Something happened to wheat in the 1970s during the efforts to generate a high-yield strain that required less fertilizer to make a 24-inch, rather than a 48-inch, stalk. Multiple other changes occurred, including changes in the structure of gluten, changes in wheat germ agglutinin, changes in alpha amylase (responsible for wheat allergy) . . . to name a few.
But chief among the changes in wheat were changes in the gliadin protein molecule. We know, for instance, that the Glia-alpha 9 sequence, absent from traditional wheat, can be found in virtually all modern wheat. This is likely the explanation underlying the four-fold increase in celiac disease over the past 50 years, since Glia-alpha 9 predictably triggers the immune reaction that leads to the intestinal destruction characteristic of celiac disease.
But modern wheat also stimulates appetite . . . not a little, but a lot. The introduction of modern high-yield, semi-dwarf wheat was accompanied by an abrupt increase in calorie consumption of 440 calories per day, 365 days per year. This is because modern gliadin in wheat is an opiate. But this opiate doesn’t cause a “high” like heroine; it causes appetite stimulation.
Big Food companies, commanding tens of billions (not millions, but billions, or 1000 millions) of dollars of revenues per year, employ some very smart food scientists. Among their many responsibilities, food scientists are charged with observing the eating behavior of humans who eat their products, often conducting taste tests and trials to observe eating behavior. (Anyone read Brian Wansink’s Mindless Eating? Great stories of food experiments with human subjects.) Surely food scientists noticed that, somewhere around 1985, appetite was enormously triggered by consumption of crackers, breads, pretzels, bagels and the multitude of other test products made of wheat making entry into the marketplace. After all, the business of food scientists is to observe eating behavior.
So why didn’t they sound the alarm? Why didn’t we hear food scientists declare “We think there’s something wrong in some of the new foods we are creating. Specifically, it appears that foods created from the new high-yield strains of wheat are triggering appetite substantially”?
Perhaps they couldn’t, being employed by Big Food companies with a need to maintain proprietary inside information. Or, perhaps they said something like “Shhhhhh! Don’t tell anybody! Let’s just put it in . . . everything!” How else can we explain the fact that, in the 1970s, wheat was only in primary wheat-based foods like breads, cookies, and cakes, but now wheat is in everything: It’s in canned and instant soups, salad dressings, licorice, granola and candy bars, virtually all fast food . . . you name it, wheat’s there. (Remember: Big Tobacco did precisely this kind of thing when they used to dope their cigarettes with higher nicotine content to increase addictive potential. As with many things wheat, tobacco showed us in how many ways big corporations can bend products and issues to their own agenda, your health be damned.)
Unfortunately, this is just my speculation, given the incredible and difficult-to-explain ubiquity of wheat. So I’m hoping to identify a whistleblower, someone from inside the walls of Big Food, preferably back in the 1980s when this phenomenon got underway. If you have such insights, please post a comment here, anonymously if you prefer.
In other words, it would be priceless to be able to prove that, not only did food scientists in Big Food know about the appetite-stimulating effects of modern wheat, they used this knowledge to increase revenues.