Gluten-free Diets Are Harmful for the General Population (Except for one percent)

The current gluten-free diet craze is unhealthy for those who do not need it—those without celiac disease. In search of weight loss and/or feeling better, millions of Americans risk becoming sicker and fatter by increasing their intake of gluten-free products. Estimates are as high as 15 to 25 percent of consumers in the US want gluten-free food, with the global market of gluten-free products approaching $2.6 billion in 2010.

Gluten Free
Three Potential Problems from Wheat

Celiac Disease:

Celiac disease results from damage to the intestines caused by eating gluten, found in wheat, barley, and rye, in genetically susceptible people. The resulting malabsorption prevents the small intestine from efficiently absorbing necessary nutrients. Diarrhea, abdominal pain, flatulence, weakness, and weight loss are frequent. Gluten damage to the intestinal barrier creates a “leaky gut.” Now “foreign proteins” from microbes and food are indiscriminately allowed to pass through the intestinal wall, causing all kinds of trouble. People with untreated celiac disease have a two to six times greater risk of dying, mainly due to an increase in the risk of lymphoma, and a much greater risk of suffering from autoimmune diseases, such as type-1 diabetes and thyroiditis (leading to hypothyroidism).

The definitive diagnosis of celiac disease is made by a bowel biopsy showing damage to the intestinal lining (villous atrophy). Blood tests (endomysial and tissue transglutaminase antibodies) help support the diagnosis. The cornerstone of treatment is lifelong adherence to a strictly gluten-free diet.

Wheat Allergies:

Wheat allergies are classically found as two conditions: baker’s asthma and rhinitis (runny nose). However, allergies to components of wheat may cause, and contribute to, many other problems, including inflammatory arthritis.

Wheat Sensitivity:

A new category of problems classified as “wheat sensitivity” or “non-celiac gluten intolerance” has recently become widely recognized. This form of gluten intolerance is diagnosed when both celiac disease and wheat allergy have been excluded. Symptoms include abdominal discomfort, bloating, pain, and diarrhea. In addition, many people relate headaches, “foggy mind,” depression, fatigue, muscle cramps, joint pain, numbness, and skin rash to wheat sensitivity. The actual incidence of non-celiac gluten intolerance is unknown.

Because this condition is so non-specific, my guess is that most of these people are simply sick from their unhealthful diet of meat, dairy foods, vegetable oils, and other junk food. Blaming gluten or wheat is wrong, and as a result, their efforts on gluten-free eating are misplaced. Benefits seen while attempting any new more restrictive diet regimen are from simply removing foods recognized to be unhealthful, irrelevant to their containing gluten or not.

Gluten-free Can Be a Disguise for Low-carb Eating

The national best-selling book, Wheat Belly, by William Davis, MD, has fueled the current rage for gluten-free foods. The book’s subtitle is “Lose the wheat, lose the weight, and find your path back to health.”Misquoting the research and ignoring the bulk of the scientific evidence, Dr. Davis has convinced people, as well known as Fox News TV co-host Bill O’Rielly, that avoiding wheat is the solution to America’s obesity and health crises. Dr. Davis says “modern wheat is a perfect chronic poison; it causes diabetes, it causes inflammation, it causes heart disease, it causes high blood pressure….” He goes on to claim in aCBS News interview that the elimination of wheat will cure these conditions and cause people to stop their medications.

Although I applaud Dr. Davis for bringing problems with wheat to greater public awareness, I consider this fad a serious diversion away from what I believe to be the real solution to obesity and common diseases: a starch-based diet. Traditionally my kind of high-carbohydrate eating has been the diet of people throughout recordable human history, and a large share of these civilizations, ancient and modern, have relied on generous amounts of wheat, barley, and/or rye for survival.

While exaggerating the benefits of a wheat-free diet, Dr. Davis makes clear his alliance with the low-carb movement, typified by the popular Paleo and Atkins diets. He recommends people eat unlimited amounts of eggs, full fat cheese, other dairy products, meat, fish, chicken, and vegetable (olive) oils; and reducing or eliminating favorite (even non-gluten) “comfort foods,” like corn, rice, oats, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, potatoes, and beans. My opposite conclusion is that Dr. Davis’s prescription for filling the dinner table with rich foods, those once reserved for the tables of opulent kings and queens, is actually the cause of the current epidemics of obesity and common illnesses in the developed world, not the solution.

