Bread, beer, cake, cereal, cookies, donuts, pancakes, pizza and spaghetti. Are you hungry yet? What do all these things have in common? The answer is not only that they’re all pretty yummy human creations, but also that they are all produced with wheat.
Though for years it has been viewed in a positive light, emerging research actually points out nutritionists may have been too generous with their recommendations of six to 11 daily servings of breads and grains. Is this overconsumption of wheat products the cause of many of the health problems plaguing the people of the United States? Some medical experts seem to believe so, particularly a doctor by the name William Davis.
According to Davis, acclaimed cardiologist and author of the New York Times bestseller Wheat Belly, wheat today is not the same wheat your grandma would have fed to your mother. He claims that instead it’s the “perfect, chronic poison.”
In his book, Davis explores the impact this nearly ubiquitous staple has had on health of people worldwide. He uncovers a number of ways this crop has tiptoed its way as a health food into the mangled minds and bodies of consumers.
The statistics are alarming. He states this new strain of wheat is associated with an increase of the following: insulin resistance, consuming 400 additional calories daily and leptin resistance (the hormone involved in appetite regulation). He also notes consumption has a positive correlation to the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, inflammatory diseases and various degenerative diseases worldwide.
Wheat is the most traded crop globally and a cereal grain used to make flour. What’s bizarre is that wheat has found its way in nearly everything we consume nowadays. Stroll down the center aisles in any major grocery store. You will likely find nearly everything contains a wheat byproduct. It’s inevitable.
One of the most striking facts he conveys in his publications highlight that two slices of whole wheat bread raises your blood sugar more than a Snickers bar. But how can this be, you ask?
If you were to inspect the various labels of bread at the local supermarket, you would most likely find two slices of bread have at most a few grams of sugar on their labels. So, how is it that wheat can raise our blood sugar if the label claims that bread is so low in sugar? Well, the effect is because bread is overall relatively high on the glycemic index.
The glycemic index is a “measure of the effects of carbohydrates in food on glucose levels.” Thus, “foods with carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly in the bloodstream tend to have a high glycemic index.”
Wheat also contains a sugar called amylopectin A that causes this observed blood sugar spike. This eventually leads to the formation of fat that can further initiate a cascade of deleterious effects. In addition, wheat contains morphine-like compounds called exorphins that work with our body’s opioid receptors. When these receptors become activated, the body experiences an addictive ‘high.’
When you present your body with these opioid agonists, they bind to the body’s opioid receptors in a pharmacological process similar to the one that occurs with users of heroin. Perhaps this is another reason why those panini and that biscotti are so darn satisfying.
You may have heard that if you consume the poppy seeds usually found on baked goods before a drug test, you may test positive for heroin, codeine or morphine. Though drug-testing methods have recently improved to prevent such false positives, this is surprisingly a true phenomenon.
In his research, Davis explores other constituents in wheat that are thought to promote some of the damaging consequences of consumption.
Humans eat food for nourishment. We normally respond to our body when we are hungry and aim to suppress our appetites through eating. Well, Davis has found that that the gliadin in gluten actually has the contrary: It has appetite-stimulating properties.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that you might have heard of. It is characterized by a heightened immunological response to gluten. In these gluten-sensitive individuals, this can lead to an incredibly dangerous immune response and must be avoided at all costs. In a 2009 study published in the journal Gastroentology, researchers analyzed blood samples of 10,000 patients and noted a 400 percent increase in Celiac disease diagnoses. This brings to question likewise how many individuals are gluten-sensitive but are not yet diagnosed.
What’s most unique about this phenomenon, Davis explains, is that wheat is not the typical culprit of the commonly cited obesity epidemic. Unlike people that regularly drink soda or fail to frequently exercise, wheat is commonly correlated to the highly health-conscious crowds.
Now, I am in no way suggesting that you must immediately eliminate all forms of wheat cold turkey, but I do think it’s best to become more aware of the potential long-term effects of the foods that we’re regularly consuming. Even though you’ve probably been listening to your body and doing what feels best, your body internally may not be agreeing with these decisions.
It’s all about taking those baby steps when it comes to changing your nutritional habits. Here’s a start: Maybe you’re accustomed to having those 12 beers when the weekend rolls around. This weekend, try making the switch to 10. Your belly will thank you later.