A reader asked: "My husband heard someone on TV say they lost weight by cutting wheat out of their diet. Just what I wanted him to hear, I'm still trying to sell him on whole grain pasta! It can't be healthy to cut out wheat (unless you have an allergy) can it?"
Eliminating wheat is the current rage. Wheat Belly, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health, by Dr.William Davis, is a New York Times best seller. People diagnosed with celiac disease or wheat allergies certainly need to eliminate wheat consumption to maintain their health. Many others are climbing aboard the wheat-free express hoping they'll lose weight, prevent heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, auto-immune diseases, and cataracts. Miraculous cures always sell. Unfortunately, if it seems to good to be true, it usually is.
In Wheat Belly, Davis declares that wheat is the main cause of the U.S.obesity epidemic. This statement, as with most of his suppositions, has no scientific evidence to back it up. In reality, at the start of the 1900's, people consumed far more bread and wheat products than they do today. Americans have actually decreased per capita wheat consumption since 2000, and yet the rise in obesity has not declined. Unquestionably, the obesity problem in our country is influenced by many factors, including higher calorie consumption, more sedentary lifestyles, and an increase in added sugar in both beverages and processed foods.
What about all the testimonials from people on TV and mentioned by Davis, who have lost weight cutting out wheat? Doesn't that offer evidence that eliminating wheat works for weight loss? No. Anecdotal evidence does not add up to proof. If you ask a group of people to cut out wheat or any major food group for that matter, weight loss invariable follows. Why? Because they simply consume fewer calories...initially. Once other grains or foods are found to fill the spot no longer filled by wheat products, weight loss stops and is most often regained. In a way, the no-wheat diet is just a low-carb diet in disguise. And, it's difficult to adhere to for life-style changes.
Why do some people see health benefits when going wheat free? When weight loss occurs for any reason, blood sugar, triglyceride and blood lipid levels tend to drop, and in turn, reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. No scientific evidence supports the claim that eliminating wheat has any impact on these risk factors.
In fact, many evidence-based scientific studies have shown higher intakes of whole grains (including wheat) are linked to a lower risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, blood sugar control and blood pressure. Studies have recently shown that choosing whole grains can help with loss of weight and body fat, especially when used in place of refined products. A double win.
Grains provide important nutrients, including rich sources of niacin, thiamine, foliate, selenium, and magnesium. Whole grains provide a much needed source of fiber, which aids in elimination, reduces risk of diverticulitis, provides a sense of satiety and helps stabilize blood sugar. Because grains offer such important nutrients, if wheat is removed from your diet, other whole grains should be included. Whether you are a wheat eater or not, try adding a little variety in your life and give oats, barley, brown rice, corn, quinoa, forro, or even kamut a try!