The AACC International (formerly the American Association of Cereal Chemists), a global nonprofit organization of 2,500 grain scientists and professionals studying the chemistry of cereal grains and their products, also disagrees with Dr. Davis and has responded with a scientific analysis of a few of his claims.

Gluten-free Diets Cause Weight Gain

Patients with celiac disease are usually suffering with malnourishment because of the problems created by damage to their intestines from gluten. Following removal of the wheat, barley, and rye, the GI track usually heals, and only then are calories and other nutrients efficiently assimilated. Weight gain is the desired and expected result for underweight people with celiac disease. Some people with documented celiac disease, however, are overweight, and even obese, before starting a gluten-free diet. You might expect that the dietary restrictions imposed by a strict gluten-free protocol alone would cause weight loss for them. Unfortunately, weight gain is a common occurrence in overweight and obese adults and children with celiac disease who go on gluten-free diets. A 2012 study of 1018 patients with biopsy confirmed celiac disease found significant weight gain; with 16 percent of patients moving from a normal or low BMI (body mass index) class into an overweight BMI class, and 22 percent of the patients who were overweight at the time of diagnosis gaining weight after starting their strict gluten-free diet.

Let me be more to the point for the growing masses looking for the answer: “There are no published reports showing that a gluten-free diet produces weight loss in persons without celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.” To reiterate this point, a 2011 article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Associationstates, “At this time there is no scientific evidence supporting the alleged benefit that a gluten-free diet will promote weight loss.”

The primary reason for unwanted weight gain found in people buying gluten-free products is that these imitations often contain more calories, fat, and sugar, and fewer important nutrients (dietary fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals) than the original gluten-containing foods. Even the causal observer can see the folly in eating gluten-free cakes, cookies, and pies, and expecting weight loss and better health. A trip through your local health food store or supermarket reveals rows of desserts where the wheat has been replaced with another grain (flour); and fats, vegetable oils, simple sugars, dairy products, and eggs are abundant on the ingredient lists.

Percent of Fat Calories from Popular Gluten-free Foods
Cheese Pizza
Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Chip Cookies
These foods also can contain saturated fats, free vegetable oils, simple sugars, refined flours, nuts, soy, dairy products, and eggs.

When an expert dietitian, knowledgeable about proper food choices for a healthy gluten-free diet, devoid of cakes, cookies, and pies, is involved in patient care, then weight loss is accomplished. In one studyoverweight and obese patients were advised to choose a high quality gluten-free diet with naturally gluten-free foods (fruits and vegetables) and alternate non-gluten containing grains (quinoa and buckwheat). These properly counseled patients consistently lost excess weight. There is unfortunately a paucity of dietitians and medical doctors available for the proper management of celiac disease.

This Fad Ultimately Harms Many Celiac Patients

If you are one of the few people with celiac disease, then avoiding gluten is crucial to your health. You cannot cheat! With the popularity of “going gluten-free,” for unsubstantiated reasons, the importance of this dietary restriction for the truly needy has been diminished. Waiters at restaurants become used to customers asking for “gluten-free dishes” and then failing to object when a few whole wheat bread crumbs appear as a decoration on top of their potato soup. Since wheat, barley, and rye did not cause any apparent distress in the previous 99 customers, the waiters and chefs think, “It can’t be all that important.” But it is for that one percent.

Dr. McDougall’s Recommendations:

If you suspect that you have celiac disease, get tested by your physician. Avoidance of gluten foods is a lifelong restriction. If you are unsure about your diagnosis, but still suspect gluten, then go on a starch-based diet, with no wheat, barley or rye. For example, you can base your diet on rice, corn, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and beans, with fruits and green and yellow vegetables. The connection between gluten and celiac disease is so close that the diagnosis can often be made when the patient experiences dramatic improvement of symptoms upon following a gluten-free diet. Confirmation of your diagnosis can be made by carefully adding back any suspected foods.

If you, like two-thirds of adults in the US, are sick and overweight, and of the vast majority whom are also without celiac disease, wheat allergy or wheat sensitivity, then I strongly recommend that you include these good starches—wheat, barley and rye—in your diet because these foods are known to cause desirable weight loss and medical benefits.

