Give Harvard Health a piece of your mind!

Harvard Health Publications of the Harvard Medical School just published this bit of conventional tripe, written by Holly Strawbridge, Executive Editor of the Harvard Heart Letter:

Going gluten-free just because? Here’s what you need to know

Some choice quotes:

” . . . lately it’s become hip to go gluten-free. Based on little or no evidence other than testimonials in the media, people have been switching to gluten-free diets to lose weight, boost energy, treat autism, or generally feel healthier.”

“If you’re determined to go gluten-free, it’s important to know that it can set you up for some nutritional deficiencies.”

And the closing comments:

“There’s one more thing you might consider doing: keep your dietary choice to yourself. The more than 300,000-plus people in this country with celiac disease have to follow a gluten-free diet, because the tiniest taste of gluten will trigger debilitating gastrointestinal discomfort. It’s time consuming, expensive, and restrictive. ‘It’s a gigantic burden for those who have to follow it,’ says Dr. Leffler.”

Clearly, the amount of research Ms. Strawbridge conducted to write this article likely went no further than a nutrition textbook. “Keep your dietary choice to yourself?” What the heck does that mean? Perhaps Ms. Strawbridge is working to protect those nice grants her institution receives from the likes of Nabisco, Kraft, and General Mills. (By the way, there are 3 million people in the U.S. with celiac, not 300,000–she’s off by only 90%!)

Here is the comment I posted in response:

This article misses many of the essential points that are driving the tidal wave of wheat-rejection. Let me make a few of the most important points:

1) Gluten is just one protein in wheat. There are over 10,000 others.

2) The gliadin protein of wheat exerts opioid effects on the human brain that, via the tetra- and pentapeptide digestates of gliadin, stimulate calorie consumption: 400 more calories per day, every day. The effect is blocked by naloxone/naltrexone, opiate-blocking drugs. (An FDA application is currently pending for such an application of naltrexone.)

3) The gliadin protein has been demonstrated (Fasano et al) to induce increased small intestinal permeability, permitting entry of polypeptide antigens into the bloodstream/lymph, suspected to be the first step in generating autoimmunity. (A serum test for the zonulin protein will be commercially available near-future. Dr. Fasano tells me.)

4) Wheat germ agglutinin, a direct intestinal toxin in animal models, exerts disruptive effects on gastric, small intestinal, and colonic mucosa.

5) Unique forms of alpha amylase inhibitors are suspected to be among the factors responsible for the explosive increase in childhood allergies and asthma.

This all comes to a head in our time because agribusiness and agricultural geneticists have been busy changing the genetics of wheat, e.g., chemical mutagenesis (the purposeful induction of mutations using sodium azide) to create imazamox-resistant wheat (“Clearfield,” patents held by BASF, the world’s largest chemical manufacturer), now grown on nearly 1 million acres in the U.S. The quadrupling of celiac disease, for instance, is largely explained by the enrichment of the Glia-alpha 9 gene in modern wheat, virtually absent from the wheat of 1960. This is just ONE of the thousands of changes introduced into the genome of modern wheat in the cause of increased yield-per acre.

To argue that wheat products are necessary for B vitamins and fiber and to ignore all the other issues that now surround modern wheat is, well, ignorant.

Unfortunately, the readership of this Harvard publication and the patients of physicians like Dr. Leffler will be deprived of real insights into this phenomenon of agribusiness-altered wheat. To call this a ‘fad” is like calling avoidance of glyphosate-resistant and Bt toxin-inoculated corn (both products of genetic modification) a fad—it is obviously not; it is a rejection of the worrisome genetic changes introduced into crops to suit the agenda of agribusiness, while ignoring the health effects on the consumers who eat these products.

People like Ms. Strawbridge help perpetuate the ignorance that prevails among healthcare providers. We should not let her get away with such nonsense—Don’t hold back: Go to their site and post a comment. Let them know what you really think!

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76 Responses to Give Harvard Health a piece of your mind!

