What about the children?

The best data we have suggest that 1 in 133 people have celiac disease, yet 90% of those 1 in 133 don’t know it.

And neither do their parents.

It means that approximately 1% of all children in the U.S. (and likely worldwide) are experiencing both perceived and unperceived health effects by consuming modern wheat, or what I call modern “Frankengrain,” but have no idea that they are consuming a food with severe health consequences. It’s not “just” about intestinal destruction, diarrhea, and malabsorption of nutrients; it’s also about impaired learning capacity, difficulties with attention, inability to control behavior and emotion, type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune conditions–potentially lifelong, life-altering, even life-abbreviating effects.

But wait a minute: The USDA School Lunch Program advises that “healthy whole grains” should play a prominent role in the diet of all children. They have vigorously promoted this agenda, thanks in part to the well-funded and enthusiastic lobbying of wheat industry trade groups like the Whole Grains Council.

The USDA School Lunch Program therefore advocates a nutritional program that resigns the 90% of undiagnosed children with celiac disease to the damaging effects of modern wheat–no screening or parental permission required. We’re not even talking about the several percent of kids with gluten sensitivity without celiac disease, or the non-immune gliadin effects that stimulate appetite, or the wheat germ agglutinin toxic to the gastrointestinal tract, or the amylopectin A that sends blood sugar and insulin sky-high. We’re just talking about the 1% of kids with celiac disease.

But that 1% have become the unwitting and innocent victims waged by the nutritionally ignorant or greedy, AKA the dietary community, the Wheat Lobby, agribusiness, and Big Food.

OSHA estimates that more reliable backup alarms installed on forklifts can be estimated to save up to 20 lives per year, a number sufficient to install and enforce regulations to improve safety. Compare that to the 76.1 million children in the U.S. age 0-17 years. Being told to eat more “healthy whole grains” means that 684,000 children are being advised to consume more of what is essentially a poison to them, given their immune intolerance.

The problems with modern wheat go beyond that of celiac disease, of course. But this is yet another facet of how far wrong the conventional advice to consume more “healthy whole grains” can be.

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. gail heinold

    We have little say in what school gives kids I heard on the radio a school embarrased a five yr old over a good lunch her mom sent an threw it away. Then they charged her mom for a hot lunch. I am glad we homeschooled. How else can you protect them?

  2. Sheila

    I have been thinking about this for awhile too. School lunches pretty much compare to hospital food and they try to call it nutrition! I’m in California and our GMO food labeling proposition just got narrowly defeated. Millions Against Monsanto!! Sadly they have billions to keep us quiet and mislead the public voters though. Sounds like the wheat people! Maybe we should get all this info to the White House ASAP. (Hopefully they just don’t know about the dangers yet). Our First Lady Michelle is trying so hard to help kids get healthy but in one commercial I heard her promote eating healthy whole grains!!!! Augh! Maybe now is the time to flood them with the wheat belly info (since there are no campaigning funds needed that constrain their ability to speak out against BigAg!) I may be wrong….but it’s what little hope I have left and I’m hanging on to it. I do what I can in my small circle to spread the word and am extremely happy with my husband and kids living the wheat, sugar, starch free dream!! Thanks again Dr. Davis! I look forward to more stories and info.

    • Dr. Davis

      It will happen, Sheila, but it’s going to take time and more people like you to help spread the word.

      Keep on talking about it!

  3. Lynda (Fl)

    I am 63 and it astounds me when I look backwards and forwards in my life and and see what a vigilante attitude we are developing. The pressures and even force being used to run our lives for us is incredible to me. I feel that a parent sending any resonable food to school isn’t any body else’s business. I know lots of parents that send goofy lunches because that’s all they can trust their child to actually eat. We are even asking millions, even billions, to live as though they have food allergies because some one else has one. I’m sorry, that’s your problem to handle. Next they will ban salad! I wish people would stop being militant and allow different points of view. I remember my farming family considering grain for barn animals not people! Too bad they changed their minds, I’d be healthier now. My family lived a lot longer before the grain and processed food craze.

