The Gliadin Effect

Gliadin is a protein found within wheat gluten. It is, from a cold scientific viewpoint, a fascinating issue, a protean protein capable of incredibly varied biologic effects in humans. Among the things we know about gliadin:

–Gliadin is the most abundant protein in wheat, contained within gluten polymers.
–Gliadin of 2012 is different from the gliadin of, say, 1960, by several amino acids, part of the genetic transformation of wheat introduced to increase yield-per-acre.
–Gliadin is degraded to a collection of polypeptides called exorphins in the gastrointestinal tract. Exorphins cross the blood-brain barrier and bind to opiate-receptors to induce appetite, as well as behavioral changes, such as behavioral outbursts and inattention in children with ADHD and autism, hearing voices and social detachment in schizophrenics, and the mania of bipolar illness.
–People who consume gliadin consume 400 calories more per day; people who remove gliadin reduce calorie intake by 400 calories per day.

Incidentally, antibodies to gliadin are capable of binding to nervous system tissue and may contribute to immune-mediate neurological impairment, such as cerebellar ataxia and gluten encephalopathy. Gliadin, particular the omega fraction, is also responsible for allergic responses, including Bakers’ asthma and the odd wheat-dependent, exercise-induced analyphylaxis (WDEIA).)

The high-yield, semi-dwarf strains of wheat, invented in the 1960s and 1970s, was introduced to North American farmers in the late 1970s, who adopted it over the next decade. By 1985, virtually all wheat farmers were growing this high-yield strain. (Can you blame them? Per-acre yield increased about 10-fold, provided sufficient nitrate fertilizer was applied.)

What was the effect of the new wheat with its new gliadin protein? Take a look at the CDC’s chart of calorie intake in U.S. women:

It would be an oversimplification to attribute the rise in calories strictly to the new gliadin, as high-fructose corn syrup from soft drinks also contributed, especially in young males.

But the pattern is quite intriguing. Introduce the new gliadin with potential for stimulate appetite 400 calories per day, followed by gradual weight gain, followed later, after a lag of a few years to allow 30,40, 50 or more pounds of weight gain, by diabetes.

Of course, the “official” response is that the increased calorie consumption, overweight/obesity, and diabetes are your fault because you are a glutton and you’re lazy, eating chips, cookies, and other junk snacks along with sweetened soft drinks while you watch The Biggest Loser.

But, you know, I look around at the people I come across and I know hardly anybody over age 20 who fits this bill.

This entry was posted in Appetite stimulation, Carbohydrates, Genetic changes. Bookmark the permalink.

195 Responses to The Gliadin Effect

  1. Ralph Caldwell says:

    Doesn’t Europe eat the same wheat? Why are they not obese?

    • Erik K says:

      True, but Europeans do not (yet) consume carbohydrates and sugar in the concentrations found in U.S. food and soft drinks. When I first arrived in the U.S. I noticed how much sweeter all kinds of foods were. Europeans have no ‘Twinkies’, either.

      The combination of high-density fructose corn syrups and the gliadins are probably a perfect ‘killer’ combination!

      • Boundless says:

        > True, but Europeans do not (yet) consume
        > carbohydrates and sugar in the concentrations
        > found in U.S. food and soft drinks.

        And the Euros eat more fat, and consequently less total.

        > Europeans have no ‘Twinkies’, either.
        And they may use older wheat strains, and age the dough, but those are probably marginal favorable factors.

        > The combination of high-density fructose
        > corn syrups and the gliadins are probably
        > a perfect ‘killer’ combination!

        It’s a perfect storm with multiple contributors:

        * Wheat yields went up, making it a ubiquitous filler.

        * Toxicity and addictiveness went up with the yield (oops).

        * Diet attitudes went from low cal (needless) to low fat (major mistake). Carb consumption went up in part due to being low fat.

        * HFCS rolled in, making sugar even cheaper and more widely used.

        * The “HF” part of that bumped fructose consumption even higher.

        * Transfats became widely used.