  1. Marcy says:

    Dr. Davis,

    You are a fearless badass!! :) I read your book and went wheat free two months ago and have lost just over 20 lbs!!! I’m only 27 and I can see the difference of energy that I now have. Before I went wheat free I thought it was normal to always feel tired or sluggish with a mental fog. My skin is clear now and no more heartburn!! I feel so alert and awake! I will never go back. I am trying to convince other to go wheat free. I’m Mexican so its hard to re-create Mexican food, but its totally possible!! And I do not believe the media or any “credible” institution telling me what I should eat ever again!! I see that wheat is addicting and its sad that its the last thing people are willing to give up in order to be healthier. But I see a wheat-free movement in the near future!! THANKS a million for all your work and for exposing the truth about the food industry as well as the pharmaceutical industry. YOU RULE!!!! :)

    • PamLP says:

      LOVE this post! Ditto ditto and ditto

    • Dr. Davis says:

      My teenagers will get a kick out of the “badass” part, Marcy! Thank you!

      Yes, skepticism is, unfortunately, necessary nowadays in any nutritional discussion.

      If you come up with some nice Mexican dishes wheat-free, corn-free, and sugar-free, please share them with us! I’ve only dabbled in recreating healthier versions of Mexican dishes, but never got very far.

      • James says:

        Going on a tangent here but here is a MUST-READ for the WB community:

      • JillOz says:

        Fund raising – the WheatBelly Badass Bandana!!

        Street cred for the lounge room. ;)

      • Esteban says:

        WOW, there are many!!, please try Nopales (tender cactus) on the grill; boiled and mixed with onion, garlic, chunk tomatos and panela cheese, it is served cold like a salad. It helps to a lot of diabetic patients.
        (H) Cuitlacoche, the corn`s mushroom, delicious.
        Pumpkin flower with goat cheese or just steamed and mixed with carmelized onions.
        Avocados, many beans recipies, etc,
        Whith pleasure I can share many recipies with you.

        • Neicee says:

          Esteban, please do. I love everything from Brazil north….lots of different cuisines but love them all. We gotten some of our best recipes from different contributors. Oh, and did I say please? Thanks.

    • Jen says:

      We need more BADASS doctors like Dr. Davis. LOL

      • Wonderfully Wheat Free! says:

        There is a “BadAss” doctor in SE Arizona! My husband! He has come out of retirement to get the word out about wheat/grains & sugar. He has held free workshops all over the west for the last 16 months, helped 1000′s improve their health & lose weight by giving them the tools to take charge of their own health. Number one on his reading list is “Wheat Belly”.
        Thank you Dr. Davis for wakening the giant!

        • JOKE EZE says:


          • Boundless says:

            True, but why does it matter?

            Both need to be gone from the human diet.
            WB advocates ditching both, by being wheat-free, and by being very low carb (which allows for nearly zero added sugar).

            Get your caplocks key fixed :).

    • Esteban says:

      Marcy, mucho ánimo. Recuerda que los mexicanos somos muy reacios con nuestras costumbres y a la presión familiar de tragar en grupo. Creo que estamos en ventaja sobre otras culturas en no utilizar tanto trigo. Tal vez podamos hacer un blog latino, serìa interesante.

  2. flor says:

    must be an early april fool’s piece/industrial mouthpiece.
    gluten free: i got rid of severe asthma (muscle atrophy and lack of periods from excessive steroids inhalation), eczema, arthritis, fatigue, edema, food obsession, constant hunger/headaches, 20+ varying allergies including chicken eggs/seafood/casein/many fruits/produce. i could finally go out to eat again; gluten free is a cinch compared to a gazillion food allergies leading to asthma attacks.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Wow, a real wheat-free success, Flor!

      • flor says:

        thanks Dr.Davis. the food allergies boil down to one thing- tight junctions being opened up by gluten, leading to all sorts of foreign food material escaping the gut to cause asthma. once i stopped gluten, in 2 months i could eat all the previously off limits food. also was eating prebiotics inulin and cactus pear (helps with goblet cells producing mucous), both of which i’m sure accelerated the healing of the GI. thanks to your edifying information about zonulin, i was able to make sense of all that happened.