McDougall Foods Acceptable for Celiac Disease: 

Buckwheat (or kasha)
Job’s tears
Wild rice

Other Foods:
All root vegetables, like potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, and cassava-root (tapioca)
All legumes**, more specifically, beans (including soy and chickpeas), peas and lentils
All green, yellow, and orange vegetables
All fruits

* Oats have been demonstrated in multiple studies to be free of toxic proteins and can be tolerated by most, but not all, people with celiac disease; but there is worry that commercial oat products may be contaminated with wheat.

**Legumes create extra gas, sometimes causing bloating and bowel discomfort. This reaction may be confused with symptoms of celiac disease and wheat sensitivity.


Wheat Belly Low Carb with Fat,Cream, Meat and Cheese

Wheat Belly: Theory with a Dash of Low-Carb

Cardiologist William Davis, author of The New York Times bestseller Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, thinks that all modern wheat (no matter the healthy label on it) is so sinister it can cause your body to practically self-destruct. Davis believes that about 80 percent of us would benefit from eliminating all wheat from our diets, and up to 50 percent of us would experience the positive results of wheat elimination right away. What’s new in Wheat Belly is the idea that modern wheat is a monster, and not just because it can make you fat. It can drive the daggers of illness deep into your body.

Is Davis on to something, or on something?

First of all, you have to realize that the wheat we eat today isn’t the same wheat our ancestors grew. During the last century, wheat was genetically altered. I suppose no one ever wrote a press release about it though. Those folks who altered our wheat did so without testing how it might affect all of us rats who eat it. And that’s why Wheat Belly appears to have such appeal. Dare I call it a conspiracy theory?


Can anyone really prove that the genetic changes to wheat aren’t making us all sick and fat? Probably not, but at the same time, Davis may not be able to make his case that this Frankenstein wheat is, in fact, making us ill.

Davis has lots of theories about how wheat affects us. It may be the cause of the rise in gluten sensitivity and celiac disease we see today. Compounds like gliadin or amylopectin A in wheat make us hungry and trigger all kinds of atrocities like sharper spikes in blood sugar, inflammation and even behavioral disorders.

Anecdotal Evidence

The author’s “proof” is that he’s watched his patients lose weight, experience less joint pain, improve their blood test results, and no longer need inhalers, all from eliminating wheat. This is what’s known as “anecdotal evidence,” and it’s good enough for some readers.

– See more at:

Wheat Belly Fabricator

Wheat Belly, Busted

When Wheat Belly, by William Davis, M.D., came out in August 2011, it was an instant hit. It became a New York Times bestseller.  Praise faroutweighed criticism. Especially in the gluten-free community, it enjoyed rave reviews. The book was received essentially as gospel. Why?

In my opinion, there are three main reasons:

