A recent Consumer Reports article has apparently raised skepticism that being gluten-free is really healthier. So let’s clear the air on this awful, awful report and expose it for the cheap shot it is.
First of all, those of you familiar with the Wheat Belly message understand: Wheat Belly is NOT about being gluten-free! Despite the popularity of the Wheat Belly message, I still have to remind critics and people in media of this fact.
Nonetheless, let’s go through the arguments that Consumers Reports makes and show why they drip thickly with misinformation, one by one:
1. Gluten-free isn’t more nutritious (and may be less so)
It depends on what you replace gluten-containing foods, doesn’t it? If you replace gluten-containing foods with gluten-free foods made with cornstarch, rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato flour, then, yes, they are absolutely right! Everyone following the Wheat Belly conversation knows that gluten-free foods have about as much value as old bubble gum picked up off the sidewalk.
In the Wheat Belly lifestyle, we do NOT replace gluten-containing foods with processed gluten-free foods. We opt for real foods, such as eggs, avocados, olives, meats, coconut oil, and vegetables–surely Consumer Reports wouldn’t be so stupid as to argue that our foods are less nutritious than gluten-containing foods!
2. You’ll probably increase your exposure to arsenic
They’re right again . . . if we resort to gluten-free processed foods made with rice flour, which we do not. Rice has indeed been found to contain inorganic arsenates of the sort that can exert substantial toxic effects if enough is consumed, as can happen with plentiful rice consumption. (Rice is a natural concentrator of arsenic; we can blame agribusiness for lots of bad things, but not this.) The Wheat Belly lifestyle is grain-free–rice is a grain, i.e., the seed of a grass. Last I checked, there are no cows or other ruminants reading the Wheat Belly Blog. So nobody here should be consuming the seeds of grasses due to the multiple indigestible components in grasses, including their seeds (a concept discussed at length in Wheat Belly Total Health.)
3. You might gain weight
Yes: if we resort to those awful gluten-free foods.
But if we eliminate gluten-containing grains–wheat, rye, barley, and I would argue corn (because the zein protein of corn overlaps substantially in structure with the gliadin of wheat)–we lose weight, often substantial. This is because we stop ingesting the gliadin protein that digests to peptides that act as opiate appetite stimulants, increasing consumption of carbohydrates. We rid ourselves of wheat germ agglutinin (in wheat, rye, barley, and rice) that blocks leptin, the hormone of satiety. We also rid ourselves of amylopectin A of grains responsible for extravagant blood sugar highs that are accompanied by high blood insulin that causes weight gain.
Getting rid of all grains means substantial weight loss for the majority, provided you don’t fall into the gluten-free processed food trap. (The exceptions to weight loss on the Wheat Belly grain-free lifestyle are nearly always due to idiosyncratic effects of dairy whey, iodine deficiency or thyroid dysfunction, presence of prescription drugs such as beta blockers, endocrine disruption from overexposure to industrial compounds, and a few other factors–but not due to failure of grain elimination.)
4. You’ll pay more
Once again, only if you buy the processed gluten-free foods. Those of us on the wheat/grain-free Wheat Belly lifestyle who follow a budget know that, due to the loss of appetite-stimulation, we either experience no increase in food costs or a modest cost savings.
5. You might miss a serious health condition
This is the paternalistic doctor talking . . . you know, the one who thinks that, despite the emerging tools that empower people in health–information, categorical search, smartphone health apps, social media, the astounding wisdom of crowds phenomenon–people are helpless and stupid and must rely on the healthcare system for all health decisions. Is this the same healthcare system who told us to “cut your fats and eat more healthy whole grains,” while also endorsing replacement of saturated fats with hydrogenated margarines and polyunsaturates and horse estrogens for menopausal symptoms that increase cancer risk, along with countless other blunders and ineffective therapies? And think of all the lost opportunities to do unnecessary colonoscopies and endoscopies!
In my view, grain elimination, because it relieves SO many health conditions, should always be a default solution before resorting to drugs and procedures.
6. You might still be eating gluten, anyway
Yet another indictment of gluten-free processed foods. But since when is the sloppiness of the food industry a reason to backpedal on a health argument? This one is plain silly.
Don’t feel bad if you initially fell for this tripe from Consumers Reports, as even Dr. Alessio Fasano, who did the brilliant work showing how the gliadin protein of wheat initiates autoimmunity, put his foot in his mouth by saying “When you cut out gluten completely, you can cut out foods that have valuable nutrients and you may end up adding more calories and fat into your diet.” Wow. Being smart about one aspect of diet does not necessarily mean you know much about other aspects of diet. Lose the grains, lose the phytates that bind nutrients and allow gastrointestinal healing to proceed. Grain-free people experience increased iron levels, increased zinc levels, increased magnesium levels, increased vitamin B12 levels, among others. Every doctor should also know by now that cutting fat and saturated fat does not result in reduced cardiovascular risk.
Could Consumer Reports, a self-proclaimed protector of the consumer, have bowed to industry and allowed what smells like another grain industry paid placement? I don’t know, but I know a skunk when I smell one.