Sunday, June 24, 2012

Wheat Belly

Wheat. Español: Trigo. Français : Blé. Magyar:...
Wheat. Español: Trigo. Français : Blé. Magyar: Búza. Tiếng Việt: Lúa mì. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have fallen off the gluten free diet and have gotten into a bit of bread lately and was duly punished for it with a bit of a tummy ache and itching.  Of course, I am going to read about wheat and intellectualize about it before I do anything to change my evil habits.  But, I haven't had real sandwiches in a while and I was on the run and not at home!

Found an interesting book review of "Wheat Belly" by Dr. Davis, a noted cardiologist.

It would be bad enough if we consumed all this wheat as emmer or einkhorn or other primitive varieties, but we don’t.  We get most from a hybrid of Triticum aestivum – our great grandmother’s wheat – called dwarf (or semi-dwarf) wheat, which now comprises more than 99 percent of all wheat grown worldwide.

As Dr. Davis tells it, the hybridization of wheat came about in an effort to improve yield, which is now about tenfold greater per acre than it was a century ago. Older strains of wheat were taller and more prone to damage from wind and rain.  And
When large quantities of nitrogen-rich fertilizer are applied to wheat fields, the seed head at the top of the plant grows to enormous proportions.  The top-heavy seed head, however, buckles the stalk.  Buckling kills the plant and makes harvesting problematic. A University of Minnesota-trained geneticist…is credited with developing the exceptionally high-yielding dwarf wheat that was shorter and stockier, allowing the plant to maintain erect posture and resist buckling under the large seed head.  Tall stalks are also inefficient; short stalks reach maturity more quickly, which means a shorter growing season with less fertilizer required to generate the otherwise useless stalk.
In the photos below you can see the difference between wheat grown in the Middle Ages and the dwarf wheat grown today.

Dr. Davis spends the better part of his excellent book detailing many of these problems and describing his clinical experience in helping many of his patients shuck their wheat habit.  He describes the increase in celiac disease over the past 50 years and believes, as I do, that celiac disease is a continuum.  The severe form of it that is recognized as celiac disease is pretty easy to diagnose (if a doctor has sense enough to look for it), but there are milder forms that manifest themselves as anything from mysterious rashes that come and go to diarrhea and other GI disturbances to arthritic aches and pains. And we can’t forget a number of other afflictions that may well have their basis in wheat intolerance that include osteoporosis, acne (bagel face?), neurological disorders, and the creepily- dubbed ‘man boobs.’
It’s good to learn in Wheat Belly that Dr. Davis has finally shucked his bred-in-the-bone cardiologist’s antipathy toward fat in general and saturated fat specifically and has come over to what most of his peers must view as the dark (read: low-carb) side:
The fat phobia of the past forty years turned us off from foods such as eggs, sirloin, and pork because of their saturated fat content — but saturated fat was never the problem.  Carbohydrates in combination with saturated fat, however, cause measures of LDL particles to skyrocket.  The problem was carbohydrates more than saturated fat.  In fact, new studies have exonerated saturated fat as an underlying contributor to heart attack and stroke risk. [Italics in the original.]
Maybe I will scare myself back onto being gluten free.
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