  • It’s written by an M.D., which adds a patina of credibility to the book’s claims,
  • It’s filled with endnotes of citations that reference scientific peer-reviewed publications, and
  • Its message—to “lose the wheat, lose the weight, and find your path back to health”—already agrees with the world view of many in the GF community (that wheat and gluten equals bad).
But as you’ll see, those three factors are dangerous. They build a facade of trust and credibility. They cause us to let down our guard; to cease being the critically-thinking readers that we ought to be. And sometimes, that means we fail to question information that is suspect; we unknowingly accept and perpetuate a myth; we fall victim to false information.
I didn’t set out to write a review of Wheat Belly. I had been heavily researching another unrelated project. Coincidental timing then played a key role. After reading a number of prominent medical studies involving wheat, gluten, weight loss, and celiac disease, I found myself readingWheat Belly, in which Davis cites some of those exact same studies.
Except that there was one major problem: Davis’ claims—and his conclusions based on the research studies he cites—were exactly the opposite of what I’d been reading in those very studies. Here are several important examples:
Consider Chapter 3, Wheat Deconstructed, page 36 of the hardcover edition. Davis writes “if we look only at overweight people who are not severely malnourished at the time of diagnosis who remove wheat from their diet, it becomes clear that this enables them to lose a substantial amount of weight.” He supposedly backs up this claim in the very next sentence by continuing, “A Mayo Clinic/University of Iowa study of 215 obese celiac patients showed 27.5 pounds of weight loss in the first six months of a wheat-free diet.” Sounds pretty impressive and compelling … until you realize he’s wrong.
First of all, the study didn’t examine 215 obese patients. Body Mass Index for study participants ranged from underweight to normal to overweight to obese. Secondly, only 25 of those 215 patients lost weight, and the weight loss was not restricted to the obese subset of participants. (Further, 91 of the 215 patients gained weight, but I’ll return to the issue of weight gain among obese celiacs in a moment.) You can read the full text of the study as reported in the original American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article here.
Next consider Chapter 5, The Wheat/Obesity Connection, page 66 of the hardcover edition. Here Davis invokes a study reported in the American Journal of GastroenterologyHe claims that of newly diagnosed celiac disease patients, 39 percent start overweight and 13 percent start obese. Next Davis writes that “by this estimate, more than half the people now diagnosed with celiac disease are therefore overweight or obese.”
Not quite. Actually, the study noted that overweight and obese patientstogether accounted for 39 percent of diagnoses. The 13 percent obese patients were a subset of the overweight group. By Davis’ questionable math, underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese celiac disease patients would account for 114% of diagnoses, which is impossible.
At the start of the very next paragraph, he invokes a familiar line nearly identical to that from Chapter 3: “If we focus only on overweight people who are not severely malnourished at the time of diagnosis, celiac sufferers actually lose a substantial quantity of weight when they eliminate wheat gluten.”
I call B.S. You know that study Davis just cited in the previous paragraph of his book to build his case? The same study from which he errantly claimed more than half of newly diagnosed celiacs are overweight? Here is what researchers actually found, and I quote directly: “Of patients compliant with a gluten-free diet, 81 percent had gained weight after 2 years, including 82% of initially overweight patients” (emphasis mine).
This finding is not buried deep in the report somewhere. It’s important enough that researchers also call it out directly in the top-level abstract. When Davis claims that initially overweight celiac disease patients lose a significant amount of weight on a gluten-free diet, how does he explain the fact that 82% of those patients gained weight … in one of the very studies he uses to back up his questionable claim?
To me this appears to be more than an innocent, but careless, oversight; it is more than a case of blissful ignorance. Those results are front and center in the study, and they directly contradict his claim. It would take an act of willful omission to leave it out; it’s audacious that he cites the study to bolster his claim.
For a third and final example, consider Chapter 4, The Addictive Properties of Wheat, page 50 of the hardcover edition. Here, Davis writes about gluten exorphins, opiate-like compounds created when stomach enzymes take a crack at partially digesting gluten. Researchers are continuing to study how they impact the human body in myriad ways. One branch of such studies uses the drug naloxone, an opiate blocker, to cancel the potential effect of gluten exorphins and other related compounds.
Davis makes the claim that gluten exorphins are addictive like morphine (another opiate), and that those addictive properties cause you to eat more calories and gain weight. As the theory goes, block the gluten exorphins with naloxone, and you block the addictive properties of wheat-based foods. To back up his boast, he then cites a study, published in theAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in which binge eaters were left in a room filled with a variety of foods for one hour. Davis writes “participants consumed 28 percent less wheat crackers, bread sticks, and pretzels with the administration of naloxone.” And there you have it! See? Naloxone blocked the evil action of gluten exorphins, and those binge eaters ate fewer calories as a result! Except that’s not what happened.
Here’s the truth: While naloxone appeared to have an impact on the consumption of high fat and high sugar foods, it had no effect that correlated with gluten. In fact, while Davis claims that participants consumed 28 percent fewer wheat crackers, bread sticks, and pretzels, they actually consumed 40 percent more gluten-containing bread sticks.
The three examples I’ve noted are hardly the sum total of the problems I found with the book. There are many others, though I’ve already made my point.
Those of us in the gluten-free community want to agree with Wheat Bellybecause Davis’ message resonates with us. But it’s an overly simplified message, at times built on tenuous claims. And how would we ever know? He’s an M.D. He’s the expert, right? And he cites all those sexy research studies.
If I had read this book at another time in my life, I likely would have been none the wiser. I would have read the book, peeked at the citations, and been satisfied. But perhaps serendipity of a certain sort is at work here … that I read this book at precisely that moment in my life when I was best equipped with the knowledge I needed to critically evaluate it. I now pass that evaluation along to you.
For certain, some of what Davis writes is valid. And I have some GF blogging colleagues/friends who know Davis personally. They say he’s a very nice man, which may indeed be true.

But I’m more than disappointed with Davis and Wheat Belly; I’m downright angry. This book can and should be better. We, the gluten-free community, deserve as much. It does an injustice to the very legitimate case against wheat and gluten, and it is insulting to us, the readers. Sadly, Wheat Belly looks polished from a distance, but upon closer inspection it goes belly up. Sections of the book amount to propaganda, fallacies, and unsubstantiated claims. For me, Wheat Belly is a bust.

