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The doctor who dared to say the unspeakable,
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This review is from: Wheat Belly (Hardcover)This book, whose author is a preventive cardiologist, puts another big building block in the wall begun by iconoclasts like Dr Robert Atkins and Dr John Yudkin, and thoroughly cemented by science journalist Gary Taubes. Beginning in the late 1960s, Atkins proposed that eating carbohydrates was the main reason for many people's obesity. (Actually, this had been common knowledge since the 1860s if not before - how many of us recall our mothers saying, "If you want to lose weight, avoid starchy foods like bread and potatoes"?). His 1972 book Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution: The No-hunger, Luxurious Weight Loss Plan That Really Works! urged cutting down on sugars, grain-based foods, and even high-carb fruit and vegetables. Despite arousing immense controversy, Dr Atkins' diet seems to have an impressive track record with tens of thousands of patients reporting weight loss and better health. Coincidentally, 1972 also saw the publication of Dr John Yudkin's blast against sugar, Pure, White and Deadly: The new facts about the sugar you eat as a cause of heart disease, diabetes and other killers in this completely revised and updated edition. Like Atkins, Yudkin was pooh-poohed and slandered by many who disliked his conclusions. From the 1970s to the present day, medical and government orthodoxy has held that fat - in the form of cholesterol - is the arch-demon of nutrition, and advocated increased consumption of "healthy whole grains". More recently Taubes filled in the picture in his brilliant survey of scientific developments in nutrition and diet, The Diet Delusion.
Although their messages have been frantically (and often viciously) resisted by the nutritional "establishment", pioneers like Atkins, Yudkin and Taubes made it clear that most people today (especially in the "West") eat far too much refined carbohydrate and not nearly enough protein, fat, and good old-fashioned vegetables. Nevertheless it seemed more a matter of degree than a point of principle: sure, we ought to eat fewer potato crisps, less white bread, sugar, cakes, puddings and so on. But surely "a little of what you fancy does you good"?
Dr Davis stamps heavily on such notions. Perhaps for the very first time, this book reaches everyone in our civilisation with the message that wheat itself is actually bad for you. Think of that: the staff of life, a word synonymous with food since the Old Testament, stigmatised as a poison! For many years we have noticed ripples of disquiet about wheat: more and more people diagnosed with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome... but most of us shrugged that off, sympathising with the unfortunate sufferers while blithely assuming that something as pleasant, familiar, and natural as bread couldn't possible hurt us "normal people". Turns out it ain't so. For a start, as Dr Davis convincingly demonstrates, today's "wheat" is NOT the wheat that the Babylonians, Egyptians, ancient Jews and Greeks, Romans, Saxons, Normans, and even our own grandparents ate. The "Green Revolution" of 1943 to the 1970s and later replaced traditional wheat with a stunted, bulging, super-productive dwarf variety (it has to have very short stems to support its massive payload of grain without crumpling). This was achieved by moving around a few genes, and everyone assumed there could be no harmful side effects. But in fact, the genetic changes triggered a shift in the range of proteins our wheat contains, with so far unknown effects on health. Moreover, wheat contains gluten (80% of its relatively small protein complement) which can cause a whole raft of hideous diseases - even in those who don't present with symptoms of celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Then there is the little matter of glycemic index (GI): two slices of "healthy" wholewheat bread raise blood sugar farther and faster than two tablespoonfuls of sugar. That's true of anything with wheat in it. Thus good ol' wheat turns out to be heavily implicated in the worldwide pandemic of obesity, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. Not even bothering to trample on the long-discredited belief that cholesterol causes obesity, heart disease, and cancer, Dr Davis demonstrates that wheat is a far more likely culprit in all of those conditions. Fans of the gifted and rigorous blogger Denise Minger will be pleased to see that Dr Davis reproduces four graphs from her blog, in which she shows that Dr T. Colin Campbell drew incorrect conclusions from his own data in China Study, The: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health.
Another problem with wheat is that it is literally compulsive. Due to exorphins (morphine-like substances similar to the endorphins the body itself produces in response to positive stimuli such as exercise), we are doomed to crave carbs on a two-hourly cycle - which is how long it takes for them to lift our blood sugar to the skies (thus causing insulin resistance) and then dump it in the cellar. Check it for yourself: have a nice feast of wheat-based products, then time how long it takes for you to be ravenously hungry again. Dr Davis claims that those who have kicked the wheat habit can fast, effortlessly, for anything from 18 to 72 hours. They eat because they need to, not because they are addicted to the rewards of wheat.
Obviously a book like this raises important questions of public policy. If wheat should be rejected as unhealthy, what are the world's billions to live on? We exceeded the population level that could be sustained without wheat decades ago. So does that mean the poor must accept obesity, diabetes, and a shorter lifespan as the inevitable price of survival? Even in relatively wealthy Western countries, a diet such as Dr Davis recommends will be far more expensive than most of us are used to. The author acknowledges such ethical questions, but does not attempt to tackle them. His task, to alert us to the harm that wheat can do, has been thoroughly accomplished. It is for others to pursue the implications.
