In his book ‘Wheat Belly,’ which has sold over a million copies worldwide, preventative cardiologist, William Davis, M.D., “exposes the truth about modern-day wheat, deconstructing its historical role in the human diet. No longer the sturdy staple our forebears ground into their daily bread, today’s wheat has been genetically altered to provide processed-food manufacturers the greatest yield at the lowest cost; consequently, this once-benign grain has been transformed into a nutritionally bankrupt yet ubiquitous ingredient that causes blood sugar to spike more rapidly than eating pure table sugar and has addictive properties that send us on a roller coaster of hunger, overeating and fatigue.” Here are a few excerpts from his book:
These irksome facts have not been lost on agricultural and food scientists, who have been trying, via genetic manipulation, to increase the content of so-called resistant starch, (starch that does not get fully digested) and reduce the amount of amylopectin. Amylose is the most common resistant starch, comprising as much as 40 to 70 percent by weight in some purposefully hybridized varieties of wheat.
Therefore, wheat products elevate blood sugar levels more than virtually every other carbohydrate, from beans to candy bars. This has important implications for body weight, since glucose is unavoidably accompanied by insulin, the hormone that allows entry of glucose into the cells of the body, converting the glucose to fat. The higher the blood glucose after consumption of food, the greater the insulin level, the more fat is deposited. This is why, say, eating a three-egg omelet that triggers no increase in glucose does not add to body fat, while two slices of whole wheat bread increases blood glucose to high levels, triggering insulin and growth of fat, particularly abdominal or deep visceral fat.
There’s even more to wheat’s curious glucose behaviour. The amylopectin-A – induced surge in glucose and insulin following wheat consumption is a 120-minute long phenomenon that produces the “high” at the glucose peak, followed by the “low” of the inevitable glucose drop. The surge and drop creates a two-hour roller coaster ride of satiety and hunger that repeats itself throughout the day. The glucose “low” is responsible for stomach growling at 9 a.m., just two hours after a bowl of wheat cereal or an English muffin breakfast, followed by 11 a.m. prelunch cravings, as well as the mental fog, fatigue and shakiness of the hypoglycemic glucose nadir.
Trigger high blood sugars repeatedly and/or over sustained periods, and more fat accumulation results. The consequences of glucose-insulin-fat deposition are especially visible in the abdomen – resulting in, yes, wheat belly. The bigger your wheat belly, the poorer your response to insulin, since the deep visceral fat of the wheat belly is associated with poor responsiveness, or “resistance,” to insulin, demanding higher and higher insulin levels, a situation that cultivates diabetes. Moreover, the bigger the wheat belly in males, the more estrogen is produced by fat tissue, and the larger the breasts. The bigger your wheat belly, the more inflammatory responses that are triggered: heart disease and cancer. pg 35-36
“Advice to consume more healthy whole grains therefore causes increased consumption of the amylopectin A form of of wheat carbohydrate that, for all practical purposes, is little different, and in some ways worse, than dipping your spoon into the sugar bowl.” pg 37
In Part Two of his book, ‘Wheat and its Head-to-Toe Destruction of Health’ Dr. Davis says:
Addiction. Withdrawal. Delusions. Hallucinations. I’m not describing mental illness or a scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I’m talking about this food you invite into your kitchen, share with friends, and dunk in your coffee.
I will explain why wheat is unique among foods for its curious effects on the brain, effects shared with opiate drugs. It explains why some people experience incredible difficulty removing wheat from their diet. It’s not just a matter of inadequate resolve, inconvenience, or breaking well-worn habits; it’s about devouring a relationship with something that gains hold of your psych and emotions, not unlike the hold heroin has over the desperate addict. pg 43
People who eliminate wheat from their diet typically report improved mood, fewer mood swings, improved ability to concentrate, and deeper sleep within just days to weeks of their last bite of bagel or baked lasagna. These sorts of “soft” subjective experiences on our brains, however, are tough to quantify. They are also subject to the placebo effect – i.e., people just think they’re feeling better. I am, however, impressed with how consistent these observations are, experienced by the majority of people once the initial withdrawal effects of mental fog and fatigue subside. I’ve personally experienced these effects and also witnessed them in thousands of people. pg 44
Wheat is the Haight-Ashbury of foods, unparalleled for its potential to generate entirely unique effects on the brain and nervous system. There is no doubt: For some people, wheat is addictive. And, in some people, it is addictive to the point of obsession.
Some people with wheat addiction just know they have a wheat addiction. Or perhaps they identify it as an addiction to some wheat-containing food, such as pasta or pizza. They already understand, even before I tell them, that their wheat-food-addiction-of-choice provides a little “high.” I still get shivers when a well-dressed, suburban soccer mom desperately confesses to me, “Bread is my crack. I just can’t give it up!”
Wheat can dictate food choice, calorie consumption, timing of meals and snacks. It can influence behavior and mood. It can even come to dominate thoughts. A number of my patients, when presented with the suggestion of removing it from their diets, report obsessing over wheat products to the point of thinking about them, talking about them, salivating over them constantly for weeks. “I can’t stop thinking about bread. I dream about bread!” they tell me, leading some to succumb to a wheat-consuming frenzy and give up within days after starting.
There is, of course, a flip side to addiction. When people divorce themselves from wheat-containing products, 30 percent experience something that can only be called withdrawal.
I’ve personally witnessed hundreds of people report fatigue, mental fog, irritability, inability to function at work or school, even depression in the first several days to weeks after eliminating wheat. Complete relief is achieved by a bagel or cupcake (or, sadly, more like four bagels, two cupcakes, a bag of pretzels, two muffins, and a handful of brownies, followed by a nasty case of wheat remorse). It’s a vicious circle: Abstain from a substance and a distinctly unpleasant experience ceases – that sounds a lot like addiction and withdraw to me. pg 44-45