Earth to Jillian: It’s NOT about gluten!

Jillian Michaels made a major nutritional boo boo with this recent piece of hers: MYTH: If You Want To Slim Down, Go Gluten-Free.

“Only about one percent of the American population needs to be gluten-free because of an autoimmune disorder called celiac disease. Most people do not have to worry about gluten and should eat whole grains as part of a balanced diet.”

She makes the perennial mistake of the nutritionally ignorant: She equates wheat with gluten. As followers of the Wheat Belly message all understand, wheat does NOT equal gluten.

Wheat is the perfect obesogen, a food perfectly crafted to cause weight gain. That’s because wheat contains:

Gliadin–Upon digestion, gliadin is reduced to a collection of 5 polypeptides, each 4 or 5 amino acids long, that bind to the opiate receptors of the brain. Unlike opiates such as morphine and heroin, gliadin-derived polypeptides don’t provide pain relief nor euphoria, but only stimulate appetite. The power of the effect varies, but 400 more calories intake per day is common. In people susceptible to binge eating disorder or bulimia, the effect can be much greater, even dominating habit and mind, triggering intake of 1000 or more calories per day.

Gliadin has another effect: increased small intestinal permeability. This is the effect that underlies the start of autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, but also leads to water retention, adding further to weight gain.

Amylopectin A–Amylopectin A is the “complex” carbohydrate unique to wheat that is highly digestible by the enzyme amylase in saliva and stomach secretions. Amylopectin A’s highly digestible nature is responsible for the sky-high blood sugars that result after, say, two slices of whole wheat bread that increases blood sugar higher than six teaspoons of table sugar. (Doubt this is true? Test it yourself with an inexpensive glucose meter by checking blood sugars 1-hour after consuming each test food.)

High blood sugar obliges high blood insulin: This is the effect that leads to insulin resistance, followed by growth of deep visceral fat in the abdomen, inflammatory fat that continues the vicious cycle of insulin resistance.

Gliadin and amylopectin A are the biggies in weight gain. There are two additional effects that likely add, though are on somewhat less solid scientific ground:

Wheat germ agglutinin–Experimental animal data suggest that the lectin of wheat, wheat germ agglutinin, has the capacity to bind to the leptin receptor, the hormone of satiety. This potentially adds to the appetite amplifying effect of wheat. It means that you eat without triggering the feeling of satisfaction, but want more.

Disruptions of bowel flora–Eat wheat and you disrupt bowel flora, encouraging the proliferation of undesirable species while suppressing proliferation of desirable species. The composition–number, species, location–of bowel flora is proving to be among the most underappreciated phenomena relevant to health. Remove wheat and bowel flora is permitted to return to a more normal profile (though many people require a probiotic to do so).

Note that nowhere do I mention “gluten.” Ms. Michael’s focus on gluten as the only undesirable component of wheat is like fingering the need for matches as the only unhealthy aspect of cigarette smoking. She did get one thing right: NOBODY should be eating gluten-free processed foods made with wheat replacements cornstarch, rice flour, tapioca starch, or potato starch. The excessive glucose-insulin provocation; protein glycation that leads to hypertension, diabetes, cataracts, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and dementia; as well as the awful taste of these products make them foods that deserve NO place on anyone’s shelves.

Hey, Jillian! Stick to what you do best: entertainment. Leave the real thinking to other people, else you say really dopey things.

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149 Responses to Earth to Jillian: It’s NOT about gluten!

  1. cathie says:

    Dr. Davis,
    For the last 2 months I’ve been working with a friend in her mid 30′s as she’s attempted to lose 20#. She has followed the wheat belly diet and despite adequate exercise and calorie counting she isn’t losing any weight. I encouraged her to follow up with her primary doctor who ordered thyroid labwork. Her T-3 came back normal–so he told her to go on Weight Watchers. Both the dietician and I are hard pressed to explain why she isn’t losing weight so I am wondering what other lab work should be checked or what other steps she should take?

  2. I have always been a little skeptical of some of the things Jillian Michaels talks about. This totally opens my eyes to what I should really be thinking!

  3. Wow! Thank you for this! After all these years I’d supposed gluten is the best way to lose weight! I’ll take this post in check. Keep inspiring people!

  4. Jennifer says:

    Yes it’s so frustrating when I google wheat free and gluten free keeps appearing. Society hasn’t separated the two apparently.

