Wheat Belly. Book Review

I found the New York Times Bestseller book Wheat Belly, by cardiologist Dr. William Davis to be a fascinating and, at times, frightening book.  He opens with a discussion about how housewives of his mother’s generation were always so slim, despite baking all kinds of goodies, and never donning a pair of sneakers. And yet today we have tri-atheletes who burn an extraordinary amount of calories every day, eat a healthy balanced diet and are still overweight! How can that be? Genetically modified wheat, Dr. Davis says, is the culprit, and his discussion of polyploidy genetics and historical anthropology shows the many differences between today’s wheat and that of the first agrarians. Buy it on Amazon!

Since the 1980’s we have been pushed to “eat more whole grains” as part of a healthy diet. But Dr. Davis says this is the wrong message to send. Especially when wheat has a higher glycemic index than sugar, why are Americans eating wheat with every meal and in between? While I had never really thought about wheat as being the culprit behind the “fattening of America”, it now makes perfect sense to me. Dr. Davis’s motto is “lose the wheat, lose the weight.”

There is a great deal of discussion about weight, obesity and especially the visceral fat that accumulates in the abdominal region, which presents more health complications than fat accumulation in any other part of the body. But even though the title of the book is Wheat Belly, Dr. Davis does point out that wheat effects more than just weight, and he presents a litany of health complications, each with their own chapter. From the addictive properties of wheat, to celiac disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, accelerated aging, heart disease, skin conditions, and brain disorders. As Dr. Davis says “ Gluten mediated reactions have been documented to affect every organ in the human body, sparing none. Eyes, brain, sinuses, lungs, bones… you name it, gluten antibodies have been there.” This is when the book starts to become frightening.

There are some moments when the writing borders on the sensationalistic. For instance when he states that simply by removing wheat from the diet: “Diabetics can become nondiabetics, prediabetics can become nonprediabetics,” seems a little too good to be true. Certainly removing wheat from the diet can stem the chances of developing the disease in the first place, but it doesn’t seem likely that we can turn back time, at least once diabetes has developed. There have also been some concerns raised by blogger Peter Bronksi, who has celiac disease.  He posits that Dr. Davis misinterpreted some of the studies that he cites, in order to make the science meet his theory. You can read Bronski’s criticisms here.  I would think that Dr. Davis wouldn’t have to bend the data, and my hope is that this was just a misquote or an oversight.

At the end of the book, Dr. Davis gives you tips and even some recipes, on how to transition to a wheat-free diet. He is sure to mention that the best way to replace lost wheat calories is with real food, e.g. “not highly processed, herbicided, genetically modified, ready-to-eat, high-fructose corn syrup filled, just add water, food products…” This is a very important statement, and Dr. Davis goes on to show you how to do this with a discussion of what ingredients you can eat, some meal planning advice and even some recipes.

Sprinkled with light humor and heavy with allusions to Americana, lest you think Dr. Davis unpatriotic in his quest to rid the American diet of those amber waves of grain, this book is a captivating read, and one that will make you think twice before you reach for your next slice of toast (whole wheat or not). Even if you don’t already have a known gluten intolerance.

Buy it on Amazon! (This is an affiliate link. If you purchase this item on Amazon via this link, a small percentage of proceeds goes back to support Stuffed Pepper’s work).

2 thoughts on “Wheat Belly. Book Review

  1. [delicious alternatives]

    The Wheat Belly written by Dr. William Davis is an amazing look into what wheat has done to the health of our citizens in the past 50 years.

    As he states in his book, “Wheat Belly explores the proposition that the health problems of Americans, from fatigue to arthritis to gastrointestinal distress to obesity, originate with the innocent looking bran muffin or cinnamon raisin bagel that you down with your coffee every morning.”

    Just think about how much wheat is in our food. Think about going to the grocery store and of all the aisles that contain wheat products. The bread aisle; white bread, whole wheat, multi grain, seven grain, rye, pumpernickel, sourdough, French bread, baguettes, bagels, flax bread, pitas, dinner rolls, hamburger buns, hot dog buns and don’t forget the artisan bread. The bakery department with cakes, cookies and pies. The snack aisle with pretzels and crackers, followed by the baking aisle with bread crumbs, croutons, and flours. The dairy case has crescent rolls, cookies and frozen pies. Breakfast cereals, pastas and frozen foods, all contain wheat. Apart from the soap and detergent aisles and fresh produce wheat it in every product.

    Bread dates back to before Christ and it always seems that to break bread with someone is a special event.

    During the 19th and 20th centuries wheat changed little. Then in the latter part of the 20th century what we called wheat changed. The wheat we grow today is so different from what was grown a century ago that we should be calling it by a different name.

    The demand for a higher yield, decreased production costs and a longer shelf life was instrumental in the genetically changed wheat. But are we now paying for our mistakes?

    Celiac disease in on the rise and one in 133 people are Celiac. Many others have an intolerance to wheat and gluten. Many people have no symptoms, but that does not mean their bodies are okay with consuming wheat. Look at the rise in cancer and diabetes. All this can be linked back to the time that we changed the type of wheat we are growing.

    What really got me was Dr. Davis’s statement that, “ Did you know that eating two slices of whole wheat bread can increase blood sugar more than 2 tablespoons of pure sugar can? How can this be possible? We have grown up in the past 10 years of hearing eat more whole grains, it will do your heart good. Well maybe not. This cardiovascular doctor says that wheat is the cause of my illnesses including heart disease.

    So what are we doing to our bodies?

    A Neolithic breakfast would have been a meal of fish, game meat or some berries or insects.

    Today we start our day off with a carb and end it with a carb. Boxed cereal, which contains mostly cane sugar and processed wheat flour, muffins, biscuits, toast, oats, croissant, bagels, pancakes or a breakfast bar.

    We then have a sandwich at lunchtime, or a bowl of soup and crackers, maybe even a doughnut at mid morning break. Dinner might consist of pasta or frozen dinner which will contain wheat. We don’t exercise enough and we wonder why diabetes and obesity is on the rise?

    Foods that increase blood sugar also cause diabetes. Carbohydrates trigger insulin release from our pancreas causing visceral fat, which then causes insulin resistance and inflammation. Look at the common illnesses of our world, most are based on inflammation. Diabetics are told to cut fat, reduce saturated fat and include healthy whole grains, beans and legumes in each meal. Yikes what are they thinking, all these foods turn into sugar in the body.

    Perhaps if we say goodbye to wheat, we might even say goodbye to diabetes and many other health related illnesses.

    If you want a good informative read with a bit of humour thrown in, read the Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, be informed about what you are putting into your body.

  2. [8 week nutrition]

    As a nutritionist and sports nutritionist, i was fascinated by the content of the book. I have seen many of the symptoms referred to in the book in myself and in clients. I particularly liked how there is a medical twist to the book so I can refer to those explanations when talking with my clients.

    If anyone has any questions about why they should avoid wheat, this is a perfect book to read! I learned a few things I did not know were related to wheat – hair loss, elevated cholesterol and sleep issues.

    What shocks me the most is that the medical profession knows nothing about this and continues to advocate whole grains. It doesn’t matter if it is whole wheat or not, wheat is just a terrible thing to include in most people’s diets, and this book proves in many ways why we should avoid it!

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