Wheat=Sugar-The sad truth

If a health guru told you that two slices of bread was equivalent to a tablespoon of white sugar, then you would probably think he’s crazy.

After reading this article, the first statement should make a little more sense. 

The effects wheat has on the human body include inflammation, exaggerated blood sugar surges, neurological disorders, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, curious rashes, and the paralyzing delusions of schizophrenia. The list goes on.

Many stress the importance of ‘whole’ grain wheat, that we should all be having ‘whole’ grains.  According to ABC, the USDA recommends eating a minimum of three servings of whole wheat each day. Good Morning America’s foods contributor Sara Moulton said. Whole grain also helps keep the digestive system regular, warding off gastrointestinal tract troubles.

The health benefits of whole grain wheat have always been evident; the problem is, we are nolonger living in the 19th century, when wheat was a relatively ideal staple food.

In a nutshell, wheat’s role in the 20th century is the new ‘supercarb.’ This rapid digesting carb raises your blood sugar just as high, if not, higher than the equivalent contents of a candy bar or sugar sweetened soda.

As Natural News puts it, the amount of 20th century agricultural genetic modification has outpaced the human digestive system’s ability to adapt.

The big question is why and how has the wheat plant suddenly turned against us after decades of bread consumption? The answer in short is the agricultural innovations put on wheat to make it more adaptable to environmental conditions.

In Book  Excerpt: Wheat Belly, by Life extension, William Davis claims that wheat has changed dramatically in the past fifty years under the influence of agricultural scientists. Wheat strains have been hybridized, crossbred, and introgressed to make the wheat plant resistant to environmental conditions, such as drought, or pathogens, such as fungi. But most of all, genetic changes have been induced to increase yield per acre. Such enormous strides in yield have required drastic changes in genetic code. Such fundamental genetic changes have come at a price.

Of the so called whole grain complex carbohydrate of wheat, 75% is the chain of branching glucose units-amylopectin, while 25%  is the linear chain of glucose units-amylose

Amylose is slowly digested while Amylopectin is efficiently digested by the stomach enzyme to glucose. It is for this reason, wheat is known as a rapid digesting ‘supercarb’. Wheat’s fast absorption into the bloodstream replicates the nature of a simple carbohydrate.

Therefore the idea that wheat is a high fibre, whole grain, complex carbohydrate is nolonger the case today.

According to William Davis, the sad truth is that the proliferation of wheat products in the American diet parallels the expansion of our waists. Advice to cut fat and cholesterol intake and replace the calories with whole grains that was issued by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute through its National Cholesterol Education Program in 1985 coincides precisely with the start of a sharp upward climb in body weight for men and women. Ironically, 1985 also marks the year when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began tracking body weight statistics, documenting the explosion in obesity and diabetes that began that very year.      

Wheat and Insulin

When we think about the process of fat loss and fat gain, insulin is a major player for both processes.

Insulin is the hormone released by our pancreas when carbohydrates are absorbed into our bloodstream. When the pancreas detects a bloodsugar rise, it secretes insulin to help the body process the blood glucose.

When insulin is sensitive, the carbohydrates are converted into energy with ease. But when insulin is resistant, carbohydrates are placed into fat storage.

How can we create an insulin sensitive environment? Exercise, a high protein diet and avoid simple carbohydrates such as wheat and sugar. Opt for slow digesting, low GI and high fibre carbohydrates.

These include: Buckwheat noodles, vegetables, brown rice, berries and sweet potato.

How can we create an insulin resistant, fat accumulation environment? Well that’s easy! Wheat and sugar! Opt for continuous wheat consumption and you will experience insulin spikes, followed by a steep blood sugar decline, resulting in crashes, moodswings and cravings for more simple carbohydrates.

Davis backs this information by explaining this has important implications for body weight, since glucose is unavoidably accompanied by insulin, the hormone that allows entry of glucose into the cells of the body, converting the glucose to fat. The higher the blood glucose after consumption of food, the greater the insulin level, the more fat is deposited. This is why, say, eating a three-egg omelet that triggers no increase in glucose does not add to body fat, while two slices of whole wheat bread increases blood glucose to high levels, triggering insulin and growth of fat, particularly abdominal or deep visceral fat.

Final advice: If bread is integrated into your lifestyle, moderation is key. Jarod Fogel(Subway guy) lost 245 pounds by eating sandwiches everyday. For Jared Fogel, insulin sensitivity and portion control was key. He attended marathons and exercised to keep insulin sensitivity. So wheat should not be eliminated from your diet if you have always been dependent on it, just don’t assume you are consuming high fibre complex carbohydrates for weight loss.

Checkout my friends article with her analysis on Body Image, diabetes and insulin in Bodyimageissues.


Wheat: The Unhealthy Whole Grain. Book Excerpt: Wheat Belly

By William Davis, MD

Life Extension Magazine October 2011