  4. I’d be interested in your thoughts Dr. Davis regarding any links between the AMA recommendations for the food pyramid and the increase in autism. Here is an article by a nutritionist who says that autism/ADHD has increased due to a lack of fat in children’s diets.

    Most folks I know feed their children cereal for breakfast, a sandwich and crackers for lunch, goldfish for snacks and pasta for dinner. Could it be that wheat has crowded out essential fatty acids?


    • Lack of proper saturated fat, omega-3, excess omega-6, and leaky gut cause autism. The gut can be healed with diet though. Look for Gut And Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-McBride, more info: http://www.gap.me

    • Dr. Davis

      I suspect that there is indeed a relationship between increased exposure to grains (in mothers carrying the developing fetus) and autism, but it is a very difficult association to prove.

      I call this potential relationship one of the possible “nails in the coffin” for wheat. If proven, that is the end of the “healthy whole grain” nonsense.

  5. GaryM

    Where is the ALARM when a kid raises a sandwich! Great analogy about the forklift reverse alarms. So why do we throw our undiagnosed children under the bus? And, forgetting Celiac for a moment, what about the other few million kids with undiagnosed but significant gluten intolerance????? In elementary school they test for curvature of the spine and head lice, LOL. Maybe testing for celiac would be appropriate before jamming healthy whole grains down their throat. So which PTA would like to sue the government over the federal school lunch mandate?? I’m in!

    • Darlene

      I agree and loved every word you said as a mom of a child with celiac I so wish they would have more options in the school for him or at least understand his dilemma! I would so love to be in a PTA that would do this!

  6. AllisonK

    Not trying to be cynical here, but if that many don’t even know they have it, how do we know that many have it?

    • GaryM

      Research and knowledge of statistics. It is largely accepted that 90 percent are undiagnosed. Even the Grain Foods Foundation has cited this.

    • lupo

      Quite easy. You have two diagnostic tests for celiac, which is:
      1. antibody testing
      2. gluten abstention
      So, you take a representative sample of, say, 1000 people. A couple of people are already diagnosed, they’ll be excluded. Now conduct the diagnostic test for the rest of the 1000. After that, you know the number of people that were undiagnosed previously. Then you can project that number to the whole population. Of course, the people from your study are now newly diagnosed.
      Easy, isn’t it? :-)

      • Dr. Davis

        Yup. Exactly.

        That is exactly how the data was collected. The cleanest data come from that of Fasano et al.

    • lupo

      My first guess would be no, given that the only relationship between the relevant hormones, in this case insulin, is the lack of it, because of early pancreatic damage. Some CF patients do need insulin injections to keep their blood glucose in an acceptable range. It is quite probable that a low carbohydrate, high fat diet could assist in keeping blood glucose low. Assuming that wheat / grain removal from the diet somehow cures CF is quite onlikely. It should be tried, though.

      • Dr. Davis

        Lupo got it: None that has ever been shown.

        Because I see no CF patients, I cannot comment anecdotally, either.

        However, given the inflammatory airway component of the condition, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was partial improvement of the airway problems.

      • Amanda

        Hi Lupo, my nephew lives in a developing country, my family and I -I know- are all gluten intolerant to some extent. My nephew had the sweat test done twice, positive for CF. My question is: could it be wrong? There is no history of CF on either side of the boy’s family. Could the sweat test be positive in celiac’s too? He is having respiratory problems that I think could be related to inmuno responses to gluten. What do you think? I know Celiac disease is like a cameleon, it presents in so many ways. I was diagnosed as gluten intolerant here in Canada 3 years ago, when I was 49, I lived with it all my life, but I remember as a child craving tremendous amounts of salty food, and I remember as a child to have something almost like sand on my arms, I guess now: salt.
        I’m trying to get some data and sugest to my brother to try the boy going grain free. It breaks my heart to think it is really CF.

