Wheat Belly

A transcript of the Lew Rockwell Show episode 372 with William Davis, M.D.

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ROCKWELL:  Good morning.  Welcome to the Lew Rockwell Show.  And how great to have as our guest this morning, Dr. William Davis.  Dr. Davis is a preventive cardiologist in Milwaukee, author of four books, most famously, the extremely influential book, a great book, called Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health.

So, Doctor, you came to the conclusion that really the best thing that — or one of the best things people can do for their health, their heart health and their mood and their inflammatory diseases and many other things is stop eating wheat.  What led you to that conclusion?

DAVIS:  Exactly right, Lew.  It is the most powerful strategy for health I have ever — I’ve been practicing medicine for about 25 years now.  I can tell you nothing, nothing has approached the power of this very odd, I know, and surprising strategy.

Well, a number of paths led me down to this specific conclusion that modern wheat was a big problem in the human diet.  One of the first observations that led me down this path was that when people remove wheat from their diet — I practice cardiology and specifically try to help people stop or even reverse coronary disease, coronary atherosclerosis.  And one of the things you learn rapidly when you try to do that is you cannot control coronary disease and risks for heart attack if diabetes or pre-diabetes is part of the picture.  Cannot control the disease; it progresses.  You end up with heart attack, the need for stents, bypass surgery, all that kind of business if you fail to control diabetes or pre-diabetes.

So I wanted to help people gain better control over that, and preferably using a natural collection of strategies rather than lots of drugs.  So I used a very simple observation, and that is that in all tables of glycemic index, the glycemic index of wheat, that is white flour and whole-wheat bread, have among the highest of all glycemic indexes.  And so I had people remove wheat simply as a maneuver to reduce blood sugars.  And people did that and their blood sugars did, indeed, drop.  And their hemoglobin A1C, this long-term measure of blood sugar, also plummeted.

But it was all the other stuff that I saw happen over the next several months as people did this, as they removed wheat.  And they told me that all their joint pain was gone and that many diabetics became non-diabetic and came off their insulin and drugs.  People with inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, experienced dramatic relief, often complete cure.  Also, colitis went away.  Acid reflux disappeared.  Irritable bowel syndrome disappeared.  Asthma, off all three inhalers.  Migraine headaches gone for the first time in 20 years.  Depression lifted.  And this went on and on and on.  I was astounded that this was all happening because, at first, I thought it was pure coincidence.  But it became clear after seeing as many — hundreds of thousands now, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of times.  This is no coincidence.  It’s a real effect.

ROCKWELL:  You know, Doctor, this is — if people are eating a lot of wheat — and obviously, the only kind of wheat that’s available in America normally is modern wheat of the sort that the Department of Agriculture and the Big Agra industries have helped develop.  How did that begin?  I mean, why does the government Food Pyramid and so forth, why do they tell you to eat so much wheat?  Are they just idiotic?  Are they —

(LAUGHTER)

— connected with big-moneyed interests?  I mean, what the heck is — (laughing) — why did they change?  This wasn’t always the American — I don’t know why the government is recommending diets anyway to people.  It seems to me entirely illegitimate.  But if they’re going to be doing it, why are they recommending the worst-possible types of food for people to eat and eat a lot of?

DAVIS:  It is astounding, isn’t it?  You know, if the diet were just ineffective, Lew, that would be bad enough.  But not only is it not effective, it is the most destructive, silly, blundering collection of advice you could possibly put together.

Well, there’s a lot of things that led us down this path.  One was a noble effort to help solve world hunger.  So the research that led to the creation of this genetic monstrosity, called High-Yield Semi-Dwarf Wheat, that is wheat that stands 18 to 24 inches high,  very thick with a large seed head and large seeds, as compared to four and a half foot tall Tall Slender, the traditional form of wheat.  This thing was created to increase yield and increase year-over-year consistent crops.  So it was created to help feed the world with grains.  So this thing now dominates agriculture.  50 percent of all human calories come from the high-yield mono crops, wheat, corn and soy.  20 percent of all calories from wheat.  So it’s now come to dominate the diet.

