Should We Eat Wheat?

sliced wheat bread displayed with wheat

Wheat has come under fire recently. The rise in gluten-free dieting has left many questioning its nutritional value. One-third of American consumers are trying to eliminate gluten, and subsequently wheat, in the hopes of losing weight.

But the U.S. Department of Agriculture advises adults to eat between 3 and 5 servings of whole grains a day, and 6 to 11 servings for children.

Is wheat unhealthy?

It is hard to talk about wheat without mentioning its relationship to gluten. Walk into your local grocery store and the popularity of gluten-free products is astounding. Even foods that would never contain gluten are being stamped with the famous “GF” mark. We recently discussed “the gluten myth” on D2D and can confirm: gluten is not the enemy. Many non-celiac afflicted people choosing to maintain a GF diet do find they experience sudden weight loss, however, this is from the elimination of an entire food group and sudden change in eating habits. This is not gluten weighing you down. And whole grains are an important part of a balanced diet.

Modern wheat production

Some researchers have taken issue with modern wheat because it has changed from its original form. In order to keep up with a rapidly growing population, wheat farming has adapted. As such, mass-farming has manipulated the wheat we consume today relative to the wheat that our ancestors consumed.

The creator of modern wheat, Norman Borlaug, a biologist from Iowa, won both the Nobel Peace Prize and the World Food Prize for his positive contribution to farming.

Norman Ernest Borlaug, photographed in Mexico for LIFE Magazine in November 1970 (Flickr)

Borlaug was able to roughly double wheat production per acre. Instead of long grain stalks, wheat farmers are now producing higher yielding crops, which are smaller in size—18 inches in height compared to the traditional 4-foot tall wheat plant. These crops are smaller in size due to the weight of excess grain now created per stalk. If they maintained their original height, the stalks would not be able to support themselves. While these crops produce more wheat to feed the growing population, it is argued that these crops are less nutritious.

What is Wheat Belly?

One anti-wheat proponent, who lobbies for all humans to eliminate wheat from their diet is Dr. William Davis MD, author of Wheat Belly. According to Dr. Davis, we are victims of “Frankenwheat”, which he considers addictive and toxic. Davis asserts that today’s wheat contains a protein called gliadin that, Davis argues, “has the potential to bind to the opiate receptors of the human brain—like heroin or morphine—except it has a different effect of course. Wheat doesn’t provide relief from pain, it doesn’t provide a euphoria, it only stimulates appetite, so that people who consume modern wheat are triggered to consume 440 calories more per day.” (Davis, Wheat Belly).

Davis believes that consuming gliadin tells your body it wants more carbohydrates and as a response, you end up overeating. These excess carbs eventually are stored as fat. Dr. Davis believes if you eliminate modern wheat from your diet you will see a noticeable change in your hunger levels, lose weight, and benefit from positive health changes like decreased blood pressure, low blood-sugar levels, and less joint pain.

Gliadins are not the cause of overeating

How much of this argument should we hold true? According the article “Does Wheat Make Us Sick and Fat?” published by the Journal of Cereal Science, Davis’ understanding of gliadins is misleading as gliadins are present in all forms of wheat, including ancient grains. In some cases, “modern wheat” actually contains less gliadin than the grain of our ancestors. The article reports, “there is no evidence that selective breeding has resulted in detrimental effects on the nutritional properties or health benefits of the wheat grain” (Shewry et al., 2011).

Gliadins are not the cause of addictive eating behaviors

As for Davis’ theory regarding wheat opioids and their effect on the human brain, the Journal of Cereal Science also discredits this claim. According to a 2008 study, although gliadin is known to release a peptide called gliadorphin, which can induce an opiate-like effect, the compound’s composition of 7 amino acids actually cannot be absorbed into the intestine. Because of this, gliadin is not present in its original form in the circulatory system and therefore the opiate effects of gliadorphin do not affect the central nervous system. The evidence of this study undermines the Wheat Belly argument concerning gliadin. Therefore, Davis’ claims cannot be substantiated given today’s scientific understanding of wheat.