    • wrotek says:

      woow, nice…

  3. Cynthia says:

    “It’s time consuming, expensive, and restrictive. ‘It’s a gigantic burden for those who have to follow it,’ says Dr. Leffler.” REALLY?? It’s not time-consuming to stop eating foods with wheat in them. How about making a roasted chicken with a salad? How is that time-consuming? Expensive? How? I needn’t replace wheat-filled foods with expensive gluten-free alternatives that are made with junk ingredients. and once wheat free, celiacs don’t have to miss work, purchase expensive medications or continue seeing doctors who spout the same misinformed lines about nutrition. One gets used to not eating “bready” things. I do not have celiac, but even if I did, I have found wheat-free eating to be anything but burdensome. This myth about how difficult it is is what kept me from going wheat-free for quite some time. I kick myself for not doing it sooner and can attest that it has been easy, not expensive and far from burdensome. these people want to keep the hysteria going. Oh please…spare us the unnecessary drama.

  4. Dave says:

    Hey, at least she’s not charging $1000/hour to recommend high-fiber crackers.

  5. Tyrannocaster says:

    I posted the following comment on the Harvard blog site:
    To me, the most telling thing about this blog post is not the misinformation it hands out – it is the complete lack of rebuttal to all the criticism it has received. This is very similar to what happened when the grain lobby reviewed Wheatbelly; normally, the posts on their blog get about, say, six comments. That one got 117. ( ) Nobody answered the criticisms there and I suspect they wish they had never posted the review. Perhaps if they ignore the comments hard enough they will simply disappear, LOL.

    Anyway, this post does the same thing. Holly, if you have something to back up your claims, show it to us. Otherwise, your silence speaks for itself.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Go poke that cat and get it nice and mad, Tyranno!

    • JillOz says:

      They rely on adhominem. That tactic is polluting several political debates.

      It’s really amazing – even if everyone never ate wheat again, we’d still need medical research!!

      But this makes you not care aboiut what they say or do, because of their blatant contempt for “the public”.

  6. Drae says:

    My favorite comment over there is the guy saying he’ll be the one on campus begging for B vitamins. I laughed out loud for real. I can just see the signs now, “Will work for folate!” LOL

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Yes, some really great comments come from the wheat-free nimble-minded!

      • Jackie says:

        I just posted a comment on the Harvard blog site, too – I just had blood work done (working through thyroid issues) and my doctor ordered B levels as well. Guess what – well within normal after being wheat free for 5 months. Go figure. Wonder how I’m getting them without eating “fortified breads and cereals”. . .

  7. Tim says:

    Dr Davis,
    I know you are a cardiologist, but do you see patients for GI issues and celiac issues in your practice, who have removed the gluten? The dr.’s at chicago’s top hospitals want me to reintroduce gluten for a month just to see if the can confirm celiacs, since gluten is “so important for nutrients” ha! I am in need of soome good medical advice.

    • Boundless says:

      I presume you have asked them: “Just exactly what important nutrients?”

      Let me see if I understand this … your quacks want you to re-introduce this toxin, so these mad scientists can then check you for anti-bodies. Yes, it’s true that the standard tests for celiac are false negative if you have been off gluten for a while. Then, if you test positive, they’ll prescribe that you do what you are already doing – avoid gluten.

      That insanity aside, there’s another problem: you’re actually five times more likely to have an acute non-celiac wheat sensitivity. Which means you have over an 80% chance of testing genuinely negative, and then being dismissed by your malpracticers because you aren’t celiac, acute identical symptoms notwithstanding.

      • Tim says:

        Hi boundless! I couldn’t believe what they were telling me either! Even though my symptoms have gotten better without gluten, as in I no longer wake up with stabbing pain, and all kinds of other issues I will spare you of..just for fun, let’s see if we can get a true diagnosis of celiac! No matter if I have celiac or not, wheat is still crap! Here is the best part…I m pregnant and they STILL want me to try this experiment! No thanks! Hoping to find one day, a dr. who can help me. The paleo diet is helping but I still get the bloating and diarrhea. I just started the paleo diet 2 weeks ago, but gluten free for 7 mths now.

        • Jan says:

          Have you tried the probiotic that Dr. Davis recommends when beginning a gluten/wheat free diet?

          • Tim says:

            Hi, thanks all for the tips :-) I take a probiotic, but if there is a specific brand Dr. Davis recommends I would love to try it! Thanks, again!