        • lupo

          Hello Amanda,

          I’m sorry for your nephew. This is a tough diagnosis to live with.
          Cystic Fibrosis can be a new genetic mutation without any diseased relatives. The sweat test has of course its own specifity and sensitivity, so there is a small chance that the diagnosis might be wrong. If he has symptoms, the pretest probability for the sweat test is changed, so symptoms plus test is a near 100% diagnosis.

          There are lots of diseases that are aided, abetted, entertained or induced by grains. Cystic Fibrosis is most likely not one of them.

    • Cystic fibrosis is considered an auto-immune disease, and thus is caused by leaky gut. Toxins pass from the intestines into the blood stream and are attacked by the immune system, if it’s similar to a protein your body makes you get an auto-immune disease. The key is to heal the gut, a great book is Gut And Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-McBride, http://www.gaps.me

      But the Weston Price Foundation says that cystic fibrosis isn’t auto-immune but caused by retinol deficiency in the womb. Pregnant women are specifically told to not eat any retinol aka pre-formed vitamin A, and only get it from beta-carotene, but 45% of the population can’t convert beta-carotene to retinol at all and the rest do so very poorly even when severely deficient. Vitamin A is needed to keep mucous membranes moist, not just the lung but also the gut, which is why those with cystic fibrosis have major constipation issues. Without true retinol, mucous secreting cells turn into kerotine secreting cells and start forming scars.

  7. JIllOz

    Dr Davis,

    you must, by now, have a publicist, graphic design firm etc since you have publicshed your books.
    You probably have an agent.

    i suggest you get one or all of these people together and design a

    Get this made into a poster, available for purchase and featured prominently in your publicity.
    Make it a tear-off large postcard page in your books.
    Offer it to hospitals, schools etc.start with the private institutions.
    Offer it as a book bonus, prize, or have it as a downloadable poster on this site.

    It will convey the WB method in a very succinct and easy to follow way – VISUALLY.


  8. Heather

    Sorry but testing for celiac requires drawing blood and intestinal biopsies. Requiring ALL children to undergo these invasive procedures is a disservice to the 99% who are not celiac, and certainly not the responsibility of our public schools. Pediatricians should be looking out for their patients and recommending testing based on risk factors and symptoms.

    • lupo

      First of all, the diagnosis for celiac disease is way more complicated. Neither the blood tests or the biopsy in themselves are sufficiently sensitive or specific. For the blood test on gliadin and transglutaminase antibodies, specifity is 99% whereas sensitivity is only 70%. There are innumerable cases of biopsy-negative celiac disease. Symptoms can be as unspecific as vitamin deficiency or poisoning. If you want a mind-blowing example, cf. Kraft & Westman, Nutrition & Metabolism 2009, 6:10.

      The only useful test is gluten abstention.

      And don’t tell me that blood drawing is a disservice to the “other 99%”. This is selfish, narrow-minded and socially careless. You basically say: “Who gives a damn about life-long suffering of my neighbors child as long as my child doesn’t get stung once by the doctor?” Your talk hurts me.

    • Dr. Davis

      I think you missed the point, Heather.

      The point was not to require that everyone be tested. The point was to point out that children are, in effect, being required to eat more “healthy whole grains” with no obligation to warn or test for children for whom this is destructive via celiac disease.

      In other words, they have the arrogance and/or ignorance to inflict a destructive message that has dire consequences for 1% of the population and feel no obligation to provide any warnings.

      And, by the way, the notion that diagnosis of celiac disease requires intestinal biopsy, I believe, is a fiction perpetuated by the gastrointestinal community.

