When I started to read Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, my first thought was that it didn't go far enough. The book's main message is to avoid wheat and we will be much healthier. Not only will we lose weight, but we will also be able to manage our diabetes much better.
But just wheat? Not all grains, which the paleo diet eliminates? Not starches, the enemy of low-carb?
When I began to follow a very low-carb diet after reading Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution by Dr. Richard K. Bernstein and Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, I eliminated almost all starch from my diet.
Almost all. Eventually, I did eliminate all wheat, but not until I had followed a very low-carb diet for several years.
That's a key difference. On a very low-carb diet you can, of course, eat a teeny weeny bit of wheat. For example, when my natural foods store would offer samples of guacamole, until this year I would use a cracker as a carrier.
Wheat Belly is about eliminating all wheat from our diet, whether it is the supposedly good whole grains or the more commonly suspect bread and bagels. But once Dr. Davis establishes how wheat is a poison, he does recommend a very low-carb diet.
We have three excellent reasons for avoiding all wheat:
1. Dr. Davis, a preventative cardiologist who practices in Milwaukee, builds on the glycemic index. He correctly points out that wheat -- whether refined or whole grain -- has one of the highest glycemic indexes of any foods. The higher the GI the greater and faster a food will raise our blood glucose level. In fact, among the foods we commonly eat, only baked potatoes have a significantly higher level.
2. He shows that wheat can be addicting. Earlier, I made the same point in my article, "Wheat and Other Grains Can Be Addicting to People with Diabetes."
3. Far from wheat's reputed role as the "staff of life," the wheat on the shelves of our supermarkets is not the same grain that our grandparents ate. In the past half century our scientists have genetically modified the wheat we eat to greatly increase its yield and make it more resistant to fungus and drought.
That's what Norman Borlaug's fabled "Green Revolution" (which my former boss Bill Gaud named) was all about, without which world-wide starvation would have been much worse. But we now know that every time we mess with nature we get some unwanted side effects. In this case we happened to modify the glutens in wheat to the extent that our genes don't like them.
We all probably know someone who is gluten intolerant or has the even more severe celiac disease from consuming gluten. One of my own nieces suffered from celiac disease for many years until a doctor was able to diagnose it and help help her to entirely remove wheat from her diet. The sources of gluten are wheat and related species of grain including rye and barley.
But most of us probably don't know how common gluten intolerance (or gluten sensitivity) and celiac disease are. Two million Americans have celiac disease alone, but less than one-tenth of them know it, Dr. Davis writes. Others believe that these diseases affect 15 percent of us.
Wheat Belly came out in September in hard cover with 292 pages at a cost of $25.99. The publisher is Rodale Books.
This book is easy to read because Dr. Davis has an excellent writing style as well as a great passion for his subject. At the same time he backs up his assertions by citing scientific studies in the professional literature.
To investigate the claims that Dr. Davis makes in Wheat Belly you don't have to buy this book or even check it out of your local library, as I did. It's easy to test what he proposes:
Just cut out all wheat products from you diet for 30 days — all wheat and all gluten from wheat, rye, and barley. That means no bread, no bagels, no pizza, no pasta, no cereal as well as the million other products in our supermarkets, where a diligent study of the nutrition labels will inform your quest.
In place of these grains you can eat more meat, vegetables, fats like olive and coconut oil, and nuts. If after 30 days you don't feel remarkably better both mental and physically, have better blood glucose readings, and fewer pounds, feel free to sue us. But I'm sure that you will thank us instead.