Eat Drink Be Happy
Diet books come and go – the racks are filled with game titles that generally go unnoticed. Every once in a while there comes a book that, as a dietitian who works with the public, you know you have to learn just. Wheat Belly, by William Davis MD, is one of them. Actually, it is probably THE book to read in 2012 if you are interested in this sort of thing.
The idea of the publication (spoiler alert!) is that whole wheat (and gluten – that he uses the term “wheat” incorrectly and interchangeably) ‘s the reason we are sick and tired, inflamed and fat. To his credit, Dr. Davis (and/or his editor at Rodale) knows how to spin a yarn. He has a very convincing and direct style – the only suitable conclusion to the information he presents is that wheat makes us ill. In fact, Dr. Davis’ writing would be very much at home on the gossip sites – such is his sensational story-telling style.
His quarrels might be very convincing, until you look a little closer. Core to his debate is that modern wheat has been cross-bred to the point that it barely resembles the whole wheat we ate even 50 years ago. I won’t claim that our 42-chromosome modern wheat is anything like the 14-chromosome einkorn whole wheat and that, relating to a baker friend of mine, it is “stronger” than wheat commonly found in Europe.
It is also true that Celiac Disease is increasing in numbers; it is estimated that 1 in 133 of us have Celiac Disease and we might not even know it. And non-Celiac gluten sensitivity is also on the rise. Dr. Alessio Fasano, one of the heavyweights of Celiac research, estimates that 6% folks have gluten sensitivity. So for those of us who fall under those categories, gluten, and wheat do make us sick and tired.
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But those quantities do not identical 100%. Dr Davis is a cardiologist, not a Celiac specialist. My biggest nervous about the book are the Swiss cheese-like openings in his logic and just how he cherry picks his evidence to aid his quarrels. Dr Davis makes the case that the molecular structure of wheat causes it to raise your blood sugar more than any food. Then he tells you that you need to also avoid most gluten free alternatives because they also raise your bloodstream sugar.
If it truly was the wheat/gluten (which one is it?) increasing your blood sugars, then shouldn’t gluten free options not have the same effect? The truth is, it is our processed wheat products that wreak havoc with this blood sugar – any prepared grain food, be it rice, quinoa, or oat can do the same.
Dr Davis understands that – his diet program is fairly low on grains of any type. 1. Dr Davis claims that gluten functions as an opium-like drug in our system, making it addictive. To support his argument, he cites a study from 1979 that used a focused gluten sample that got 10,000 times more opiate-like activity than the original 100g test of gluten it was derived from. The poison is within the dose. 2. Dr. Davis also promises that newly diagnosed Celiacs lose weight when they eliminate gluten. The analysis he incorrectly cites to back his claim actually found that 82% of already overweight patients gained even more weight on a gluten-free diet.