      • Heather

        My comment was in response to GaryM’s post that ALL children should be tested for celiac disease in elementary school in the same manner that they are screened for scoliosis or checked for head lice. I stand by my response that this is both an unnecessary and inappropriate procedure to be carried out by our public schools.
        For example, my children would likely test negative dispite their true celiac status due to the fact that they do not consume the SAD. This does not mean that I wish for other children to suffer the ill effects of a grain heavy diet.
        I agree that the school lunches over emphisize the need for grains and carbohydates, the answer to this problem is to change the dietary requirements, not draw blood from all the children.
        Lupo’s desire to have my children unnecessarly receive a “little sting” for the benefit of another child hurts me. Blood draws are not performed by doctors, but by phlebotomists with varying levels of education and experience. One “little sting” I received during prenatal testing resulted in ulnar nerve damage. All invasive procedures have risk of complications, even those that seem benign.
        I applaud your work Dr Davis. You have converted an impressive number of people simply by encouraging them to go grain-free and see and feel the results for themselves. I would hope that as a community we can spread the word of a healthier life through a grain-free diet. But first do no harm.

    • Dr. Davis

      That’s probably the best way, Nancy. Though there have been instances in which the teachers have policed the contents of packed lunches and thrown them out if it didn’t mean their definition of “healthy” which in my mind is incredibly intrusive.

  9. Vir-Gena Fowlkes

    My son read this and commented, since his school has embraced the idea of healthy whole grains, they have had to increase the number of special ed. classes. He takes his lunch to school every day.

  10. Birgit

    Dr. Davis,
    I just wanted to say I’m so glad that Wheatbelly is coming out in German in January. My father, who is German and only speaks some English, suffered a heart attack recently and has had two stents placed two days ago. He is obese, borderline diabetic (H A1c of 6.3) and tri’s in the 150’s, HDL just over 50. I told him that tri’s may still be way too high. I also did talk to him about the dangers of statins (my Mom has short-term memory loss from them) so he’s been throwing those in the trash even at the hospital. Hope that is still the right thing even after placing the stents. Doctors could not give him reasons for taking statins, just said it’s standard procedure.
    I’m hoping that he will now be open to some healthy lifestyle changes. I’ve told him about wheatbelly and a low-carb diet but it’s hard when all the info he can find in German online is only talking about the dangers of low-carb diets for heart health. I’ve told him about track your plaque but was not able to find that in German. I pieced together some supplement info I found related to track your plaque: 2-3 grams of omega 3 fish oil, 500-2000 Niacin, minimum 400 mg magnesium, 2000 mg Vitamin D or get tested, 100 Mg Q10. Is that roughly right? Also, is there any way to get a copy of the German version early?

    • Dr. Davis

      Hi, Birgit–

      I believe that the “benefits” of statins are much diminished by following the dictates of what we do in the Track Your Plaque program. Unfortunately, we have not translated these principles into German or any other language, though the program is followed in nearly 30 countries now. Because it is unlikely that your dad will embrace all these principles fully, the statins can be a compromise until he does so.

      Clarification: 3000-3600 mg of EPA + DHA from fish oil, not fish oil itself.

      A dose of vitamin D sufficient to raise blood levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D to 60-70 ng/ml or 150-180 nmol/L, usually 6000-8000 units per day in gelcap form for most males.

      And, sorry, I have no control over availability of the German translation of the book. I get it when it comes out, too.

      • Birgit

        Dr. Davis,
        thank you so much for the comment and clarification. I will pass this on and hope he will make the necessary changes for his health.
        I may start translating some of these principles from your track your plaque blog into German and see how far I get.
        Thank you so much for being a light in the darkness. :)

  11. Linus

    My daughter and I were the undiagnosed 90%. Early screening would have helped a lot earlier. I found out by accident at age 39. My daughter was diagnosed a few weeks later. It has made a huge difference dropping the grains.

    For thos speaking of a disservice to the 99%, keep in mind testing is a choice. Education of this disease is a good idea. 1% makes this a large number for a disease. You see other tests being promoted. Celiac can be spotted with a blood test. If results are positive further testing can verify.

    Other countries have made it easier to be screened.