A pro-wheat organization that has examined the science behind grains is American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC). Their journal Cereal Foods World is responsible for bringing current industry information regarding grain science and technology to light. Cereal Foods World does not believe that modern wheat is a so-called “super carbohydrate.” In a report written by researchers at CFW, the process of crop cultivation and modernization is examined. To quote their findings,

Modern cultivated food plants are the product of thousands of years of plant breeding, and wheat is no exception. Breeding programs have enabled a number of positive outcomes in terms of plant yield, food quality, and nutritional value. It is interesting to note that wheat varieties carried to the New World by colonists did very poorly because the varieties were not suited to the new climatic conditions…Despite the implication in the book, these varieties were produced using traditional plant breeding techniques. Currently, there are no commercially available, genetically modified wheat varieties sold. (Brouns, 2013)

So why do “wheat-eliminators” lose weight and subsequently feel better?

Again, the answer is the drastic change in diet. When you eliminate an entire food group from your diet—especially one that you consumed frequently—your system is shocked and responds rapidly. Especially if the wheat you were consuming before making this switch was an indulgence, like pasta, bagels, or even pretzels. You aren’t eliminating gliadin, you are eliminating junk food!

Wheat and brain diseases?

Another anti-wheat assertion is that wheat consumption is a contributing factor in long term brain diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. David Perlmutter, MD is the author of the national bestseller, Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar. Perlmutter argues that the modern human diet has steered off course, relying heavily on carbs, whereas our ancestors’ diet was mostly fat and protein-based.

Grain Brain believes this dietary shift is the reason for increased inflammation in the body. “Researchers have known for some time now that the cornerstone of all degenerative conditions, including brain disorders, is inflammation. But what they haven’t documented until now are the instigators of that inflammation— the first missteps that prompt this deadly reaction. And what they are finding is that gluten, and a high-carbohydrate diet for that matter, are among the most prominent stimulators of inflammatory pathways that reach the brain.” (Perlmutter, Grain Brain)

One of the biggest issues Dr. Perlmutter and Dr. Davis have with processed grain is its ability to spike your blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar increases your body creates more insulin—and while insulin helps keep the glucose level of your cells healthy, too much insulin will cause your cells to desensitize. Davis and Perlmutter, MD believe that this leads to inflammation and inevitably may contribute to Alzheimer’s. However, data that shows a very weak link between blood and glucose levels and a risk for developing Alzheimer’s. This conclusion is considered to be a far stretch with current evidence.

In order to consider the harmful effects of inflammation, we must examine inflammation and its relationship with your body’s insulin and blood sugar levels.

Both Grain Brain and Wheat Belly discuss the effect whole grain can have on your blood sugar by highlighting the fact that two pieces of whole wheat bread actually raise blood sugar levels more than a Snickers candy bar. So, why is this?

Processed grains, like whole grain or white bread, cause blood sugar levels to rise, but you should not be scared away from wheat by the glycemic value and its likening to a chocolate bar. The nutrients of the two foods are very different and you cannot draw a conclusion on one being unhealthy because of its similarity to the other.

Do you really believe that a snicker’s bar is healthier than a serving of whole wheat bread? As delightful as it tastes, a Snickers has 250 calories, 12g of fat, and 27 grams of sugar with little nutritional components. Two slices of whole wheat bread also have 250 calories but only 5 g of fat and include protein and fiber as nutrition. You also need to consider how much whole wheat is in the bread in question. For a serving of bread with a Glycemic Index of 71, the bread in question is processed whole wheat or white bread—but these are not your only options. 100% stone ground wheat is a low Glycemic Index food, for example, Ezekiel 4:9 bread has a GI value of 35. Additionally, you are typically eating the serving of bread with a protein, such a turkey or peanut butter, which can also slow your spike in blood sugar.

When discussing the glycemic index, you must also consider wheat’s glycemic load. The glycemic load relative amount of carbohydrate the food contains in an average serving. By taking each gram of carbohydrate into account, you are able to better estimate how the food will affect your glucose levels. Yes, the glycemic index helps interpret how quickly glucose levels rise, but the glycemic load helps interpret how long glucose levels will stay elevated for, ie. how much the sugar is affecting you. Read what our research says about Glycemic Index vs. Glycemic Load.

So while two pieces of whole wheat bread can raise your insulin levels, consuming whole wheat will not lead to rapid weight gain. In his book, Dr. Davis makes the argument that our ancestors avoided diabetes because of their diet, which mainly consisted of wild boar, salmon, and berries. But there is no scientific data regarding the possible diabetic condition of hunters and gatherers! Not to mention, their diets relied entirely on what they were able to hunt or collect and their lifespans were much shorter than the average human today. As such, Dr. Davis is drawing hard conclusions from limited evidence.

