Julie Jones, the Endowed Chair in Science at the College of St. Catherine, analyzes a variety of the positions discussed in the book Wheat Belly by William Davis using scientific literature. This is Part 1 of a summary of some of the highlights in her analysis.
Davis’ Point: Obesity was a rare thing in the 1950s, and it was not the custom for women to engage in jogging or other regular exercise programs.
Jones’ Analysis: The Center for Disease Control & Prevention states that the obesity rate has increased 214% since 1950; however, the implication that women did not exercise is not fully accurate. Davis does not mention that lifestyles in general were much more active in the 1950s. Women walked more and engaged in numerous physical tasks associated with maintaining a house. Few people sat in front of televisions for long hours, and no one had personal computers. So while women in the 1950s did not engage in formal exercise programs, they generally were expending much more energy than the women of today who often have more sedentary lifestyles.
Davis’ Point: Elimination of wheat from the diet is the “holy grail” of weight loss. In his patient population, he recounts numerous occurrences of rapid, effortless weight loss of 10, 20, or even 50 or more pounds simply by elimination of wheat from the diet. He attributes the success of low-carbohydrate diets to the elimination of wheat.
Jones’ Analysis: Rapid weight loss often occurs with adherence to any weight loss diet in the short run. Studies and testimonials documenting dramatic weight loss abound, especially when the diets are low in carbohydrates. While it is true that such diets have been shown to cause more rapid weight loss than other diets in the initial 6 months following such a regimen, they do not result in greater weight loss over time and result in more dropouts than other diet types that are more balanced and do not eliminate entire food groups.
Davis’ Point: Elimination of wheat from the diet is associated with disease cure and mitigation.
- Numerous patients with abnormal glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes mellitus were cured.
- Asthma sufferers either eliminated their inhalers or were cured.
- Acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, and rash sufferers reported fewer or no symptoms.
- A 26 year old man unable to walk because of joint pain now walks easily.
- A number of patients reported increased energy.
- Athletes reported more consistent performance.
- Those with disturbed sleep improved.
Jones’ Analysis: Many of the medical conditions purported to vanish with the elimination of wheat can be seen to vanish with weight loss achieved by any method. The reduction in type 2 diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome cited fit with weight loss, while Davis’ attribution that disease mitigation was due to wheat removal is not supported. Reduction in calories and loss of weight by any method is the number one recommendation of diabetes associations around the world. In addition, excess weight is well documented as a factor in some rashes, sleep apnea, acid reflux, and asthma complications. Studies show the impact of these conditions can be lessened or eliminated by weight loss. Increased energy can easily be ascribed to weight loss as well.
Davis’ Point: Wheat consumption leads to central obesity, which stresses the heart, raises blood lipids, distorts insulin response, causes abnormal metabolic signals that affect every organ in the body, and leads to inflammation.
Jones’ Analysis: The facts Davis presents about central obesity, or visceral adipose tissue (VAT), are true and warrant concern. What is not true is that wheat causes this condition and that elimination of wheat will cure this condition. It is well documented that no one food or food group is responsible for VAT. Too many calories of any kind and too little exercise will result in VAT. Recent data from the Framingham Heart Study cohort refute claims that wheat increases VAT. In fact, those who had the least visceral fat accumulation ate two servings per day of refined grains and three servings per day of whole grains.
Davis’ Point: The proliferation of wheat products parallels the increase in waist size.
Jones’ Analysis: Although the association may be true, this is an example of the misuse of correlations to imply causation. Many correlations can be made: increasing waist size is associated with increased use of chewing gum, increased sales of running shoes, and the proliferation of high-fat ice creams, as well as any number of other products. Such associations are simply associations and do not prove causality. Furthermore, Davis does not report the more important information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service’s paper which notes “a big jump in average calorie intake between 1985 and 2000 without a corresponding increase in the level of physical activity (calorie expenditure) is the prime factor behind America’s soaring rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.”
Read the full scientific analysis by Julie Jones, PhD, CNS, LN. http://wholegrainscouncil.org/files/WheatBellyJulieJonesCFW.pdf