Eliminating wheat not the end-all cure for obesity

Dr. Atkins’ revolution has a new friend: Wheat Belly. Cardiologist William Davis has discovered the simple solution to obesity

Dr. Atkins’ revolution has a new friend: Wheat Belly. Cardiologist William Davis has discovered the simple solution to obesity and chronic disease: eliminate wheat!

Why should we stop eating wheat?

“Wheat has been genetically altered making it a different substance than it used to be.”

Wheat, like all crops in our food supply, has undergone years of plant breeding to create higher-yielding strains that require less inputs (such as fertilizers). However, to say these changes are making us fat is Davis’s own speculation. If you want to avoid foods that have been changed in the past 100 years, you will have to cut out virtually every food that we eat.

“Wheat stimulates opiate receptors in the brain (like morphine or heroin), stimulating your appetite and making it addictive.”

There is no scientific evidence supporting this idea. What some studies have suggested is that when we eat a meal high in carbohydrates, endorphins are released, making you feel good. However, anyone who has eaten whole wheat berries can tell you that wheat itself is not addictive. It is only when we add lots of fat, sugar and salt, that we want to eat more.

“Whole wheat bread increases your blood sugar more than table sugar or candy bars.”

What Davis is referring to is that some breads have a glycemic index (GI) similar to table sugar. What he fails to explain is that GI compares equal loads of available carbohydrate. If you wanted to get 50 g of glucose from table sugar, you would only need to eat about three tablespoons. For the same amount from whole grain bread, you may have to eat three to five slices. Furthermore, GI is affected by other components of your meal. So if you are adding fat or protein (such as peanut butter or cheese) to your bread, these will decrease its glycemic response.

For many people, eliminating wheat can be a tool for weight loss. This is not because wheat itself is bad, but because many wheat-containing foods are high in calories. By eliminating wheat, you eliminate cookies, cakes, doughnuts, the bun off your burger. This translates into a reduction in total calories that can lead to weight loss.

Overall, I found the book, Wheat Belly to be a misleading oversimplification of both the cause of and solution to obesity and chronic disease.

If wheat is really what makes us fat, why does it only make some people fat?

That being said, wheat is not necessary for the nutritional health of a person. Therefore, if you have celiac disease or feel better not eating wheat, then by all means, give it up.