  12. Beth H

    Dr. Davis,
    I have an appointment with our elementary principal on Friday, Nov. 16 to help bring to light the challenges our children may be facing by eating “healthy whole grains”. I wondered if you had any key points or statistics you would recommend taking to this meeting? My goal is to start building awareness with our elementary school and then hopefully take a request to the school board in the upcoming months to request more gluten-free options for students at all ages in the district. I have been gluten free for almost two months and have also seen my sister-in-law become free from colitis now that she and her family are gluten free. I strongly believe that parents need to help raise awareness, but they need to be informed. Is there any chance you would be willing to speak to a group of teachers/administration or parents in the district at a future date to help build the awareness in our district? We live in Wisconsin. Any suggestions for my Friday meeting would be much appreciated.
    Thank you!

    • Dr. Davis

      I fear you are engaging in a battle that may be near-impossible to win, as school lunch policy is generally not determined locally, but at the federal level.

      I think all that you can accomplish is to start the conversation. There is no long-term study in children except those affected by autistic spectrum disorder and ADHD, but none in a relatively unselected population. I’d like to see that done, however, in near-future.

      I would recommend raising general public awareness before you try to tackle this head on in schools, as I fear you will simply be frustrated without reward.

  13. susie

    Hi Dr Davis,

    Any thoughts on taking a child off grains and then finding their blood pressure is elevated and their LDL is raised (166) though their triglycerides are normal (68) and HDL is 66. We removed grains and increased healthy fats to see if we could get our skinny child to eat more real foods and be less moody. It has worked though doctors are concerned and asking us to see nutritionists and I know where that will go. Back to “healthy whole grains”.


    • lupo

      Hi Susie!

      1. How old is the child?
      2. How much does he/she weigh?
      3. What’s her/his size?
      4. What’s the blood pressure, exactly? Measured how and by whom and under which conditions?
      5. Why the **** does a *skinny* child get a lipid panel? (Tell your pediatrician http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_KIzbktgJk )
      6. Does your doctor know what the Friedewald formula is, whether the LDL value in his lipid panel lab provider is measured OR just calculated, and knows the difference between LDL mass concentration and LDL particle concentration? If not, well…

      I don’t know your child’s story, and without further information, it confuses me like hell.

      • susie

        He is 11, his weight has always been around 10th percentile and height 25th percentile for his age. He is energetic and athletic but prone to anxiety which led me to think about grains… His BP was in the 90th percentile (75/118) which the doctor attributed to “white coat anxiety” but also ordered lipid panel. And no, they didn’t look at different types of LDL, just gave the number. My worry is that my conservative pediatrician will send me to a specialist nutritionist and they will terrify me into following their low fat, whole grains diet…

    • Dr. Davis

      You must insist, Susie, that they obtain a measured LDL value, preferably NMR LDL particle number (the gold standard; cost around $80–hardly more than a standard cholesterol test) or measured apoprotein B.

      They are looking at the calculated LDL value that is based on an equation that is no longer valid when carbohydrates are reduced. They are also looking for a reason to put your child on drugs.

      Re: hypertension. This would be highly unusual in a slender child and raises some uncommon issues that I cannot settle here, e.g., coarctation of the aorta, hyperthyroidism, etc., all of which need to be settled through a thorough examination by your child’s pediatrician.

      Your child might need a smarter pediatrician.

      • susie

        Thank you so much. Your reply gives me the confidence to probe further. I was despairing that my only option was changing diet when I felt that it was on the right track.

  14. Marian

    My teen daughter and husband think I am nuts for going without grains. I am in my 3rd month grain free. I have lost weight for the first time ever. I will never go back. I love the challenge of new the new way of eating and feel great. But I have to make their pasta, sandwiches, buy crackers, tortillas, cereal, etc. –they think it’s a ” fad diet” and good for me but irrelevant to them. They are into their health and fitness as well as eating well but won’t listen to me or read this info. I have managed to reduce their overall grain intake but can only get away with so much. I hate buying the stuff too! I envy people who have their whole families on board.

  15. Beth Hatch

    I am happy to share that my meeting with our principal went very well. She is planning to read Wheat Belly over the Thanksgiving holiday and is thinking about how we might go about creating greater awareness of gluten in our school and possibly the district. In addition, she is part of a committee that received a very large grant as part of the “Transform Wisconsin” program. She is interested in learning more about your costs to speak as there may be an opportunity to pull together a larger community group to share information about gluten and gluten-free diets.