          • Lisa says:

            Could somebody please let me know what this specific probiotic is? Much appreciated. Thanks!

  8. Drae says:

    @ Tim-

    There may be other GI issues besides the gluten or possible Celiac. You may have a secondary GI infection or parasites. I started my gluten/wheat education by reading The Gluten Effect by Drs. Vikki and Richard Petersen, who stressed the importance of screening for additional GI complications when gluten removal wasn’t enough for their patients. Find a doctor who will screen you for these problems and spend you money on this doctor – NOT on “doctors” who insist you take a step backwards to tell you what you already know – wheat stinks.

  9. Mia says:

    While shopping on Amazon for yet *another* copy of Dr. Davis’s Wheat Belly book and cookbook as a gift for relatives, I was surprised to discover the number of “wheat belly copycats” who have recently sprung up (some even with similar photography style to “Wheat Belly” on the cover!) Several of these other books had similar titles, with only a word or two changed here and there. I’m sure you don’t mind that the wheat-free message is gaining ground Dr. Davis, but I wonder how you feel about all of these spin-offs of Wheat Belly? I suppose it’s good overall that the message is gaining popularity and that people are catching on. :-)

    • Boundless says:

      On another thread, which I now cannot find, Dr. Davis said that the Rodale lawyers go after the blatant frauds and copyright violators, but that would be with respect to misrepresenting the work as WB or literally copying its content. You can’t copyright titles.

      You can trademark phrases however, and I see that Dr. D. has finally done so, just last month. So that’s
      Wheat Belly(R)
      now, which should give the book pirates some trouble.

      Unfortunately, someone else has nabbed a phrase I suggested to Dr. D. that would have been very useful for branding food products.

  10. Amanda says:

    I laughed so much, you guys are hilarious!!!

  11. Jim says:

    Very surprising piece for a Journal that is reputable. I know people who have turned their health around after the doctor ordered gluten free diets for them.

  12. Marje says:

    Veeeery interesting….

    An article with similar content was recently published over at the FOX news website: “Why you shouldn’t go glutin-free” …

    It would be veeeeery interesting to know who’s funding for these types of articles. Big Agra? Big Food? Big Pharma?

  13. Boundless says:

    My contribution, assuming they even take note of the comments:
    Actually, there is a real:
    “here’s what you need to know”
    about GF: Almost nothing on the GF aisle at the store is fit for human consumption. It’s largely high-carb junk. That oversize GF label might bring relief from acute wheat reactivity, but your diabetes, atherosclerosis and acne aren’t going anywhere.

    Glycemic metabolism has been a 10,000 year old mistake made by the majority of human cultures, and is now spinning out of control thanks to dwarf hybrid wheat (which contaminates a huge fraction of prepared foods), fructose (HFCS), low fat insanity and lesser missteps in diet. The future, if we are to have one, appears to be aggressively low carb, perhaps often ketogenic.

    Just look at the trend charts for most ailments, such as Type II diabetes. T2DM is not just at a historical high, and not just rising, but accelerating. Yet, switching to a low-carb diet halts it, prevents it, and can often reverse it. Conventional dietary advice has utterly failed to correct such trends. The question that needs to be confronted is: are the official diets contributing to the problem, perhaps even causing it?

    Please stop parroting the industry line on B9, which is only in wheat flour (not in “whole grains”) because it’s added to it. That parrot only appears to be standing because its feet are nailed to the perch.

    Yes, going low-carb grain-free very-low-fructose paleo is a bit challenging at the moment. This is a temporary transitional situation. The immediate and long term health benefits are easily worth the modest extra effort.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Wonderful commentary, Bound!

      Your passion and intelligence shines through with powerfully persuasive unique observations.

  14. Drae says:

    Huh. Harvard deleted one of my comments to “ScienceGal” where I pointed out the Paleo Diet was based off that science-y concept called evolution. So now Harvard is not only pushing bad science, but they are also engaging in the silencing of critics.

  15. DonM says:

    Harvard should interview one of my acquaintences who has Celiac.

    When visiting his parents who are stationed in Morocco, he has no problem consuming products made from the locally grown older wheat variety.