The Last Word on Gluten?

by Eric on December 6, 2011

So you don’t have Celiac Disease. No reason to avoid wheat then right? Wrong…. Or at least that’s what William Davis MD author of “Wheat Belly” says. You may remember from my last post, that it’s been established that wheat of today is not the same wheat of even 50 years ago. But even with the changes, why would we want to avoid Gluten/wheat if we are not diagnosed with the disease?

Doctor Davis’s main point has been to establish wheat as the main culprit in adding visceral fat due to its insulin spiking ability. To follow this post I need to give you a little basic background in how our bodies process sugars:

The role of the pancreas in managing blood sugar is a topic big enough for more than one blog post, but for the sake of this article, what you need to know is that the more you spike your blood sugar, the more your body reacts by releasing insulin that leads to storing fat. The more you do this, the more your body becomes more insulin resistant, leading on a path to Type 2 Diabetes. If you’re active right after meals, you may be able to avoid the spike, but If you don’t utilize the energy, the “spiking” occurs, and it gets stored often as visceral belly fat!

All carbohydrates don’t affect blood sugar the same. Eating wheat based bread has been shown to have a greater glycemic effect than eating table sugar. Compared gram for gram, whole grain bread is rated at a GI of 72, while table sugar has a GI of 59. The author isn’t advocating you go out and eat table sugar instead, but to understand that, from a blood sugar/insulin response viewpoint, it IS worse.

The reason why is because Wheat’s complex carbohydrate structure is made up mainly of Amylopectin A. Amylopectin “A” is the easiest and quickest to digest and convert to sugar (therefore spiking blood sugar the easiest with subsequent insulin response). Amylopectin “B” is found in bananas and potatoes, and Amylopectin “C” found in many beans. Amylopectin “B” and “C” resist digestion earlier in the digestive process, resulting in less of a spike in your blood sugar.

Most of us are smart to slow digestion of the sugars of Amylopectin “A” by eating bread in a sandwich format (with the meat, cheese, and other higher protein and fiber foods “mixing” with the foods to slow digestion).
This is a viable strategy, but without the right balance of proteins and fiber, you will most likely get a faster sugar uptake by eating wheat based foods than other choices.

It has also been shown to indirectly increase appetite!

In some people (not just people with Celiac disease), Polypeptides from wheat show the peculiar ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and bind to opiate receptors. Because of this ability they named them “Exorphins”. The binding to the opiate receptor creates a mild euphoria that comes from eating wheat products. Let me be clear, this is not a normal function of your food. The blood brain barrier is there to prevent things like this from happening.

Have you experienced this yourself?: You buy a fresh loaf of bread, and then sit down and eat the whole loaf! Literally, for some of us, bread is our Crack! It has been shown that Opiate-blocking drugs such as naloxone and naltrexone can nullify this effect.

Dr. Davis says:
“When administered to normal people or people with uncontrollable appetite, opiate-blocking drugs yield reductions in appetite, cravings, and calorie intake, as well as dampen mood, and the effect seems particularly specific to wheat containing products.”
If wheat products can cause an opiate “high”, it is effectively an appetite stimulant, enabling us to eat more calories from wheat to feel better.

So these are some of the biggest points the book makes. There are other less desirable components of wheat also covered, but for the sake of time, I have summarized major points in the book related to weight loss and general health. If you desire to see where he cites his sources, I encourage you to go ahead and download his book on kindle or pick up a copy at your local book store.

So what are my thoughts? I learned that the typical American consumes 75% of his or her carbohydrates from wheat based products, so this would a difficult thing to eliminate altogether. So I do not think I will aim to be gluten free for the rest of my life. I don’t have Celiac disease (as far as I know), but reading about this has been enlightening. As with anything, you have to decide the validity of what is being said. I appreciated Dr. William Davis’s take on things though because he honestly doesn’t make absurd unrealistic claims or talk down to you. Most of what he says does make sense to me. I don’t endorse a gluten free diet as of yet, but “Gluten Free” is now a buzzword just like “low fat” that people are just starting to see everywhere advertised on their foods. Remember, even gluten free foods can be unhealthy, just like “low fat” foods often are unhealthy high calorie foods as well. I hope this blog can be a start for some people to judge for themselves the possible risk in eating a high grain/high gluten diet.

-Eric

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