Wheat – The Staff of Life or the Kiss of Death?


“I’ve been treating eating disorders (ED’s) and obesity for nearly 25 years and have always had good outcomes. My rate of success improved dramatically, however, when I discovered the critical role that processed food plays in causing as well as in preventing recovery from Anorexia, Bulimia, Bulimarexia, (a combination of the two) Binge Eating Disorder (BED,) Emotional Eating and Obesity. To this end, I find it of great importance to provide both my patients and readers with relevant nutrition information to aid in their recovery. You can view all my Nutrition, Fitness, and Health articles here.

Today’s wheat is not the same wheat eaten during biblical times, when wheat was referred to as the “Staff of Life”. The wheat consumed in the United States today is a product of many, many years of hybridization with the purpose of creating a greater yielding crop that is resistant to heat, drought and cold, making it a more lucrative crop for industrial farmers. (Shouldn’t “industrial farmer” be an oxymoron?) Besides being cheap and plentiful, it is virtually impossible for humans or animals to digest without significant health consequences.

How did the Staff of Life become the Kiss of Death?

The first variety of wheat, called Einkorn, was grown by man more than 12,000 years ago. Einkorn is a fairly simple plant with only 14 chromosomes. Today’s wheat is much more complex, it has 42 chromosomes. This is how we arrived to the type of wheat we consume today:

During the mid-18th century, there were 5 different varieties of Triticum Aestivum (commonly known as Bread Wheat), today there are 25,000 varieties.

It is no secret that the number of calories consumed by Americans has increased. A study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition documented a 440 calorie per day increase from 1977 to 2006 in 28,400 children and 36,800 adults. That is an extra 3080 calories per week. It only takes 3500 extra calories to gain a pound. At the same time that calorie intake began to increase, a new variety of wheat was introduced into the American food system. This wheat was unique, because it contained a protein called gliadin. According to Dr. William Davis, author of The Wheat Belly, gliadin “exerts opiate-like effects”. Gliadin binds to the opiate receptors in the brain but instead of resulting in a “high” that would typically be experienced with the use of an opiate drug, gliadin causes us to experience food cravings (for wheat products as well as for other foods). This explains why so many Americans began gaining weight around this time.

Dr. Davis has also seen a link between wheat consumption and the development of eating disorders. He recently published an article stating that “we know that when people with celiac disease remove all wheat/gluten from the diet, calorie intake goes down 400 calories per day. We know that normal volunteers administered an opiate-blocking drug, such as naloxone or naltrexone, reduce calorie intake by around 400 calories per day. We also know that people with eating disorders, such as binge eating disorder, reduce calorie intake, yup, 400 calories per day when injected with an opiate-blocking drug. We also know that a drug company filed its FDA application in 2011 for naltrexone, a drug already on the market for heroin addiction, to be prescribed for weight loss.

Einkorn, the original wheat, can still be purchased today and may be an alternative for those looking for a wheat replacement. A company called “Jovial Foods” sells organic einkorn flour, organic einkorn berries, and einkorn-based cookies and pasta. Jovial Foods grows their einkorn on five different organic farms in Italy. All the ingredients in their products are completely non-GMO. As an added bonus, they use palm fruit oil in their cookies! None of their foods contain excitotoxins, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, or any other concerning food additives. You can buy their products directly from their website, or in some stores.

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Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.

© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. This information is intellectual property of Dr J Renae Norton. Reproduction and distribution for educational purposes is permissible.

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