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Book Review: Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health

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Updated: Oct. 31, 2011: Paragraphs added (see below).
Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, by William Davis, M.D., is an eye-opening and provocative book. Davis examines the history of modern wheat, and the health problems associated with its consumption.

Image of Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health

Dr. Davis describes the evolutionary path from ancient wheat to the human-engineered varieties found in modern products. The bad news is that humans have engaged in genetic engineering of wheat over the last fifty years, much of it done without concern for potential human health impact.

When seeking a likely cause of the recent rise of obesity, diabetes, and other health problems, it seems reasonable to look at what's changed in the typical American diet.

Wheat has come to dominate the typical American meal. Official health guidelines and other authorities tell us to put "healthy grains" at the bottom of the food pyramid, and many if not most people have. A trip through the typical supermarket shows us just how much the American diet is dominated by wheat-based products. Pasta, cereals, breads, rolls, muffins, cakes, snacks... the list seems endless.

Modern commercial wheat (bred and bio-engineered forms of Triticum aestivum) bears little resemblance to the wheat that evolved alongside human culture. According to Dr. Davis, it is a "supercarbohydrate", due to its amylopectin-A content (amylopectin-A is the most rapidly-digested form of amylopectin).

This may explain why, according to the Glycemic Index, eating a slice of "healthy" whole-wheat bread spikes your blood sugar level more than table sugar.

Dr. Davis describes how wheat consumption results in the release of exorphins, which cross the blood-brain barrier and bind to opiate receptors in the brain, making wheat the equivalent of a mood-altering and potentially addictive drug -- causing highs followed by cravings, and withdrawal symptoms for those who try to kick the habit. There are other psychological effects, but you should read the book for more on that.

But that's not all. According to Dr. Davis (and his reference material), wheat consumption is implicated in: elevated triglyceride levels, excess LDL particles, heart disease, glaucoma, cancer, processes causing premature aging, and more.

Edit October 31, 2011: New paragraphs follow »

Even when read with a skeptical eye, the book poses a few difficult challenges: There are studies linking wheat gluten consumption to a variety of ailments, and the Glycemic Index tells us that whole wheat bread is as bad as Skittles in terms of blood glucose levels (see link, above)–once you understand the short- and long-term metabolic harm caused by elevated blood sugar and insulin levels, it's prudent to question the whole notion of "healthy whole grains." Is it really worth triggering all those bad metabolic effects, just so you can get a little fiber and a few vitamins or minerals, all of which are available in other, less metabolically damaging foods? Why have we been sold this bill of goods?

Dr. Davis hasn't written a scientific, peer-reviewed research paper. Dr. Davis' book is a grand survey of known, likely and possible negative health impacts of the modern diet and its heavy wheat load. In Davis' own words:

Wheat Belly, by the way, is not a diet: it is an articulation of what geneticists and agribusiness have done to this plant called wheat, now a far genetic distance removed from the wheat of 50 years ago, mostly in the name of increased yield.


Dr. Davis may jump to a few conclusions here and there, but the basic issue remains: we're being sold a product that has demonstrable negative metabolic effects and is linked to a variety of health problems. Americans are not healthier, on average, since fats and cholesterol were convicted (on scanty evidence) and "healthy whole grains" were promoted as their replacement. Rather, we have an out-of-control obesity and diabetes epidemic.

Something's wrong with this picture, and it deserves a much closer and far more critical examination than it's received to date. It's well past time to challenge the official healthy eating guidelines–the USDA (which is not a health organization–its primary responsibility is to promote and advocate U.S. agriculture!) advises us to eat a mountain of grains, so let the USDA prove that following their advice has the promised result (better health.) So far, it hasn't panned out.

« END Edit October 31, 2011

Dr. Davis makes a compelling and entertaining case that modern wheat consumption may be the main contributing factors in many of Americans' health problems. Davis advises getting the wheat out of our diets, in order to regain control of our health and waistlines.

The Bottom Line

Highly recommended! This is an engaging and thoroughly readable book. You'll learn about wheat, its history, and the ways in which it can impact your health.

Whether you are a wheat lover or a full-blown addict, you owe it to yourself to read Wheat Belly. You'll never look at that slice of "healthy whole wheat" bread the same way again.

Related Links

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About Michael

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About me

I'm Mike. I'm LowCarbForLife's (Teri's) hubby. I manage the LowCarbCompatible™ web site, among many other things. I don't follow a strict diet but I do follow LowCarbForLife's way of eating most of the time, since we eat together (and I cook most of the time).

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Carbohydrate Addict's Lifespan Program (CALP)

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