We’ve been told for decades that whole grains are healthy, healthier than processed white flour products. Is that true?
And why does the Wheat Belly lifestyle in which grains, whole and white, are eliminated, yield such spectacular results such as substantial weight loss without limiting calories, reversal of inflammation and many autoimmune conditions, relief from joint pain and acid reflux, relief from skin rashes and water retention, and relief from hundreds of other health conditions—if we are eliminating a necessary nutritional source?
You will learn that the entire “eat more healthy whole grain” message was founded on a simple misinterpretation. Understand this basic fact and you are empowered in health, weight loss, and day-to-day functioning to an astonishing degree.
This is another conversation in the Wheat Belly Basics line of discussions I’ve been providing, to help people who are new to the Wheat Belly message get up to speed and understand what it is we’re trying to convey in the Wheat Belly message. I call this conversation: Aren’t Whole Grains Good For Us?
After all, that’s what we’ve been told for the last 50 years, right, that whole grains prevent diabetes, make us thinner, prevent autoimmune diseases and heart disease, and make us live longer, right? Well, and every official agency in the business of providing dietary advice like the USDA the US Department of Health and Human Services through its US Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the American Heart Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, etc., all agree that whole grains are necessary and should be the cornerstone of a healthy diet.
Where did those arguments come from? Well they came from studies that did this: they took something unhealthy or bad for us (white flour) and replaced it with something I would argue are less bad: whole grains. There is an apparent benefit. You can’t argue about that. It is true when you replace white flour products with whole grains you have less Type 2 diabetes, less weight gain, less heart disease, less colon cancer, that’s true. But what they did not show is that you have a dramatic reduction to any of those things, or improvement any of those things as compared to no grains.
That’s the key here. There are studies that show us that when you eliminate grains, Type 2 diabetes reverses in many cases (or at least hemoglobin A1c that measures long-term blood sugar, drops dramatically), autoimmune diseases recede or even completely resolve, heart disease markers improve dramatically. In other words, the studies that were purported to prove that whole grains, when consumed in ad lib amounts, is good for you, was a misinterpretation.
This is very common in the world of what’s called observational epidemiology. That is, where people are simply asked “what did you eat this week?”, and you recount how much white flour, how much whole grains you had. That was a very deeply flawed, incomplete science that led to the healthy whole grain argument.
That was the very same study design, by the way, used to “prove” that Premarin® horse estrogens were good for women. You may recall that about 30 years of Premarin prescriptions (and Premarin was the number one most prescribed drug in the world for many years) — prescription of that of horse estrogen was based on the observation that women who took Premarin had less endometrial cancer, less heart disease, less heart attack, less breast cancer, etc., compared to women who didn’t take Premarin based on observational epidemiology, meaning they would ask a woman “ma’am, do you take Premarin?” — “yes I do” or “no I don’t”.
The problem is: people who did take a drug like Premarin were different from the people who didn’t take it: people who went to the doctor, people were more likely to engage in health practices, et cetera. The real study would be something like this: I’m going to give you a pill. I’m not going to tell you what it is, and I don’t know either. We have a key to encode what it is you’re taking that we’ll break open at the end of the study. That way, people can’t be influenced by what they’re taking, nor can the prescriber or the doctor influence the outcome.
Those kinds of controlled blinded studies were performed, like the Women’s Health Initiative, and the exact opposite was found. Premarin causes excess heart attack, and endometrial cancer, breast cancer — the exact opposite of what the observational epidemiology suggested. This has been true, over and over and over in observational epidemiology, that the conclusions drawn by observational epidemiologic studies were disproven, and proved to be absolutely wrong, when the real studies were performed. This is not new, yet it is the basis for the eat more healthy whole grain message.
What happens to primitive hunter-gatherers when first exposed to grains?