Complex carbs, such as whole oats, sprouted bread, or even pasta do not have the same effect on blood sugar levels as the average piece of white or whole wheat bread. This type of grain is actually helpful for keeping blood sugar levels low as they are high in dietary fibers and take a longer time to metabolize. The more refined the grain is, the higher your blood sugar will spike.

The Truth about Juice Cleanses

green juice displayed next to apples, broccoli and kale

What does it mean to cleanse? Many people believe cleansing is like spring cleaning for your body and helps to restart your metabolism and improve digestion. Most cleanse programs call for a limited caloric intake over a shortened period of time to give your digestive system a rest and help flush your body of toxins. By consuming only juice, you are eliminating the majority of fiber from your diet, which gives the digestive system a break. Cleansing advocates argue this can help to revive sluggish digestion. Supporters of these programs also assert that participating in a cleansing program will help you lose weight, clear your skin, feel less bloated, and eliminate headaches. However, while these short-term results may be beneficial, there is no long-term scientific evidence that supports the lasting benefits of juice cleansing.

As cleansing becomes increasingly mainstream, we at D2D wanted to properly assess the benefits of a cleanse. We decided to look at the most popular cleanse programs and determine if they are actually worthwhile. For example, there is The Master Cleanse, a.k.a., The Lemonade Diet—one of the most extreme cleansing options. The Blueprint Cleanse, which can be tailored to your lifestyle and allows for 3 levels of cleansing: the Renovation, the Foundation, and the Excavation. There’s also LiquiteriaJuice PressBeverly Hills Juice and many more

But what are the health benefits of these cleansing options? Sure, they are a quick way to lose water weight, but do they actually help your digestive system? The answer is no!

According to Dr. Joy Dubost, a dietitian, food scientist, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, cleansing is not worth the hype. She has spoken out against cleanses by saying,

To date, there’s no solid science backing any of these cleansing or detox approaches for weight loss or health. Your body has built-in mechanisms for detoxification, including your liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal system. Swallowing some kind of solution isn’t going to further enable those organs, so the whole premise of detoxifying is inaccurate.

Our organs are well equipped to handle detoxification.

Our kidneys and liver are well equipped to handle the detoxification process—in fact, that’s what they are there for! Your kidneys’ primary function is to filter your blood. The organ contains millions of microscopic units called nephrons, which sift through your blood to eliminate waste and regulate your body’s fluid and electrolyte balance. The liver, on the other hand, is the primary detoxifying agent. It is responsible for keeping pathogens from entering the bloodstream. It also eliminates environmental toxins and detoxifies chemicals.

While these short-term results may be beneficial, there is no long term scientific evidence that supports the lasting benefits of juice cleansing.

The best thing to help your body detoxify is actually to consume whole fiber, found in fruits and vegetables.

The best thing to help your body detoxify is actually whole fiber, found in fruits and vegetables. Research shows that your body can actually benefit more from eating whole foods as opposed to drinking them in juice form. If you really want to incorporate juice in your diet, throw everything in a Vitamix, which keeps the fiber intact. If you are substituting soda for a green juice—great! But if you normally eat a balanced diet filled with fruits and vegetables, cleansing isn’t going to do very much.

So how do these cleanses aid in your body’s natural detoxification process? They don’t. In fact, there is no clinical proof that juices aid your organs. One of the major issues with juicing is that it eliminates fiber, which your body needs to maintain proper digestion. Additionally, when fiber is eliminated from the fruit or vegetable, the fructose content skyrockets! Your sugar levels spike because there is no fiber content to slow digestion.

The only benefit to juice cleansing is actually the elimination of foods containing saturated fat and refined sugar.

In a study conducted by the Food Technology Journal entitled “Detox Diets Provide Empty Promises”, Roger Clemons, a professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences explains why people can see positive results immediately after a cleanse. The article acknowledges that cleansing will help you drop a few pounds, but warns that this is strictly because of the low caloric intake. Reports of clearer skin can be attributed to the increased water you are told to drink and the reduced headaches can be attributed to substantially lower alcohol and caffeine levels. Overall, the health benefits that you are experiencing are from a dramatic diet shift and not from a “detoxifying” component of the juice. Eating clean, whole foods will help your body detoxify itself.

