No, this isn't some come-on for a new weight loss program. But, it is a tale of weight loss that developed easily, immediately, and effortlessly.
Stephen had been told by his primary care physician that he needed to take a cholesterol-reducing drug for an LDL cholesterol of 212 mg/dl. Stephen didn't like that idea. He asked his doctor, "What else can I do? I really don't want to take any drugs if I can avoid it."
"Well, you can try and cut the fat in your diet. Saturated fat increases LDL cholesterol, so cutting out the butter, red meats, and eggs might help a bit. But I really doubt it will be enough to get 212 down to a reasonable number."
So, Stephen came to my office. At age 38, he stands 6 ft 3 inches, 200 lbs. Because of his height, Stephen does not appear overweight. He has the face, arms, shoulders, neck, and legs of a tall, slender man. But his abdomen was modestly protuberant, out of proportion to the rest of his body. This suggests that Stephen has central, or visceral, fat - what I call "wheat belly."
Indeed, Stephen admitted to including wheat in its many forms every day in his eating habits: bagels for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, pasta for dinner, pretzels and crackers for snacks. As a construction worker, Stephen found wheat foods to be convenient, as he could pack them in his lunch box on the job.
Next step: Lipoprotein analysis, not lipid analysis (i.e., not a standard cholesterol panel). Lipoprotein analysis is the test that uncovers small, dense LDL particles, the sort that are most likely to cause heart disease and the sort triggered by carbohydrates like wheat.
Stephen's lipoprotein analysis showed that his true measured LDL cholesterol was actually higher: 243 mg/dl. But it consisted of 76% small LDL particles, the variety triggered by carbohydrates like wheat.
So I advised Stephen to eliminate all wheat products from his diet-no breads, bagels, muffins, pasta, breakfast cereals, crackers, pretzels. I also cautioned him to avoid the booby trap of gluten-free foods. Gluten-free foods are for people with celiac disease who must avoid wheat gluten because of abnormal immune sensitivity. But gluten-free foods are flagrant triggers, like wheat, of small LDL, blood sugar, and diabetes.
Stephen did just that: He eliminated wheat products, while avoiding gluten-free processed foods.
After 2 weeks, Stephen returned to my office. I asked him how he was. "Great. I've lost 14 lbs in 14 days!" In just two weeks, Stephen's protuberant tummy was virtually gone, suggesting that visceral fat has been reduced.
Critics of low-carbohydrate diets often say that weight loss is often due just to water loss. While wheat elimination does indeed trigger an initial diuresis, or water loss, the majority of weight loss, particularly the visible loss of abdominal fat, is just that: loss of abdominal fat. While millions of people sweat their way through sit-ups, abdominal crunches, and hard workouts, all to shrink tummy fat, wheat elimination can provide an exceptionally easy, rapid means to do this. While not everyone will lose abdominal weight at a rate of a pound a day like Stephen, it is not at all unusual.