We were also misled by this silly misinterpretation of nutritional research.  And that is, when I reduce it to these terms, it sounds silly, but this is what all nutritionists and dieticians have done.  If you replace something bad, white flour products, with something less bad, whole wheat, and there’s an apparent health benefit — and there is, Lew.  There is a health benefit when you do that — then the conclusion, using the flawed logic of nutrition, is that a whole bunch of less bad things might be good for you.  So if we apply that same flawed logic, for instance, to cigarettes, if we replace unfiltered cigarettes with filtered cigarettes, and there’s an apparent benefit, then smoking a whole bunch of filtered cigarettes must be good for you.  That is the flawed logic applied over and over again with this notion of whole grain.

It’s also applied, by the way, in many other facets of nutritional thinking.  It’s the only “science” that uses this kind of flawed logic.  They don’t use this in biochemistry.  They don’t use it in physics.  They only use it in nutrition.  But this is the sort of silly logic that has led us down the path of allowing the diet to be dominated now.  Our own USDA tells us that 60 percent of our calories should come from grains but there is no precedent for that ever in the history of man on earth that we should have our diets dominated by grains.  And, of course, perhaps it would be bad enough if they were wild or ancient grains, but they’re not, of course.  These are the grains of agribusiness, modern high-yield mono crops that have been herbicided, pesticided and genetically manipulated.  And these are the things that have taken on new characteristics in unexpected ways and have all these peculiar health effects.

ROCKWELL:  Is it gluten that’s the problem?  Is it much higher?  Are levels of gluten in the dwarf wheat, that’s the problem or are there other considerations as well?

DAVIS:  Yeah, I don’t know where that fiction comes from.  People say that the gluten content of wheat is higher.  That’s actually not true.  It varies widely depending on the strain of wheat.

The problem with modern wheat has to do with the gliadin protein.  Gliadin is a subcomponent of gluten.  But a few amino acids different in modern gliadin have turned into an opium.  That is, when you ingest gliadin protein from wheat, it’s ingested, these small polypeptides, small proteins.  Five or six have been identified now.  And these are each four or five amino acids long.  And these are small enough to cross into the brain and bind to the opiate receptor of the human brain, just like morphine or heroin, except the opiate polypeptides of wheat — these are called exorphins, or exogenously derived morphine-like derivatives.  These compounds don’t make us high and they don’t give us pain relief.  They only stimulate appetite.  So when this stuff was introduced into the U.S. food supply in the mid ’80s, we watched calorie intake go up 400 calories per person per day 365 days.  So the gliadin proteins are the fundamental problem in modern wheat.

That same gliadin protein, Lew, also has the curious capacity to unlock the normal intestinal barriers to foreign substances.  So when you and I eat something, the stuff that goes in our mouths and intestinal tract does not necessarily belong in our blood stream.  And so the intestinal tract is very effective at making that kind of discriminatory decision, unless the gliadin protein of wheat is in the vicinity, in which case that normal discriminatory capacity is disabled and foreign antigens, foreign substances are allowed into your blood stream.  This is the first step in generating autoimmunity.  These are the 75 conditions that humans are prone to, like rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, polymyositis, polymyalgia rheumatica, Lupus.  That long list of diseases of inflammation where the body attacks itself is started by the gliadin protein.

There’s amylopectin A.  That’s the carbohydrate in wheat that’s responsible for the fact that two slices of whole-wheat bread raised blood sugar higher than six teaspoons of table sugar.  Then there’s wheat germ and glutenin, a very unique and destructive protein that is a direct intestinal toxin.  If I purify just one milligram, a little tiny one milligram and give it to a rat, it destroys its intestinal tract.  The average American who consumes plenty of healthy whole grain gets 10 to 20 milligrams per day of this direct intestinal toxin.  So that’s a partial list.  There’s lots more.  But this thing is a perfectly crafted collection of poisons to the human body.  And, of course, we’re told to eat more of it.