    Our school has also received a grant to continue education about health and wellness in the school – another opportunity to help build awareness. I hope you will consider working with us as we discuss these opportunities and find ways to share the message and educate others in our state.

    Thank you for writing the book and sharing what you have learned! It will continue to change the lives of many.

    • Dr. Davis

      That’s great, Beth!

      You can always contact Dawn in my office to discuss speaking arrangements. I am willing to go the extra mile to help out the kids and their parents.

  16. Izabela

    How can you say it’s only 1% when it’s so hard to diagnose.

    Me&my husband are both celiacs and I think chances our boys are too are close to 100%
    I am not going to make them into diabetics they live gluten free too.

  17. Katy

    I’ve been wheat-free/sugar-free for 3 weeks now and have experienced miracles. No more back pain, no PMS moodiness, no anxiety, and some weight loss. It feels wonderful and I love it! My hubby has gotten a little jealous ( I think) of how good I feel and has also just started. But I think I need a little encouragement in one particular area. I’ve got a 7 year old who I would like to bring along on the wheat-free road with us. She does well with the simple foods (fruits, veggies, meats), but misses nacho chips, cookies, and cake. I’ve been working through the dessert recipes in the Wheat Belly Cookbook, and even though some are marked “kid friendly” , which I truly appreciate, and I think they are great alternatives, my daughter has been spitting them all out. I’ll spend an hour making an yellow almond flour cake, with chocolate cream cheese frosting and then, nobody but me likes it. We’ve stopped buying all the processed stuff we used to and purged the house, but I’m getting discouraged. Any advice from parents and grandparents out there?

  18. Dani

    Help. How do you get a five year old who lives on wheat foods to give them up..hes a picky eater. I have a feeling his chronic postnasal drip/cough and alleries are rooted in his diet.

  19. Gambrill

    The past few days have had me researching wheat and the various evils ascribed to it. I am almost convinced to try Wheat Belly myself not only for the benefits to myself but as a guinea pig for my family. I have a hubby who suffers from a long list of probably wheat-induced problems. He is, however, someone who likes to consume half a family-sized bag of Oreos with milk at bedtime and scoff at anything but traditional, Western meds. He’s been taking statins for 13 years for VERY high cholesterol does not feel the need to do much else. He is also strongly resistant to lifestyle changes…… Then, there are my 3 kids who are all lovely and, while they do eat a LOT of fruits and veggies, beans, and meat, are certainly fans of carbs esp bagels, noodles and various baked goods and sweets. I have read in various places on this site and the WB book preview pages on Amazon, that kids should not restrict their carbs as much as adults. Is there some more specific guidance about how much is OK given you also say that it is an all-or-nothing proposition: NO wheat AT ALL. I should add that the kids are also very low bmi (I have been so historically and have always had trouble keeping weight on!) and I do not want them to lose an ounce! Meanwhile, I am motivated to try this lifestyle as my 42 year old body appears to be getting some extra and unwelcome padding around the middle. Sigh. I know I have listed many issues here – my main question is what can I feed my kids that will protect from the poisons of carbs and keep them healthy and growing?


    • Barbara

      My suggestion is to keep doing internet searches of paleo sites. Lots of good recipes. Gourmetgirl cooks, elana’s pantry, have great tasting recipes. Of course, the WB cookbook is terrific. The more you explore, you will come across other sites. Just start cooking without grains! Boiled then mashed potatoes have a lower glycemic value than baked.

      You, like many others, have to start reading the awful ingredients in our food. Wheat, high fructose corn syrup, sugars and salt with a large dose of chemicals too. Just walk away from these. You will save alot of money! Bake your own cookies using the nut flours.

      Keep reading this web site for lots of helpful hints. Most people are finding that they hated giving up their old way of eating, but really like their new shapely bodies, their increased energy, their lack of aches and pains and greatly improved dispositions. Your kids will notice and maybe even your husband will put down his box of cookies!