        The only good news is that the resulting health crisis finally made it both urgent and easier for observant investigators like Dr. Davis to connect some crucial dots.

  2. Would the gliadin protein in Spelt be any different from that in modern wheat? Spelt is allegedly an ancient strain that, if its integrity has been maintained, should not contain the modern variety of gliadin.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Yes, it is different, as is the wheat germ agglutinin and many other components.

      However, I am not convinced that ANY human should consume ANY wheat-based grain, ancient or otherwise. If we were to judge the advisability of wheat consumption from an evolutionary perspective, we know that human health deteriorated with incorporation of even ancient grains. And celiac disease was first described around 100 A.D., so it is not unique to modern wheat.

  3. Ed Gardner says:

    Does you concern about wheat include a concern about oatmeal?

  4. Ken Duffy says:

    Interesting information. Can you please provide your sources?

    • Boundless says:

      The printed book has 295 footnotes, mostly cites from the lit.
      eBook editions may or may not have them (I’m not sure).
      Audiobook editions omit the footnotes (and the recipes).

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Please see the many references provided in the book, Ken.

      Also, new discussions on gliadin are included in the new Wheat Belly Cookbook, complete with references.

  5. Jay Ledan says:

    Dr Davis,
    Is rye bread an answer to this problem? Or is it that the rye was also manipulated…


    • Boundless says:

      Rye, barley and wheat, all gluten-bearing frankengrains, have been subject to much of the same genetic manipulation, and need to be considered comparably hazardous. They are all sky high GI carbs even if free range all natural sprouted organic heirloom :).

    • Dr. Davis says:

      For all practical purposes, rye is wheat and wheat is rye.

      They have been cross bred so many times over the millennia that they are essentially one and the same.

  6. Glen Janus says:

    I suffered from neck pain that started about 12 years ago and progressed to the point where I was taking ibuprofin all day long just to get through the day. I tried a variety of treatments including chiropractic, physical therapy, steroid injections, RFA. Everything but surgery. In March of 2012 I went to Dr. Glen Aukerman, OSU and started a gluten free diet plus mineral supplements. My life has changed pretty dramatically. Still have some stiffness and pain but nothing like before. Workouts and energy level have improved a great deal. I still take in small amounts of gluten but avoid as much as possible.
    I was a heavy bread/pasta lover so naturally I have tried to hold on to that using rice-based products. It sounds like you recommend getting away from all grains. Any thoughts on eliminating more stiffness and pain? I am 51 years old and exercise daily. Used to lift a lot of weights but I cut most of that out and mainly walk/bike. Thanks.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Some people do indeed do better from a joint pain standpoint with elimination of ALL grains, rice included.

      Thankfully, you can obtain an answer to your question, no drugs, surgery, or supplements required: Just stop eating the rice!

    • Craig says:

      My guess us that the mineral supplements help more than cutting out carbs. Our food supply has had most of the minerals washed out of it. Get more magnesium for soreness.

  7. Claud says:

    What do you do if you give up rice? I love it so much. What about cutting down on the amount of rice I eat?

  8. Carole Cous says:

    Has the soft pastry flour wheat that is grown in the midwest been altered or just the hard wheat grown in the northwest. It seems the wheat that is grown in the midwest is just as tall now as it was in my childhood.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Virtually ALL wheat.

      This summer, due to the drought, wheat was a 12-inch tall crop in Wisconsin.

  9. Cate says:

    I eat a bread made of sprouted grains, some of them from wheat. Do the sprouted grains contain gliadan? The bread is called Ezekiel Bread.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Wheat is wheat, Cate, sprouted or not.

      Have you tried the focaccia flatbread recipe on this blog?

  10. Sandra Chuakong says:

    I am allergic to 10 different foods with wheat being one of them. I was recently told by a GI doctor that i have IBS since i have a lot of bloating and gas. I was tested positive for one of the gene for celiac and he says i might have latent celiac. I am not on two slices of bread/day or a bowl of pasta/day for 30 days to determine if i’m gluten intolerant. Can i just stay away from wheat and not have to do the whole gluten free to loose some of the symptoms i’ve been having. And staying on wheat for the next 30 days will just cause me to gain more weight.