  5. Joanie Horst says:

    I am 71 yrs old, and have been wheat free since the end of Dec. 2012. Last night without even thinking about it while making a salad for a ,not wheat free friend, I sampled the spagetti salad, only two small forks of it, to see if it needed more dressing. I awoke about 2 a.m. in misery with a stomache ache that has not totally gone away yet. I know for sure it was the wheat, and wonder if anyone has any advice for getting rid of the discomfort. Thank you much.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      No, Joanie, except to let it pass.

      This is why, once you are wheat-free, to avoid it as well as you can and avoid provoking such re-exposure reactions.

      • Brenda says:

        I went wheat free for my SI joint pain (total success!) and also found my asthma symptoms had practically disappeared. One stir fry with wheat-containing soy sauce gave me an almost immediate asthma attack. It’s amazing and a bit scary to realize the damage it can do!

  6. Stan Cho says:

    Hi Dr. Davis,

    I just finished Wheat Belly and I’ve got some friends reading it now too.

    I’m a little annoyed. I know it’s not about gluten thanks to your book. But this “gluten-free” fad is really growing and it seems it could become the new “fat-free” or “low-fat” mantra for the weight loss world. I am 36 years-old and very fit. I want to reduce wheat after reading your book (and eventually eliminate it completely) so I can stay that way. But everywhere I go to find wheat-free products, I’m met with the misconception that gluten-free means the same thing.

    I’ve googled this pretty extensively and short of a few articles here and there, I can’t seem to find where to buy wheat-free products. I love your recipes in the book but I don’t always have time to make my own flax-seed bread. PLEASE…do you know where I can buy wheat-free products? I love sandwiches and pizza but in 10-years I still want to see my feet when standing up.

    By the way I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It seems it’s easier to find crack than wheat-free products up here. Please help. Thank you.


    • Dr. Davis says:

      It is precisely this reason why I 1) scream and yell about how god awful unhealthy the majority of gluten-free products are when made with what I call “junk carbohydrate” flours, and 2) why I help the people at Wheat Free Market produce truly healthy wheat-free products.

      Unfortunately, the Wheat Free Market people are just taking the steps to sell in Canada. They tell me that it should be up and running over the next few months.

  7. JL says:

    I have struggled very very hard with weight loss – doing all I can (eating high protein low carbs) and exercising every day. I just cannot shift the fat! I am putting on muscle, according to my naturopath, but the fat isn’t budging. Would a wheat free diet be the key?

    • Boundless says:

      > … doing all I can (eating high protein low carbs) …

      Keep the low carbs, but dial down the protein and dial up the fat.

      > … and exercising every day.

      The Biggest Loser myth. Exercise is a very-nearly self-defeating way to lose weight. Compared to LCHF, it is a very inefficient way to burn fat, and it promotes appetite. Don’t stop it, but don’t do it for weight loss.

      > Would a wheat free diet be the key?

      Yep. Ditch wheat’s pals barley and rye as well. And avoid all added fructose. Dial down fruit intake.

    • Boundless says:

      And if a wheat-free low-carb high-fat low-fructose diet doesn’t do the trick immediately, see:

      On the exercise thing … A grandchild likes to watch Biggest Loser with a family member when visiting. I normally I ignore that frustratingly tragic show, but I was installing a storm door and chanced to overhear much of it. In this particular episode, one team member was doing low carb, and NOT busting his butt exercising. Another was following the show’s dietary advice, and sweating his buns off. The slacker lost more weight, both due to the LC, and because he wasn’t building muscle mass (which, attention idiot show producers, isn’t weightless).

      The premises and practices of that show are just plain insane, and the show sending a swarm of very destructive messages to anyone who watches. Several contestants have apparently stumbled onto low-carb by themselves. The people running the show remain dogmatically oblivious. Growing awareness of grain-free and LCHF will eventually torpedo the show, but not soon enough. The reality of weight loss is that it is usually effortless and dramatic, once you dispose of consensus diet.

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  10. megan says:


    Thank you for all this wonderful information. I am still busy readying wheat belly and loving it. I am trying to cut out wheat, and have managed to do this 80% of the time. I havent seen any weight loss though.
    I am still a bit confused about wheat/ gluten…..are you saying that it is okay to continue eating gluten as long as you cut out wheat?