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Thoughtful reviews of "Wheat Belly"

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  • #16
    I have to admit I'm a big fan of Dr. Davis. I've been following his blog (heartscanblog) for a while, and I've found it very valuable. A couple of notes. Dr. Davis (who wrote Wheat Belly), Dr. Bernstein (who wrote a great book on diabetes care via going low carb) and Primal/Paleo all seem to have a lot more in common than not.

    I'm not sure how much Wheat belly helped me out, as I was already familiar with his premise, but on a fundamental level I think he is right. He says clearly that wheat is never "optimal", but that modern dwarf wheat is much much worse than historical wheat. And gives some evidence why. I think that makes sense.

    And even on a Primal level, well, alot of Primal athletes need carbs for fuel. Well, if they eat wheat, they aren't primal and may lose their health advantages, but if they supplement with starches (potatoes) and fruits, they are still Primal and seem to keep the fitness gains of being Primal. The difference? Gluten, I should think.

    So, where is the conflict here between Dr. Davis and Primal? Granted, commenting on his writing style is quite legitimate, but debunking the book? Isn't that a bit of an exaggeration?

    --Me

    EDIT: Ok, did want to add something else. The book probably could have and should have been compressed into one paragraph. And it is highly anecdotal. But at the same time it does provide food for thought, even if lacking in solidly supported conclusions.
    Last edited by adamm; 10-19-2011, 12:06 PM.

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    • #17
      I have not read 'Wheat Belly', but I did hear a podcast interview with the author and have twice come across his articles.

      Overall, I see 'Wheat Belly' fitting very snugly into the paleo/primal lifestyle. It's very similar to the great documentary 'Fat Head' in that it focuses on just one crucial component of paleo/primal (wheat for 'Wheat Belly' and saturated fat for 'Fat Head'), and really expands your knowledge in that area.

      If Dr. Davis's rhetoric is a little extreme, I have three points to make.

      (1) Since when is that novel to the paleo/primal community? With the exception of Mark Sisson, I'd say that strict rhetoric is a staple of most all the main gurus in the community (not propaganda, mind you, but just blunt, harsh observations and opinions)? Whether it's Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf, Karen De Coster, or Tom Naughton, virtually every guru I know could be said to have harsh rhetoric. (Again, "harsh rhetoric" is not to be confused with propaganda or them not distinguishing their opinions from facts.)

      (2) Dr. Davis does seem to do something that I greatly like: he offers the possibility that the S.A.D. is not merely some "accident" of mere innocent "mistakes" by the medical elites and the government, but he seems to routinely suggest that this could very well be done intentionally. This I agree with wholeheartedly. As much as I love so many great paleo gurus, I get sick to death of Robb Wolf describing some team of Harvard researchers as merely making, "honest mistakes" about red meat or saturated fats. No....at some point you have to say, "This isn't just an accident. You're lying intentionally."

      (3) Dr. Davis points out something that seems very accurate: traditional grains (pre-1960), while not optimal for human health, were not nearly as bad as modern ones. This I believe very much, because when I see photos of Americans from, say, 1920, they usually look lean and healthy, despite a grain-heavy diet. It's only in the past few decades that things have gotten really bad. Here's his most recent blog post on how modern grains are far worse than old grains.

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      • #18
        I agree IniQuity, it is a bit hard to gauge the effect of the book on the newcomer when you have read Taubes, Mark, Wolf (talk about chatty, buttercup), Cordain etc, but this book would be a revelation to someone not used to the Paleo world.

        After following Mark for 2 years, I still found it an interesting read and it would probably choose it as a better starting point for a newbie I want to persuade/ educate than say Taubes first book where the big picture can get lost.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by DavidBrennan View Post

          (2) Dr. Davis does seem to do something that I greatly like: he offers the possibility that the S.A.D. is not merely some "accident" of mere innocent "mistakes" by the medical elites and the government, but he seems to routinely suggest that this could very well be done intentionally. This I agree with wholeheartedly. As much as I love so many great paleo gurus, I get sick to death of Robb Wolf describing some team of Harvard researchers as merely making, "honest mistakes" about red meat or saturated fats. No....at some point you have to say, "This isn't just an accident. You're lying intentionally."
          Oh, he's definitely not he's a conspiracy theorist.

          To be sure, he'd tell you that what food's on the shelves is there because it has good keeping properties, is cheap to make, etc., etc., and whether it's healthy or not is of no interest to the makers, distributors, or sellers. But that's hardly a novel observation. And it doesn't amount to a conspiracy.

          Weston Price was writing of the "displacing foods of modern commerce" in the 1920s and 30s: they're pre-emininetly "foods of commerce" because they keep, so can be stored and traded over vast distances.