Now yet another perspective on whether grains are good for us or not (whole grains or otherwise), is to watch what happens to primitive people when they are exposed to grains. Now this is modified by the fact when primitive people eat modern food, it also includes sugars and processed oils. But what happens to people who are living wild hunter-gatherer lifestyles like the Maasai, or the Hadza, and other primitive cultures that were hunter-gatherers, and didn’t cultivate grains, didn’t eat sugary foods except for wild fruit when it was seasonal; what happened to them? Also, what happened to people in ancient times when they first turned to grain consumption, when they started to harvest wild grains and then cultivate grains around ten or twelve thousand years ago?
Well in both those groups of people, in ancient times, and in more modern times (over the last several centuries), the same thing happened: there was an explosion in tooth decay. Prior to the consumption of grains (and processed sugars as well) about one to three percent of all teeth recovered showed tooth decay, or abscess formation, or misalignment. When grains were added, that exploded to 16 to 49% of all teeth showing decay. Now think of it, by the way, the people who did not consume granted sugars had very little tooth decay; without fluoridated toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss, dentists, orthodontists, fluoridated water, etc., and had very little tooth decay.
But when grains were added, there was an explosion of tooth decay and tooth misalignment. There was a doubling of knee arthritis. So bone diseases began to appear on a much larger scale. Deficiencies — evidence for nutritional deficiencies show up — iron deficiency in particular. In these more modern wild cultures who consume modern foods, other sorts of deficiencies also develop. Obesity and Type 2 diabetes develops at explosive rates. Now is this is largely due to consumption of grain foods, but also sugars, as well as soft drinks and processed food oils, but the grains do play a large part in generating those ill effects in primitive people.
The science is also already available showing us that grains, whether they’re whole, or white flour (doesn’t make a difference) contain plenty of unhealthy ingredients that have adverse effects, like the phytates. The phytates of grains are the reason behind the iron deficiency, as well as zinc, magnesium, and calcium deficiencies that develop in grain consuming people. People who consume a lot of grains often develop iron deficiency anemia that’s only correctable by removing the grains. Zinc deficiency, an impairment of your immune system, and skin rash, is very common in grain consuming people. Magnesium deficiency, started by water filtration, much worsened by the presence of phytates in grains.
Wheat germ agglutinin is completely impervious to human digestion and that is a very potent bowel toxin, an inflammatory factor, if it gets access into your bloodstream.
Gliadin in wheat, rye and barley, and the related protein zein in corn, are highly inflammatory, and are the first step in autoimmune diseases like Type 1 diabetes in kids, and rheumatoid arthritis. They initiate the intestinal reaction that leads to autoimmune diseases. They’re responsible for a lot, if not most, autoimmune diseases. That science is unfolding, but it’s looking as if grains underlie a lot of autoimmune diseases.
And then the Wheat Belly experience, where we eliminate all grains: wheat, rye, barley, rice, oats, millet, amaranth, triticale — all of them, because they all share characteristics more or less. Incredible things happen. Acid reflux gone in the majority within five days. IBS symptoms gone in the majority within five days. Joint pains recede. Autoimmune diseases begin to recede, though much more effectively when combined with all the other strategies we add on, right, like vitamin D and cultivation of bowel flora. Migraine headaches improve or disappear in many people.
Weight loss proceeds at astounding rates, and it does so without appetite, because people lose their appetite, because the gliadin-derived opioid peptides are now gone. Those are very potent appetite stimulants. So you’re freed of hunger. Fasting becomes very easy. Skin rashes recede. Leg edema recedes. Blood pressures drop. Blood sugars drop, sufficient for many if not most Type 2 diabetics become non diabetic, or at least have a very much lower hemoglobin A1c, a much better blood sugar control off drugs, or on many fewer drugs. Health transforms dramatically. You can see it on the face, right? If you’ve been following Wheat Belly conversations on our Facebook page, you see the dramatic anti-aging, age-reversing effects of grain elimination.
The world was misled by those awful observational epidemiological studies that were misinterpreted to mean that whole-grain should be the cornerstone of diet. Whole-grains shouldn’t be in anybody’s diet at all.