You’ve heard the message over and over again from media, doctors, dietitians and others purporting to provide dietary advice: “eat more whole grains.”
If you followed their well-meaning but health-damaging advice, it means that you’d consume less white bread, donuts, pancakes, bagels and other foods made with processed white flour that has less fiber and less B vitamins. They base their advice on evidence from epidemiological studies such as the Nurses’ Health Study and the Physicians’ Health study that demonstrate that people who consume more whole grains have less type 2 diabetes, less heart disease, are less overweight/obese, have less colon cancer.
But whether white or whole, despite the lower fiber and B vitamins, whole grains still share many components with white flour products that have adverse effects on human health. Whole grains and white flour products share:
- Gliadin-derived opioid peptides–Whole grains yield opioid peptides that stimulate appetite, white flour products yield opioid peptides that stimulate appetite–there is no difference. It means that, by consuming wheat in any form, you set in motion a relentless form of hunger that leave many people unsatisfied, always hungry. This is the effect that causes most people to consume 400-800 more calories per day, often much more, and be full to bursting after consuming a bowl of pasta yet still oddly be hungry.
- Gliadin protein-induced increased intestinal permeability–Once again, gliadin is present in all forms of wheat products, whole or white, and it initiates the first step in generating autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes. Allow me to reiterate: The gliadin protein of wheat (and related proteins in rye, barley, and corn) initiates the process leading to autoimmune diseases in many, if not most, people with such conditions. Accordingly, autoimmune diseases are virtually unknown in non-grain consuming cultures.
- Phytates–Phytates bind all positively-charged minerals in the gut, causing you to poop out most calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. This is true whether you ate a white flour bagel or two slices of multi-grain bread, a pretzel or bran muffin.
- Amylopectin A–The carbohydrate unique to grains, amylopectin A, raises blood sugar higher than an equivalent quantity of table sugar, whether or not it is white or whole grain. In fact, while white bread raises blood sugar to high levels, whole wheat bread raises it even higher.
- Wheat germ agglutinin–Wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) is a potent bowel toxin, denuding the delicate intestinal villi and provoking intestinal inflammation. It is also a potent blocker of the hormone cholecystokinin, or CCK, that causes the gallbladder to squeeze out its bile, a phenomenon that contributes to gallstone formation. Ironically, the WGA content of whole wheat and whole grains is much higher than white flour products, meaning that whole grain products are more likely to inflame the intestinal wall and cause gallstones than white flour.
In other words, by most measures, whole grains are no different than white flour.
The fiber and B vitamins lost with wheat and grain elimination in the diet are easily replaced. The 40-75 mcg of folic acid in two slices of bread, for instance, are easily replaced by eating one cup of raw spinach with 60 mcg folate, one avocado with over 120 mcg folate–and note that natural sources provide the genuinely beneficial folate form, not synthetic folic acid added to grain products that has been long suspected to have carcinogenic properties. And, because we also reject fast foods and processed foods in this lifestyle, our fiber intake, including the most important prebiotic fibers, goes up.
What about those epidemiological studies that suggest that whole grains yield health benefits over white flour products? These are the studies that the USDA and others have held up as proof that whole grains are essential for health, tragic misinterpretations responsible for an astounding amount of health problems in Americans. Recall that there are fundamental problems associated with observational epidemiological data that cannot be used to establish cause-effect relationships, the same problems that led to, for instance, widespread prescriptions for Premarin–estrogens sourced from the urine of pregnant horses–to human women based on observational data suggesting reduced cardiovascular disease, uterine and breast cancer–until the real clinical studies, such as the Women’s Health Initiative and the HERS trial, studies in which women were given Premarin or placebo with both recipient and researchers “blinded” to which agent was given, showed that Premarin INCREASED cardiovascular death, uterine and breast cancer, even accelerated dementia–the exact opposite of what observational data suggested. Despite this and numerous other examples of observational “evidence” gone wrong, the USDA and other agencies willingly embrace the potentially false conclusions of such studies. But it gets worse than that. Among the other flaws in logic or oversights that led to the “eat more healthy whole grains” message:
- Demonstrating that something is less bad does not equate with being healthy–Replace something bad for health–white flour products–with something less bad–whole grains–that yields apparent health benefits, then conclude that a whole bunch of the less bad thing must therefore be good. My favorite example that highlights the flawed logic in this argument comes from cigarettes: Replace unfiltered, full-tar cigarettes with filtered, low-tar cigarettes that yields less heart disease and lung cancer and, by the logic of nutrition, smoking lots of filtered, low-tar cigarettes must therefore be good for health. This is obviously silly, but it is the same flawed logic used to justify the health benefits of whole grains. To understand the impact of smoking filtered, low-tar cigarettes, you would have to compare people smoking such cigarettes with non-smokers. To compare the health consequences of consuming “healthy whole grains,” you would have to compare the health of these people to populations who consume no grains–and such studies have indeed been performed, whether labeled “low-carb,” “carnivorous,” “ketogenic,” “gluten-free,” etc.
- Ignore the health of extant hunter-gatherers–Hadza, Matses, Yanomami, people of Malawi–a number of populations who hunt and gather, but do not cultivate wheat nor grains, have been studied over the last century. In these populations, there is little to no colon cancer, diverticular disease, hemorrhoids, constipation, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, acne, neurodegenerative diseases and other conditions that commonly afflict people in the Western world.
- Increased grain consumption leads to nutritional deficiencies–When there is starvation in Third World countries due to war or government mismanagement, the World Health Organization (WHO) has wheat, corn, and soy flown in to help feed starving people. They have learned, however, that they will also need to address the iron and zinc deficiencies that develop, especially in children in whom such deficiencies impair growth and learning. In other words, a diet weighted in favor of these “foods” are known to provoke deficiencies sufficient to impair growth and learning.
- The advent of wheat/grain consumption in ancient cultures was associated with a dramatic downturn in health–Anthropologists have known this for decades: When humans first learned to harvest wild, then cultivated, wheat and grains, there was an explosion in tooth decay, tooth loss, knee arthritis, and iron deficiency. Turning to wheat/grain consumption does indeed yield carbohydrate (amylopectin A) calories for sustenance, but extracts a long-term health price.
In short, consumption of wheat and grains is a compromise: near-term calories, long-term health deterioration. This phenomenon has been demonstrated and proven in numerous ways, yet we have national guidelines and dietary advice that essentially tell us that we must make this compromise. Those of us living the Wheat Belly lifestyle, of course, have rejected this compromise and thereby have very little tooth decay, less arthritis, magnificent control over appetite, less autoimmune disease, less skin rashes, and overall better health.