          Dr. Davis also explicitly says that the modern dwarf strains of wheat were bred in order to increase yields. It's a limited but hardly a contemptible motive. As Dr. Davis says, at the time people were worried about population growth and world hunger.

          In hindsight one might say that the regulators should have told them to test the new varieties to see whether they increased autoimmune problems. But we're all cleverer with hindsight.

          He does also say that he thinks wheat now turns up in so many packaged foods, because food scientists are smart enough to have twigged that it is addictive and will keep people coming back for more of the product. He may well be right.

          In short, he takes a fairly skeptical view of some of the actions and motives of players in this game, and thinks -- correctly in my view -- that people often follow self-interest rather than taking an ethical path. However, that's not the same thing at all as being a conspiracy theorist -- as imagining that people organize complex, and in truth unpredictable, interactions years in advance from a position of perfect understanding and knowledge but diabolical intent.

          I think you do Dr. Davis a grave disservice by suggesting otherwise.
          Last edited by Lewis; 06-25-2012, 10:15 AM. Reason: spelling

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          • #20
            Originally posted by Lewis View Post
            Oh, he's definitely not he's a conspiracy theorist.

            To be sure, he'd tell you that what food's on the shelves is there because it has good keeping properties, is cheap to make, etc., etc., and whether it's healthy or not is of no interest to the makers, distributors, or sellers. But that's hardly a novel observation. And it doesn't amount to a conspiracy.

            Weston Price was writing of the "displacing foods of modern commerce" in the 1920s and 30s: they're pre-emininetly "foods of commerce" because they keep, so can be stored and traded over vast distances.

            Dr. Davis also explicitly says that the modern dwarf strains of wheat were bred in order to increase yields. It's a limited but hardly a contemptible motive. As Dr. Davis says, at the time people were worried about population growth and world hunger.

            In hindsight one might say that the regulators should have told them to test the new varieties to see whether they increased autoimmune problems. But we're all cleverer with hindsight.

            He does also say that he thinks wheat now turns up in so many packaged foods, because food scientists are smart enough to have twigged that it is addictive and will keep people coming back for more of the product. He may well be right.

            In short, he takes a fairly skeptical view of some of the actions and motives of players in this game, and thinks -- correctly in my view -- that people often follow self-interest rather than taking an ethical path. However, that's not the same thing at all as being a conspiracy theorist -- as imagining that people organize complex, and in truth unpredictable, interactions years in advance from a position of perfect understanding and knowledge but diabolical intent.

            I think you do Dr. Davis a grave disservice by suggesting otherwise.
            Okay, it's all just an accident and innocent mistakes. From thousands of people with off-the-chart IQs. Which has visibly and demonstratively killed, sterilized, feminized, and weakened people for two generations.

            So all these rich geniuses at Harvard Medical, New England Journal of Medicine, the FDA, etc., etc., etc., they're all just....morons who made blunders. Right.

            And the fact that the U.S. News & World Report continuously rates paleo as the worst possible diet in their annual rankings....they're just making innocent mistakes. They're not conspiring to lie. Sure.

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            • #21
              I read Wheat Belly, dumped wheat, and then found PB. I was active on the WB facebook page for a while but started to feel it was too narrow a focus (everyone should severely limit carbs) and Davis was getting to extreme. I can see the conspiracy theory, but he's getting too into that for my liking. I've found PB to be a much more well-rounded idea and lifestyle.

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              • #22
                I read Wheat Belly as well. I wasn't aware of the whole modern hybrid wheat thing, so for this nugget of information alone, it was worth reading. I got my copy from the library.

                I have a celiac daughter AND a daughter who has been all-grain-free for 6 years now, so he was really preaching to the choir in a way (in my case), but I had never thought to extend the ditch-the-grains thing to myself. The book was worth reading for this aspect as well.

                Like another poster related, I too found Primal soon after Wheat Belly. For folks who cannot see through the SAD (and how long ago was it that many of us were Something Else as far as diet went?) the popularity of the book breaks the ice in a major way re grains / wheat. I'll take that, too.

                In many cases, I would recommend it further. Now, if you are already living Primal well, heavy into Paleo studies, etc., I would not - it would be like giving a middle-school text to a college student. But at this point in time, how many are we (Primal or Primal-and-heavy-into-studies)? Certainly not the majority as far as all WOE's are concerned. Any resource that points to a better direction can be useful.
                I have a mantra that I have spouted for years... "If I eat right, I feel right. If I feel right, I exercise right. If I exercise right, I think right. If I think right, I eat right..." Phil-SC

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                • #23
                  I read `Wheat Belly`and it led me to `The Food Lover`s Make it Paleo`cookbook and that indirectly introduced me to PB, I loved the foreword by Mark Sisson.