  11. Brandon McShane says:

    Hmm… What about wheat grass? Does it contain any of this gliadin?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Not gliadin, but wheat germ agglutinin, the component of wheat that adds to the destruction of your intestinal tract.

  12. mehul shah says:

    so as per your opinion people should not eat any wheat product at all? totally remove all grain products from diet? What are the other sources of protein for those who are on strict vegetarian diet forever?
    I will appreciate any ideas/comments/suggestions for these questions.

  13. Antibubba says:

    Dr. Davis said: Wheat is wheat, Cate, sprouted or not.

    The article implies otherwise. It’s modern wheat strains that are the high-gliadin sources. It would seem that older strains, such as spelt and kamut, would provide a healthier alternative, as would other grains like barley.

    As for oatmeal, I eat it occasionally, but I like to cook oat groats instead. It’s the entire hulled oat, and not only is it tastier, but its glycemic impact is less.

  14. Alina Watson says:

    So, do you suggest that we give up all wheat, all grains from our diet? And what about posting some more information on this ‘Gliadin’? I feel it would be more beneficial for me if I could have more information to compare to information from my father, who is a trained geneticist and specialises in plant genetics.
    I also agree with Ken Duffy, could you please provide at least some of your sources? As much as I would love to, I am not physically able to buy your book just for the sources in the back of it, and I should like to consult those sources in my own time and for my own uses.
    I remain, Doctor, intrigued but nevertheless cynical of this topic.

  15. Ricardo says:

    My friend, according to my sources oats, if they are not refined have a very low glicemic index, because it releases calories very gradually since its starch is only processed when it reaches the colon, actually I lost 20 pounds in 10 months switching to oatmeal for breakfast

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Sorry, Ricardo, but you need friends with better nutritional information! You lost the weight DESPITE the misguided switch.

      • Linda Hazen says:

        Ricardo, when you say “unrefined” are you speaking of whole oat groats? These, especially when undercooked a bit, still chewy not soft, are pretty low on the glycemic index. These are much different from a rolled oat or heaven forbid instant oats. I’m glad to read that oats do not contain gliadin :-)

  16. Abigail says:

    After years of digestive upset, joint pain, bloating and other chronic health issues I gave up wheat in an attempt to get relief from debilitating reflux pain.
    Not only did the reflux go but also 9KG of weight and still dropping. The health benefits far out weigh the hassle of learning to eat without wheat.
    Our body is our MOST valuable possession, in fact the ONLY thing we can’t do without in this life. Thankyou Dr Davis for your thorough research and informative writings.

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  19. Onlooker says:

    Hey Doc. Your book is confirming what I have recently been noticing through first hand personal experience. I’ve eaten wheat my entire life (20+ yrs), and though NEVER overweight, I ALWAYS over ate, and had trouble controlling when to stop! My body kept telling me to eat until I felt sick!!

    Since lowering my wheat consumption (not cutting out grains, just wheat) I not only eat less, but I have more ENERGY, and clearer COGNITION. The importance of these results cannot be overstated, that even for non-sylliac persons, such as myself, GRAINS CAN HAVE PROFOUND INFLUENCE, though often unnoticed.

    If you wish to contact me about this please send me an e-mail.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      That’s terrific, Onlooker!

      I agree: The health and social mess that has been created by wheat simply can NOT be overstated. It is plain awful.

  20. George Racz says:

    The healthiest people in the world eat grains in large quantities, every day. It is their culture, their whole existence for thousands of years. Their life has only improved, not declined in this time. Can we tell them they are sick for thousands of years, even before America and its culture was discovered. Perhaps we can attribute the disappearance of Maya culture to their bad habit of eating bad grains?
    Or do we make money out of fools lacking culture, based on the old script of ‘self diagnosing’ terrible diseases. following suggested ‘reasons’?