Alright, alright: I hate to do it. But occasionally I have to admit that wheat can have its good side, truly beneficial effects. There aren’t many, but there are a few. Since the Wheat Lobby refuses to see that there are two sides to every argument, surely we can be better!
Besides containing fiber and B vitamins like folate (if fortified), wheat also serves as a very nice cat litter. But there’s another useful effect of wheat: It inhibits the reproduction of intestinal worms.
Recall that there is something in wheat called wheat germ agglutinin, a protein of the lectin class that causes direct intestinal damage to mammals or rodents who consume it, oddly disables the normal intestinal barriers to foreign substances and thereby allowing the byproducts of bacteria, for instance, to enter the bloodstream, and is toxic to some agricultural pests. The last reason explains why, for instance, the gene for wheat germ agglutinin has been engineered into some strains of corn to fight off invading pests, such as the European corn borer.
Add yet another item to the proud list of health benefits of wheat. Nematode larvae, such as that of Trichostrongylus colubriformis shown in the diagram (courtesy Centers for Disease Control), eat less worm food in the presence of wheat germ agglutinin. One such study can be found here. Wheat-consuming sheep, cows, or humans who harbor such nematode infestations in the intestinal tract thereby enjoy lower potential for rapidly growing worms to impact health when the poison wheat germ agglutinin is in the vicinity.
So wheat can have benefits to humans, after all! If you choose to have that nice poppy seed bagel or cinnamon bun, for instance, rest assured that the nematodes that might be happily dwelling somewhere north of your appendix will not be enjoying dinner tonight.