So when you view the world from this perspective, it’s no wonder that we have an explosion of all these conditions, from diabetes to weight grain to rheumatoid arthritis.  It is due to this ridiculous notion of ingesting or eating more healthy whole grains.

ROCKWELL:  I’ve always noticed that when people talk about obesity problems, for example, how there’s increased obesity and so forth, they never address — which would seem to me the first thing you’d be wanting to look at — what happened.  Because, of course, people have not always been all fat.  Our parents and grandparents didn’t have these levels of obesity.  So it seems to me, if you’re a scientist or just any kind of investigator, you’d want to ask, why did this change.  But they never address that question.  It’s just too many McDonald’s or things of that sort, that there have to be better programs in schools and so forth.  They never want to discuss why did this change.  I wonder how many of them actually know something about it.  I guess it’s really politically incorrect to discuss these things.  There’s obviously a lot of money involved, money and power.  It’s all sort of forbidden.  So thank goodness that you’re telling us about it.

DAVIS:  You make a crucial point.  This is very destructive to the economy to talk this way, isn’t it?  That is, we’re talking about a huge piece of the economy, a form of economy created by government legislation and agribusiness.  In other words, it’s no mistake that we’ve gone from five million family farms in the U.S. — a family farm, a place where a family lived and had two cows and three pigs and a half dozen of chickens and 20 acres of rutabagas, green peppers and lettuce — now we have a nation of factory farms, vast tracts, warehousing of cattle and pigs and chickens, and vast mono crops, concentrating on wheat, corn and soy.  This is a top-down, vertically integrated system of agriculture that was created by design.  This didn’t happen by accident.  This was funded, subsidized and created by government legislation and key people in the government.  And it’s hard to know exactly why, except that you concentrate profits at the top by this system.  It’s also easier to control.  It’s easier to control several large agribusiness corporations as opposed to five million family farms.  And so we have this system of food production that has been created by design.  So you’re exactly right.  Talking about it is very politically incorrect.

ROCKWELL:  Well, this is sort of the corporate statist outlook, which is certainly the case in Big Agriculture.  Of course, it’s hardly unique to that.  You have the Military-Industrial Complex.  You have the Prison-Industrial Complex, the whole medical system, Big Pharma, all similar big government/big business partnerships — Fascism as Mussolini called it.  So this is just the American economy across the board.  I think it’s very important to try to educate people about the nature of this economic system and all the damage it does.  And, of course, the increasing police state and the wars and all the things the government is doing.

But here’s something somebody can actually do for themselves.  It’s actually within our control as individuals.  We can actually reject the government/corporate state in terms of agriculture.  We don’t have to go along with it.  And, of course, not only are we doing the right thing for society as a whole to individually reject it, we benefit ourselves so tremendously.

DAVIS:  Well said, Lew.  I agree 100%.  That is, it’s like the peasants overthrowing Moammar Gadhafi in the absence of guns and money.  That is, they organized, they tweeted and they Facebooked.  They all got together with social media.  That’s what you and I are doing.  We’re talking about it on the radio, on podcasts, social media.   We’re exposing this nonsense for what it is.  This is the top-down control over human behavior.  And the American health is — it is a big mistake.

You can’t rely on the USDA.  They’re never going to come out and say, you know, we’re sorry, we goofed, we made a big mistake.

ROCKWELL:  Heck no.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIS:  In fact, we destroyed  —

ROCKWELL:  The government never does that, no.

DAVIS:  That’s right — (laughing).  So we’re never going to hear that.  So we’ve got to do it ourselves.  Take back control and expose the charade for what it is.

ROCKWELL:  Well, Doctor, thanks so much for writing this book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health.  We’ll, of course, link to it.  We’ll link to your blog and all the various things you do.

Keep it up and thanks again so much for coming on the show today.

DAVIS:  Well, thank you, Lew.  My pleasure.

ROCKWELL:  Bye-bye

Well, thanks so much for listening to the Lew Rockwell Show today. Take a look at all the podcasts. There have been hundreds of them. There’s a link on the upper right-hand corner of the LRC front page. Thank you.

Podcast date, May 24, 2013

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