Whole Grains May be Bad for Health
Arthritis is no small matter.
One in seven Americans, or 47 million people, have been diagnosed by their doctors with the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, the familiar form of arthritis that leaves the knees, hips, and other joints painful.
What starts as mild joint pain and stiffness, progresses to more and more pain and stiffness, eventually leaving the sufferer with incapacitating bone-on-bone pain that prevents even the most minor activity. Beyond the 47 million formally diagnosed, there are probably many more Americans who remain undiagnosed, just grinning and bearing it on their own, swallowing aspirin or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, hoping it eventually gets better.
It's a problem of growing importance as the U.S. population ages. While arthritis is uncommon in a 25-year old or a 35-year old, it is painfully common at age 60 or 70.
Common wisdom is that osteoarthritis is a form of "wear and tear." Like putting miles on your car's tires, the joints are prone to wear out with years of walking, jogging, or just supporting weight.
Well, if osteoarthritis was just a matter of wear and tear, why do some people get it, while others are spared even at age, say, 85?
Let me throw an unexpected source of what I believe to be major contributors to arthritis in potentially millions of people: your whole wheat bagel, whole grain cereal, or veggie wrap. It's the wheat.
Let me show you why:
Wheat causes glycation-High levels of blood glucose (sugar) trigger the process of glycation. Glycation is glucose-modification of proteins in the body that occurs when blood glucose exceeds 100 mg/dl. (Yes: Glycation starts to occur with what is commonly regarded as "normal" blood sugar.)
The cartilage cells in joints are especially susceptible to glycation. This is because the cartilage cells you had at age 18 are the very same cartilage cells you still have at age 60, since they are unable to reproduce and repair themselves. When proteins in cartilage undergo glycation, it makes them stiff and brittle. Stiff, brittle cartilage is unable to lubricate. Like running your car engine without oil, stiff and brittle cartilage leads to joint damage and wear. Joint destruction develops over the years, followed by inflammation and, eventually, bone-on-bone arthritis.
Wheat, even whole wheat, sends blood sugar higher than almost all other foods. It makes no difference if it's from table sugar to Snickers bars, wheat products increase blood sugar higher. Glycation occurs after each and every slice of toast, every slice of pizza, every pita wrap.
Wheat is acidifying--Humans are meant to consume a diet that is net alkaline, i.e., weighted towards non-acidic foods. Vegetables and fruits provide the bulk of alkaline foods in the human diet and thereby generate an alkaline (urine pH 7 to 9). In contrast, modern humans who consume inadequate quantities of vegetables and too much grain (of which more than 90% is usually wheat) shift the body towards net acid (urine pH 5 to 7). When the body encounters an acid challenge, it must neutralize it. It does so by drawing from the acid-neutralizing, alkaline calcium compounds from bone. When it happens over and over again, bone and joint health is affected.
Wheat causes accumulation of visceral fat--The extravagant glucose-insulin surges triggered by wheat leads to accumulation of visceral fat, fat buried within the abdomen, the worst form of all.
Visceral fat not only releases inflammatory mediators like leptin, tumor necrosis factor, and various interleukins into the bloodstream, but is also itself inflamed. The inflammatory hotbed of the wheat belly leads to inflammation of joint tissues.
This is why overweight and obese wheat-consuming people have more arthritis than would be explained by the burden of excess weight: inflammation makes it worse. Conversely, weight loss leads to greater relief from arthritis pain and inflammation than would be explained by just lightening the physical load.
"Healthy whole grains" therefore, I believe, take you several hobbling steps closer to bone-on-bone knee arthritis, prescription drugs, a cane or walker, and surgery to insert a prosthetic hip or knee.
Or, you could eliminate your exposure to the wheat-containing foods that our USDA and the food industry all encourage us to eat.