Friday, September 9, 2011

Hypothesis #3: Wheat

A quick recap: we've talked about the case for paleo, the Carbohydrate Hypothesis, and the Fructose Hypothesis.

Next up I'm going to look at the Wheat Hypothesis. This one is something I've been thinking about primarily because I recently read Wheat Belly by William Davis - so this will be part exploration of the hypothesis and part book review. The hypothesis goes like this:

Modern wheat is a carefully hybridized variant that is genetically very different from the wheat of even 50 years ago. The Western world simultaneously started consuming more wheat and changed the very nature of the wheat itself with disastrous consequences. Currently more than 99% of the wheat in our food is one of these adapted varieties. They have more and more harmful gluten compounds that impact everyone not just those with celiac disease and that are literally chemically addictive. The carbohydrate hypothesis is also true, but notice that the vast majority of carbs consumed are in the form of wheat so it is almost meaningless to talk about reducing carbs in general - it makes much more sense to focus on wheat. The form of carbs in wheat are also especially easily converted into glucose resulting in much worse blood sugar management than other carb sources.

What do I think? It will be very hard to distinguish between the Wheat Hypothesis and the Carbohydrate Hypothesis without some very carefully controlled experiments. It is true that anyone who cuts back on carbs is probably also cutting back on wheat. It is also true that anyone who cuts back on wheat is cutting back on carbs. But it certainly could be true that wheat alone is responsible for many modern ills. If true it would handily explain why some people see remarkable results on a high carb variation of a paleo diet (I suspect mostly non-obese people).

Notice once again that a paleo diet (especially one low in carbs) has you covered.

Now the book review. Wheat Belly is a great book. I learned a lot about wheat from it. It is the perfect book to hand to someone who simply can not let go of the idea that whole grains are healthy. Although Dr. Davis focuses on wheat, his dietary recommendations are more comprehensive than that and are quite sensible. In fact his actual diet advice is very nearly Primal. Although I do take issue with a few of his recommendations (Fruit juice? Really?) I mostly agree with him and mostly follow that diet myself.

However a review of this book wouldn't be complete if I didn't point out that the Kindle edition has a TON of typos that should have been caught by a spell checker. Apart from typos it is fairly well edited, but these are annoying.

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