It is important to note that juicing eliminates fiber, but blending shakes does not. Like Dr. Merrell, Dr. Joy Dubost has acknowledged one benefit to cleansing programs. In a recent article published by Time Magazine, Dubost agreed that people looking to drastically change their diet may benefit from a radical approach to “get your head in gear”. But, keep in mind if you are preparing to shock your system with a cleanse, it’s the days after the cleanse that matter most. If you return to a diet high in sugar or saturated fat, you will put back on the weight and then some. You should also be careful if you are using cleanses as a crash diet and will resume drinking alcohol afterward. After you cleanse, your digestive system is fragile so you should ease back into healthy solid foods.

Here are a few ways you can support your body’s natural detoxification process without buying into the multi-million dollar fad industry:

Eating proper foods: Eating foods like green tea, lemon, kale, and artichokes help your liver and kidneys better cleanse your body of its toxins. These foods help your organs neutralize the toxins, and inevitably expel them from your body.

Getting enough fiber: Everyone seems to forget about fiber! On average, you should consume between 25 and 30 grams of fiber per day. This is no easy feat! To give this a quick visual – that amount of fiber would be approximately 6.5 apples! Keep in mind though, you don’t want to get all your fiber from fruit as that is way too much sugar. Fiber helps regulate your digestive system and optimizes your GI tract. By improving the quality and the quantity of your daily fiber intake, you can help your body stay regulated.

Exercise: People often forget that your skin is the body’s biggest organ. Although the majority of detoxification is reliant on the liver and kidneys, there are trace amounts of toxins found in sweat, so be sure to sweat it out!

Sleep: Getting 8 hours of sleep per night will keep your body’s organs performing at their best.

Is Red Meat Carcinogenic

red meat steak protein

If I eat steak or bacon, will I get cancer?


On October 26th, 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer— the cancer agency of the World Health Organization— gave a press release that evaluated the consumption of processed and red meat and its link to cancer. The study looked specifically at colorectal cancer and its association to stomach, prostate, and pancreatic cancer. While the IARC classified red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans” and processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans”, it is important to note that the evidence supporting these claims is very limited.

The research reviewed over 800 individual studies and was run by twenty-two experts from ten different countries, and yet the findings released were not conclusive.

According to the American Cancer Society, in 2018, the chance of getting colorectal cancer for an average 50-year-old male or female is 4.49% or 4.15%, respectively. The World Health Organization stated the possibility of an 18% increase from eating red meat. It is misleading to say that one will have an 18% chance of getting cancer when it is really an 18% increase over a base of a little over 4%. This brings us to 4.9% (for women) and a 5.23% (for men) chance of getting colorectal cancer if we eat 50 grams of processed or red meat per day.

The cancer risk related to the consumption of red meat is more difficult to estimate because the evidence that red meat causes cancer is not as strong. However, if the association of red meat and colorectal cancer were proven to be causal, data from the same studies suggest that the risk of colorectal cancer could increase by 17% for every 100-gram portion of red meat eaten daily.
– World Health Organization

Consuming large amounts of processed meat is worth monitoring and not something to incorporate every day. So while you might not want to have 2 servings of bacon every day, you can enjoy it a few times a week without fear.

The American Cancer Society also weighed in on the issue. ACS managing director of nutrition and physical activity says, “we should be limiting red and processed meat to help reduce colon cancer risk, and possibly, the risk of other cancers. The occasional hot dog or hamburger is okay.” So, when consumed in moderation, red or processed meat does not pose a big health threat.

When considering the IARC’s classification of carcinogenic foods, you have to be aware of the serving size.

The degree to which your red or processed meat consumption will affect your health has a lot to do with the other lifestyle choices you make. Do you have a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly, and drink enough water? All of these factors influence your overall health. The protein and iron that your body receives from red meat support your cells, tissues, organs, bones, and overall immune system.

Based on the study’s findings, the World Health Organization labeled red meat as Group 2A, stating that the classification was made on “limited evidence.” The IARC clarifies, “limited evidence means that a positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent and cancer but that other explanations for the observations (technically termed chance, bias, or confounding) could not be ruled out.”

The WHO also inappropriately labeled processed meat as Group 1, the same group that contains asbestos, arsenic, and tobacco— some of the most carcinogenic dangers to humans. Is it fair and reasonable to say that your chance of getting cancer from smoking is equal to getting cancer from eating meat? Of course not. Then the WHO discredited their own argument by stating the following:

Processed meat has been classified in the same category as causes of cancer such as tobacco smoking and asbestos (IARC Group 1, carcinogenic to humans), but this does NOT mean that they are all equally dangerous. The IARC classifications describe the strength of the scientific evidence about an agent being a cause of cancer, rather than assessing the level of risk.