the blood sugar effect as well, making it less harmful than white sugar? I’m sure you get these questions all the time! Your input is appreciated…I’m a nutritionist and wondering how to answer these questions in practice. Thank you!

    • Boundless says:

      > I’m just wondering about wheat and the Glycemic Load…

      The question has arisen before (admittedly not easily found).
      See it and the response from Dr.D at:

      > … could someone not argue that although wheat has
      > a higher GI than sucrose, it doesn’t raise blood glucose
      > and insulin as high or as quickly as sucrose,
      > due to the fibre content?

      What was the result when you actually tested that? :)

      > And people often have fat and protein with their
      > bread (ie. eggs, nut butters) – could it not be
      > argued that those elements slow the blood sugar
      > effect as well, making it less harmful than white sugar?

      What was the result when you actually tested that? :)

      I see these conjectures raised from time to time, but never see cites to any actual trials (or even personal anecdotal tests).

      It’s no accident that you rarely see the phrases “glycemic index” and “glycemic load” in these blog pages (or the books). GI and GL seem to be self-deceptive concepts that people (esp. diabetics) use to fool themselves into eating things they’d be better off without.

      When blood sugar matters, what matters is actual blood sugar response, and not some food industry or ADA handwaving about what the hypothetical effect might be.

      Until we have information not presently on NF panels, the useful metric is
      “net carbs”
      less than 50 grams/day, less than 15 grams/meal (or 6-hour period) – pretty much a glycemic index of zero.

      Yes, mutant semi-dwarf hybrid goatgrass (sold to you as “wheat”) has fiber content, but it doesn’t take much to blow the 15 gram net carb budget (and takes even less for the spectrum of other techno-triticale toxins to have their effects).

  12. Bols Marina says:

    Here in Belgium the book is also available. I read it 3 months ago and it was a wake up call. Know l understand a bit what the reason was that I did’n lose weight with a regular diet. My friend and I are both happy with the weight loss and also with the food we eat. Last saturday we had a family party and I eat a peace of applecake, homemade, yammie. I also drinked 2 glasses wine en 1 cava. Guess what: I felt really tired and nervous for three days. Is that possible that the wheat has that much impact??? Well I learnt my lesson and stay of, even for homemade cake etc…
    Wen we tell people here what we do they look at us as if we are crazy. But when they will see that we are progressing in healt and loos weight they will perhaps buy the book and try it.
    Thank you

  13. Deb says:

    For crying out loud he didn’t say everybody from West Virginia had poor oral hygiene and was toothless. Dr. Davis has an important message that could save the lives and or improve the quality of life for a lot of people.

  14. Blake says:

    He could have said rural Pennsylvania, and it would be equally true. Try to see the message instead of getting hung up on a detail?