What do you think about that gluten free diet? According to William Davis, author of the best-seller “Wheat Belly,” wheat is evil.
Beware of crusaders who have simple answers to complex problems. Like cardiologist William Davis who purports that wheat is the bane of our existence. Obesity, diabetes and even mental problems, he maintains, are caused by wheat, basically because we have crossbred this grain over the centuries to produce a variety that is foreign to our body. The idea that obesity is caused by wheat is totally unsubstantiated. It is true that we consume too many carbohydrates of all kinds and these do contribute to obesity, probably beyond their caloric value. But many of Davis’ remarks are absurd. He talks about how wheat DNA has been mutated by exposure to sodium azide and then attempts to horrify people by pointing out that “the poison control people will tell you that if someone accidentally ingests sodium azide, you shouldn’t try to resuscitate the person because you could die, too, giving CPR. This is a highly toxic chemical.” The fact that sodium azide is a toxic chemical has nothing to do with its use in inducing mutations in genes. There is no azide in the product and inducing mutations to achieve beneficial traits is a standard technique used by agronomists.
Davis has a shtick and is looking to capitalize on data that he has twisted to his advantage. He uses a standard technique of such profiteers, bamboozling people with complex terms and cherry-picked data to insinuate that the corporate world is profiting by addicting the public to dangerous foods. It isn’t surprising, though, that there are testimonials galore about losing weight on a wheat-free diet. Davis’ scheme basically translates to a low carb, low calorie diet. No miracle here. Wheat Belly’s claim of having found the secret to weight loss, the secret that has evaded thousands of researchers with far more expertise than Davis, gives me a belly ache.
Now for something positive. While wheat is not the great devil responsible for a plethora of ailments, it is not completely innocent either. There is no doubt that patient suffering from celiac disease must stay away from gluten, a set of proteins found in wheat, barley and rye. But there is also mounting evidence for the existence of a condition being referred to as non-celiac gluten sensitivity in which various symptoms resolve when gluten is eliminated in spite of negative blood tests and negative biopsies for celiac disease. But at this point most of the evidence is anecdotal and you can hear about similar improvements in health from people who avoid artificial sweeteners, shun MSG, eat only raw foods, engage in “autourine therapy,” (don’t even ask) or walk barefoot. I kid you not, there are medical doctors who advocate barefoot walking because footwear has disconnected us from the earth’s energy. So I’m not too taken by people who say that they feel better after avoiding wheat. But I’m not ready to dismiss the notion either because some people really may have unrecognized gluten sensitivity. I doubt that it is widespread, but when people have symptoms that defy diagnosis, avoiding wheat may be an approach to try.
The following delve further into the issue and are well worth reading.