Milwaukee heart doctor William Davis is convinced the single biggest threat to health in North America is wheat. Or at least the modern super-hybrid “dwarf” kind found in all manner of processed foods. As a cardiologist, Dr. Davis, saw radical results in his patients when they cut our wheat-based foods and he synthesized it into his New York Times bestselling book Wheat Belly. Pushing up against half a century of received nutritional wisdom has meant some controversy around the book, which blames wheat for a host of physical problems including the striking rise in obesity and Type II diabetes in North America since the 1980s. In the video below we discuss what happens to our bodies and brains when we eat (modern) wheat, why wheat is in just about every processed food there is and the surprising reason that Dr. Davis became interested in the connection between wheat and health to begin with.
Can’t see the video? Click here.
William Davis keeps a blog at wheatbellyblog.com
Malcolm Jolley is a founding editor of Good Food Revolution and Executive Director of Good Food Media, the non-profit organization that publishes GFR. twitter.com/malcolmjolley. Photo: John Gundy.
Purchased the book last November and went gluten free from January to March and was surprised at how much weight I lost. Now trying to work out how to make more of it part of my regular regime, though i don’t want to give up bread completely; but a toatlly workable way to eat even for foodies! Brilliant.
It seems to me that the weak part of this argument–and the video has a break where he’s talking about driving in the country looking for “old wheat”–is the difference made by “modern wheat”. There are some meant-to-scare “this is what the wheat industry can do” stories offered but no evidence that gamma-rayed, Incredible Hulk, GMO wheat represents a significant part of flour production.
The point Davis was trying to make (and I may have mangled with my editing) was that the selection process for dwarf/Green Revolution wheat pre-dates genetic modification, and the techniques that Norman Borlaug and his Rockefeller Foundation team used in Mexico to enable mutations were pretty off the wall. The wheat used in 99% of all products from snacks to organic sourdough is very different from the wheat used 50 years ago, and may well make a big difference re: wheat belly.
I think the problem (general to all obesity explanations, not just “wheat belly”) here is that correlation is established but not necessarily causation. We developed this new wheat–that hundreds of millions depend on to not starve–and around the same time everyone got fat. I know it’s just a short video and he may do a better job in the book but I feel like Dr. Davis is using the Hulk references and terms like “chemical muta-genesis” to avoid describing the causal effects and answering your question about why modern wheat matters.
Ah, but the same innovation that created the Green Revolution in the Third World led to cheap wheat-based food on the First. The new wheat may or may not be worse for your body than the old, but turns up in nearly every processed food imaginable because those super high yields make super high margins for Big Food.
The tobacco companies used to say there was no “causal” proof between smoking and cancer. On balance, I’d rather eat foods that were bred biologically. I suspect most others would too, and appreciate knowing when things like chemical or radiation techniques have been used in their foods.
[edited – last sentence made no sense]
The book does not use scare tactics. His reasoning applies to all wheat…GMO, dwarf, einkorn, emmer, psyllium, corn, potatoes, rice….as eating these foods or flours will cause a spike in your blood sugar and cause the reaction he’s talking about.
The book is pretty informative. It’s not a diet but rather a lifestyle of letting your pancreas not work so hard. Of course any dietary change in ones behavior will have an effect. Wheat-free has a profound effect on everyone.
I agree Myrna, but just to be fair to David (whose skepticism I like and generally share) I condensed a 45 minute interview into a 15 minute video. Davis goes out of his way to clarify what’s conjecture versus fact in the uncut version of our conversation. If the video stresses the gamma ray mutation stuff, it’s because I chose too.
Great job Malcolm! Read the book 3 months ago and we have lost the wheat and some weight! Was he here in TO?
Thanks, Anne. Yes, I spoke to him at HarperCollins Canada.
Incredible…where do we find wheat?EVERYWHERE…thanks food industry…I am now a celiac patient…who is overweight..craving carbs…all the time….yes..I agree…this is a new kind of addiction…brought to you by your food industry…and now they are yelling at our appetites..that they created….the wheat of our grandmothers…is gone..modern wheat…..is genetically modified crap..that is in virtually everything boxed, bagged, or canned…..
My husband and I have been doing Wheat Belly since the end of Feb. and we both can say it WORKS! We no longer are having joint pains and my hubby was having fits with acid reflux at least every other night and he hasn’t had one case of it since doing this, not one! We’re both feeling so much better and have lost the weight of another human body between the two of us.
Nice piece on a very important subject.
I am in the heritage grain business. As an artisan producer we use Red Fife wheat, rye, spelt and buckwheat, the ones that can be traced back to prior to 1950 and ones Dr. Wheat Belly would eat.
Shortcuts are made in large scale production and nutrition is certainly not a priority. The health ramifications of eating industrially farmed beef, pork and poultry is no different from factory farmed wheat.
I rather be without bliss than ignorant.
I relate to everything Dr. Davis says. I have a huge “Wheat Belly” and a lifelong craving for wheat. Postwar Germany, starvation, BREAD became THE focus of survival. I have always binged on bread/Carbs.
I came to the US at age 15 and the availability of food triggered a huge binge cycle. The more grain I consumed, the more I wanted. As the weight and fat collected, I would go through starve cycles, loosing over 100 pounds. Once I began the wheat eating, there would be no stopping. I am 68 today, have a huge, sagging belly that feels like an alien presence. Type 2 Diabetes and the cycles of mood swings and depressions have felt like I am a drug addict. Sinuses, itchy inner ears, headaches,breathing difficoulties, asthmatic episodes and so on. My dear friend, Vicki Means has been following this food plan and she looks and feels amazing. So, I am going to give it my best, also. I believe that it is not too late.
I will keep you posted, if I may.
Dr. Davis is not only a genius, but he is trying to warn us of the dangers of wheat. If he is half right, we all need to be wheat free today. I went wheat free months ago. I now weigh what I did when I graduated college. I am 55 years old. Not only did I lose weight, but I experienced many of the other benefits Dr. Davis describes. Please people…go wheat free!!!
Congradulations Paul on your success on going wheat-free. Dr. Davis is right. Nobody should be eating this dwarf wheat. It sure is great to losse enough weight to be like we were in college.
I read Wheat Belly in March and found it to be an interesting and informative read. This interview is a good condensation of the premises of the book, which is a helpful start for those who may not have the inclination to read it cover to cover.
Dr Davis does prescribe a fairly radical diet at the end of the book, which I found too difficult to undertake as a serious food enthusiast and nutritionist. We could all eat less wheat for the simple reason of needing more variety in our diets in addition to all the health implications Dr Davis mentions. I’ve been able to have wheat free single days at a time and I have felt a difference even with that small consistent change. If this information can motivate people to consistently practice wheat free days, we could all have a positive impact on our health.
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Dr Davis treated my Heart disease thru diet and vitamins only. While his methods improved my Cholestrol and I lost weight he ignored the results from my Heart scan and scoffed at the suggestion I made for getting a cathorization. This conversation took place after I had my scan looked at by a well known radiologist in Milwakee area. 3 months after my last visit to Dr Davis I changed doctors after I called his office complaining of chest pains and was told Dr Davis was out of town but I could see him in 3 days for an appointment. I went to another Dr and was given a cathorization immediately and had a stint put in my LAD where I had 80% blockage. Dr Davis had treated me for 6 months and my father and mother for over 10 years. He nor his office never bothered to contact me to ask about my health situation or why I stopped seeing him. My parents have since left him as well.