                  I did enjoy `Wheat Belly`even though at times I found Dr. Davis banging me over the head about why wheat is bad but it did convince me to look further into this new way of living. I credit the cookbook however for convincing my husband to also switch over and our children are all for giving it a go, they love that bacon and steak are the new staples in their diet

                  I would loan the book to friends who are interested in learning why carbs are not good for us but I would also send them to this site to learn more about the primal lifestyle.
                  I'm a 39 y/o mother of 3 sons ages 12, 14, and 15
                  HT: 5'7"
                  SW: 223 June 2012
                  CW: 191.4 April 21 2013
                  TWL2D: 32 lbs

                  Primal Goals: to feel healthier, fitter, and sexier than ever before

                  Favourite primal resources: The Food Lovers Make it Paleo cookbook, Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo, The Food Lovers Kitchen, Primal Kitchen: A Family Grokumentary and of course Mark's Daily Apple!

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                  • #24
                    Two things about "Wheat Belly":

                    1. Yes it can be a stepping stone to "greater things." I read it. Then looked around and read "Everday Paleo" and then the "Primal Blueprint."

                    2. Dr. Davis does a FANTASTIC job of explaining diabetes. He did it FAR better than I learned in nursing school. Even then I knew there was something wrong with what we were being taught. I was getting steadily fatter in nursing school and was STILL alarmed by the amount of processed food and carbs allowed on the ADA diet.

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                    • #25
                      I have to admit, this book has been sitting on the shelf since shortly after I went primal. My mom purchased it for me to read, I think in reaction to my new lifestyle. I haven't read it, as it is so much more for me than just not eating wheat.

                      Even after all the progress I've made since April, my mom still keeps asking me if I've read that book. I haven't got the heart to tell her I don't need to...

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                      • #26
                        He's a bit of a one trick pony like Dr. Lustig and sugar. At least Davis has addressed his own underlying issues with his own advice unlike Lustig who could stand to lose at least 50#'s.

                        I also have but did not read the book. A central premise in his blog however is that the most effective tool for weight loss is a glucose meter and self testing even absent diabetes. On balance I think following his advice would be better than any conventional wisdom.
                        Wheat is the new tobacco. Spread the word.

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                        • #27
                          I enjoyed the book. And neither of them are "one trick pony's". Just cause you are unfamiliar with their other work doesn't mean that they do nothing else but sit back and rake in the revenue from one book and one famous youtube lecture.

                          I think there are plenty of places where you could pick at it, but the premise is correct.

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                          • #28
                            I actually got a chance to question Dr. Lustig at the Tedx kickoff to his anti-sugar tax and control crusade and he does not want to even acknowledge the holistic approach or effectiveness of paleo (or anything else for that matter judging by his response to other questioners) and in fact dismissed it out of hand. I can't speak to the body of his published work but publicly it's sugar, sugar, sugar.
                            Wheat is the new tobacco. Spread the word.

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                            • #29
                              I read the book, joined the TrackYourPlaque program and posted on their forum a few times. Overall, its not bad, and most of what the book states is parallel to primal life.

                              What I didn't like though is the dogma, in the book, on the blog, and on the forum. "Wheat is bad and will kill you." "All carbs are bad and lead to glycation and cardiovascular disease." Really? Do carbs have the same effect on Usain Bolt after 4 hours of sprint training as the same amount of carbs on a 400 pound couch potato? Of course not. For one, Usain Bolt would be carb depleted. And that's one thing I particularly disagree with in the book.

                              Dr. Davis asserts that wheat (and all carbs, but especially wheat) convert into triglycerides through DNL (de novo lipogenesis). These trigs then lead to small particle LDL's which are the direct cause of arterial plaque. Ok, that sounds good to me. He concludes therefore, that to prevent plaque, cut the wheat and all the carbs. For most of his patients, especially elderly on heart meds, or very obese people, the discussion ends there and I can understand why that's his message.

                              However, they're missing something. In athletic individuals, DNL never happens. (The athlete would need to be glycogen full for several days before DNL would begin.) Ok, maybe this applies to a miniscule percent of the population--like males under 12% bodyfat. That's still an important distinction. The enemy isn't carbs per se--its DNL. And atheletes who are constantly depleting don't have to be afraid of carbs.

                              The trackyourplaque program rather focuses on a simple straightforward message of no wheat. After spending all that time evaluating what they had to offer, I've concluded most of it didn't apply to me at my level of fitness (I'm at 10% bodyfat, primal 90/10, Leangains IF).

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