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The Wheat Belly Diet: A Relatively Independent Perspective

America: For Amber Waves of Grain?

America: For Amber Waves of Grain? Photo by: -Marcus- at

First, my best wishes go out to all who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy.  May we all take the results in stride and take solace in the friends and family we have.

With the development of a hyper-connected culture (internet, Twitter, FB, etc.), new ideas can spread like wildfire.  Last week I learned about two of these ideas: Gangam style and the Wheat Belly Diet, both of which landed over the summer.  Amazing how even a couple months lag time really puts someone “behind the eight ball.”  So, of course I started to catch myself up.  Lots of amusing Gangam style parodies and wow, quite the firestorm of information regarding Wheat Belly.

While I will be the first to admit I haven’t read the book, I feel that the sheer strength of response to any remotely negative views on the diet shows there is a staunch, loyal following, similar to that of Atkins in the 1970’s and 1990’s.  Check out these sites for some lively, not necessarily science-based discussions on the topic:

My views on wheat and gluten-free diets were previously discussed hereIf you are at all considering this diet, please read this well-researched review of the statements in Dr. Davis’ book.

From reading the reviews of the book and the advertising behind it, it appears that the current state of wheat (GMO, processed, etc.) is being depicted as the worst thing you can put in your mouth.  Not sure if someone’s done a randomized control trial comparing wheat to cigarettes or alcohol, but maybe one day.  In all seriousness, do you think there should be a wheat-aholics anonymous?

I agree that most foods in their current, GMO, processed forms are a pale shade of what they used to be.  We are indeed living in a different world than the 1970’s.  But we’ve been eating and living with wheat for centuries, dare I say millennia, without ill effects (obesity has really only been an issue in the past few decades, per those CDC graphs).  One thing that has changed in the past few decades is the amount of wheat (particularly heavily processed, GMO wheat) and other processed foods we eat.  Breakfast pastries and “energy bars” did not really exist 40 years ago.  So our bodies have adapted to our new food environment, in less than ideal ways.

So some people choose to get out of this poor food environment cold turkey.  And that’s what Wheat Belly proposes.  Just stop.  Some people can manage to do that and that’s fantastic.  I’ll always support cutting out processed foods and eating more fruits and veggies.  And frankly, if you cut out (or greatly restrict) one huge aspect of your diet, odds are you will lose weight.  But there’s a big issue that comes with restriction: sustainability.

For decades research has shown that the more we restrict our eating habits, the less likely we are to stick with any positive eating changes we make.  I just want to make sure you’re able to sustain any changes you make for the long haul.  And by long haul I don’t mean 3, 6 or 12 months.  I mean the rest of your life.  While it’s great to hear that people have changed their lives around over the past couple of months since reading this book, I fear that in three years from now this book will become another “fad” diet.

So what’s the best solution?  Well that depends.  I’m a proponent of the belief that our bodies really do best with a variety of whole-foods including fruits, veggies, healthy fats, lean proteins and whole grains.  Not processed, crappy grains, whole grains.  And honestly, wheat falls under the whole-grain category.  Ideally organic, naturally grown, non-GMO wheat.  In moderate quantities (i.e. not wheat at every meal).   We can die from too much water.  But that doesn’t mean we should stop drinking water.

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