How does the world class jockey, Ruby Walsh, keep control of his weight? Simple he says. “Bread is my nemesis”.
It’s becoming more and more common that people are realising gluten, found in wheat, barley and rye is behind weight gain (read part 1 of this post here). But what about some hard evidence?
Turning to the clinical papers is only useful with lateral thinking. Take this study for example, one of many:
“Weight gain was inversely associated with the intake of high-fiber, whole-grain foods but positively related to the intake of refined-grain foods”.
As optimistic types regale, high fibre makes the fat “melt away!”. Or rather, white flour makes you fat. Wholegrain less so. What we don’t have is any way of comparing wheat with no wheat, although others have done their damndest, such as Denise Minger’s dissertation of China and Wheat : Wheat is the biggest marker of obesity and heart disease. Also check out Perfect Health Diet’s Paul Jaminet’s brief look at overall obesity trends revealing Japan and Korea with their reliance on rice rather than wheat, corn or soy make for a far leaner nation.
World obesity and wheat
Good data is hard to come by but here’s a quick and dirty comparison of world wheat consumption with obesity. The graph on the left shows wheat consumption by energy, taken from Current Approaches to Diagnosis and Treatment of Celiac Disease: An Evolving Spectrum and a map of global obesity from the International Obesity Taskforce.
The grey spots are where there’s no data, and you should notice – it correlates beautifully. Except for one country – Yemen.
Look at Yemen. They have very high wheat consumption and yet low levels of obesity. What’s going on? Are they doing something right? Afraid not. Food shortages combined with a love of chewing khat – an appetite suppressant- means that 46% of the country is suffering from malnourishment. Those levels make it one of the highest rates of malnutrition in Africa – and the world.
So the conclusion:
- Where wheat meets insufficient food supply you get chronic malnutrition.
- Where wheat meets sufficient food supply you get obesity.
Deficiencies in the fat
If you’ve followed so far, if wheat causes deficiencies causes obesity, there should be links demonstrating these deficiencies right? There are - here’s just one example. In a study of children with celiac disease (remember numbers of celiac could be anywhere from 0.4% to about 30% of the population), untreated suffers had significantly lower levels of Vitamin D.
What vitamin is “significantly lower in obese than in non-obese individuals”? Vitamin D
What are the main causes of low levels of vitamin D? * Insufficient dietary fat, or the inability to absorb dietary fat – from a wheat-damaged gastro-intestinal tract. Funny how the obesity epidemic kicked off in the 1970s when Governments around the world told us to stop eating saturated fat on the back of science that has since totally collapsed isn’t it?
And just to tie it all together - what’s vitamin D used for? Among other things, metabolism and regulation of insulin, which drives fat storage.
I can guarantee there will be more links for those that want to find them, it’s not just about vitamin D. It’s to show how intricately connected things are. Suffice to say obesity is linked with a number of other deficiencies, vitamins and minerals that are no doubt all connected with fat metabolism, such as iron and zinc, and magnesium.
But don’t forget we don’t know what we don’t know, before everyone thinks they can supplement their way out of trouble. I trust the recommended daily vitamin/mineral amounts about as much as I trust the previous advice to ‘avoid all saturated fats’. The chances that science has discovered all the right mineral interactions, right levels of vitamin D, choline, manganese or whatever, and exactly how to take them so you don’t disrupt and inblance another part of your diet is unlikely. But it is possible, and there’s plenty of evidence that simply taking supplements results in weight loss – more on that another day.
>> Edit 17/1. Jess Simmons emailed to correct this, given Vitamin D deficiency is most commonly and correctly associated with not getting enough sunlight, and little of it comes from diet. GI tract issues could lead to deficiencies if diet was your primary source, although the more likely dietary connection would be cholesterol, as vitamin d requires cholesterol to synthesise, even if you have sufficient sunlight to synthesise. Thanks Jess!
Fat twins revisited
Remember the fat twins in the first part of this post? I know, it was several thousand words ago. To remind you :
Take two fat twins. Give them breakfast in the morning of bacon and eggs, except for the first twin, the one you don’t particularly like preferably, give them a crumpet as well.
At lunchtime, both are given an all you can eat buffet.
Repeat this every day for a month. Over the course of a month, who will eat more at lunchtime?
The crumpet eating twin.
The twins needed to be fat to start off with, to prove their normal diet is deficient in various nutrients.
Add a crumpet to the first twin’s diet, and he is now more deficient in nutrients than the other twin come lunchtime. He will eat more to make up for this to start with. But remember, getting fat is not about overeating – it’s about a lack of nutrients. If he is consuming excess energy, over time his metabolism will speed up to get rid of it which may over a longer term reduce the overall amounts of food he eats. But either way assuming the buffet and their dinners comprise the twin’s normal diet, body fat will not be burnt off and weight gain is inevitable in the crumpet-eating twin.
Of course, just in case someone got this confused with calories in/calories out, or a revisiting of low-carb diets, if you replaced the crumpet with a baked potato, he would eat less at the buffet and the overall weight wouldn’t change relative to the other twin.
The final word
I’ll leave you with one final mind-blowing idea, from Ted talk by Michael Pollan, author of the Carnivore’s Dilemma. If grains were conscious, how would they exploit us to ensure that they would spread across the world as fast as possible? They’d make grains essential to the diet. They might even kill us.
Bread's dead baby, bread's dead.
Lemur picture copyright Tambako