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Showing 11-20 of 32 posts in this discussion
Posted on 14 Feb 2012 12:50:59 GMT
T. D. Welsh says:
Then again, having been a lifelong devotee of cakes, pastries, and puddings, maybe I am in denial - like a heavy smoker who insists that his habit is not harming him.
In reply to an earlier post on 14 Feb 2012 19:44:53 GMT
I will take your advice on board.
PS.In Tesco they have a non dairy "chocolate" coated rice cakes in the kosher section.They're really tasty and should be OK for you if you ever feel the urge again for something sweet.
In reply to an earlier post on 27 Apr 2012 15:09:26 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 Apr 2012 15:14:33 BDT
Elizabeth Barrett says:
I went wheat/gluten free ten years ago and instantly put an end to the IBS I had suffered with for 30 years BUT I also put on a stone in weight! If I had read this book earlier, I would have realized that replacing the wheat/gluten filled foods that I had been eating with Gluten Free, high starch substitutes was not going to make me healthy. Since cutting out these gluten free breads, pasta, cakes from my diet and eating a paleo based diet, I have lost the weight ( plus a little bit more! ) and feel fitter than I have ever been.
In reply to an earlier post on 27 Apr 2012 22:38:35 BDT
MR. A. Uddin says:
I am so glad to hear my people have made a recovery from their horrific symptoms, but when it comes to labeling what illness you suffer(ed), you would realize that "IBS" is a doctors code word for "I dont know whats wrong with you", its almost like you are trying to say if you have IBS, then you have to be intolerant or sensitive to wheat or gluten, which defeats why its called IBS in the first place, because many people have tried all sorts of elimination diets including wheat or gluten, with very little luck.
So if the gold old bread was the problem all along, then you never had IBS, because there is no such thing
In reply to an earlier post on 27 Apr 2012 23:09:42 BDT
There is "no such thing" as IBS? On what do you base this astounding statement?
In reply to an earlier post on 8 May 2012 22:44:27 BDT
Mr. J. E. Goldsbrough says:
It is true, but it is a red herring. The reason is because table sugar is half fructose. Fructose has little effect at all on blood sugar levels. If one compared bread to glucose/dextrose, the later would raise blood sugar faster.
In reply to an earlier post on 9 May 2012 16:25:38 BDT
I'm not sure what you are asserting is true, Mr Goldsbrough, but I have to take you to task for your assumptions about fructose. It is true that it doesn't impact as quickly on insulin production, causing fewer spikes, but recent research has shown that it may be up to some long-term shenanigans which were not first realised. Because the Americans eat far more HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) than the rest of the world, a lot of research has been done on its effects and there have been some sound studies that show it is potentially doing long-term damage to insulin sensitivity, posiibly leading to the body not being able to recognise insulin at all, which leads to obesity and Syndrome X problems.
The research for this is in Gary Taube's book/s. His more recent 'easy' version, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do about It gives you this in more (and better!) detail while remaining easy to grasp.
In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jun 2012 17:50:37 BDT
Wendy Elf says:
Wheat is wheat, organic or not - I would avoid it. I read Gary Taubes books and was shocked enough to to totally change my diet. Following a low GI diet has been an eye opener for me - I have seen my weight fall away, my energy increase etc etc.
If you eat wheat, stop. See the difference! It is awesome... : )
In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jun 2012 17:59:10 BDT
Last edited by the author on 1 Jun 2012 17:59:44 BDT
You only need to stop eating wheat if it disagrees with you. It is more likely to disagree with you if you eat too much of it. This triggers many people's problems. These problems will be compounded if you eat wheat in over-processed forms, such as white bread, or worse, cakes and biscuits. These are just nutritionally poor food and will give anyone problems if eaten in excess.
In reply to an earlier post on 23 Aug 2012 19:41:49 BDT
Mr. Spinalzo says:
Interestingly, my daughter has been diagnosed with fructose malabsorption- was tested for that, among other things, like wheat allergy, lactose intolerance, and celiac. Anyway, it's the fructose which causes her chronic IBS symptoms. So, what is the recommendation? Balance the fructose with more glucose. We would bake cakes using Dextrose instead of sugar, etc. The result? Weight gain for her and more compulsive eating. It might be coincidence since she has Asperger Syndrome, but I think not. So, away from the Dextrose and back to regular table sugar, but she might suffer. She suffers either way, as avoiding fructose is virtually impossible. So difficult. Will try to avoid wheat with her, but with kids, another difficult thing. Once you tell people to avoid something, they do it religiously, but then the good old deprivation feelings come, and many people then overcompensate and binge.