Are wheat and gluten a health problem? For many of us, undoubtedly. But there’s much more to the story than meets the eye, and you’re not always getting the straight story in Wheat Belly.

Red and Processed Meat Endangers Health

Breaking Medical News
bacon and sausage

Red and Processed Meat Endangers Health

Red and processed meat products increase women’s disease risk, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers from Harvard analyzed the diets and blood of 3,690 participants from the Nurses’ Health Study and found that as total red meat consumption increased, C-reactive protein (CRP, a biomarker of infections and diseases including heart disease and cancer), hemoglobin A1c (an indicator of diabetes risk), and stored iron (a mineral which in excess is associated with heart disease, cancer, and diabetes) also increased. Weight and calorie intake also increased with increased intake of red and processed meat products.

Tuscan White Bean Soup

Bean Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
1 cup thinly sliced celery
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp dried oregano or 1 tbsp fresh
1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp fresh
1 tsp dried basil or 1 tbs fresh
2 carrots, cut into 3/4 slices
2 tomatoes, seeded annd chopped
5 cups vegetable stock
1 (15 oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp finely chopped sage (optional)
1 1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Place oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the oregano, thyme, basil, carrots and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding small amounts of stock or water if necessary to prevent sticking.

2. Add the vegetable stock and cannellini beans and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Place 3 1/2 cups of the soup in a blender and blend until creamy, or use an immersion blender. Return to the pot and stir well.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with sage, if using.

Diet Linked to Bacteria that Causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease


Animal-based diets may contribute to the development of inflammatory bowel disease, according to a Harvard study published this week in Nature. Eleven healthy volunteers consumed either animal-based or plant-based diets for five days. The volunteers on the animal-based diet had an eight-fold increase in the gut population of a bacterium that may cause inflammatory bowel disease, Bilophila wadsworthia. Growth of this bacterium may be stimulated by the digestion of dairy products. In contrast, the gut population of B. wadsworthia fell three-fold in the plant-based diet group. In addition, gut concentrations of a compound linked to liver cancer, deoxycholic acid, rose in the animal-based diet group. The authors note that diet may contribute to the development of inflammatory bowel disease via changes in gut microbes.

David LA, Maurice CF, Carmody RN, et al. Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome. Nature. 2013;505:559-563.

Abundance Doesn’t Mean Health

Abundance Doesn’t Mean Health
•    by Mark Bittman
•    Jan. 21, 2014
•    3 min read
•    original
The relatively new notion that around a third or more of the world’s population is badly (“mal”) nourished conflates hunger and diet-spawned illnesses like diabetes, both of which are preventable.
Both result from a lack of access to quality food, which in turn can result from a lack of money. No one with money starves, and the obesity-diabetes epidemic afflicts predominantly people on the low end of the income scale. With money comes good food, food that creates health and not “illth,” to use John Ruskin’s word. With a lack of money comes either not enough food or so-called empty calories, calories that put on pounds but do not nourish.
This is made very clear in Oxfam’s “Good Enough to Eat” index, a snapshot of the state of eating in 125 countries released last week. The index attempts to determine the best and worst countries in which to eat, by measuring levels of undernourishment and underweight in children; asking “do people have enough to eat?”; measuring costs of food versus other goods and services, to see whether food is affordable; looking at the diversity of people’s diets and the availability of safe water; and monitoring diabetes and obesity levels to learn whether the diets are healthy.
The results for the United States make a fine case for American exceptionalism, though not in the way chauvinists will find pleasing.
We rank first in food affordability; food is cheap compared with other things we buy, and prices are relatively stable. We also rank highly (4th) in food “quality,” which is measured by (potential) diversity of diet, though access to good water is shockingly low (tied for 41st, about a third of the way down the list).
Then the hammer falls: When it comes to healthy eating as measured by diabetes and obesity rates, we’re 120th: sixth from the bottom, better off only than Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Fiji and our unlucky neighbor Mexico. (Canada fares a little better; it’s 18th worst.) We’re also in a tie (with Belarus and other powerhouses) for 35th in “enough to eat.” Really.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine having a food supply as abundant as ours and doing a worse job with it. There are reasons for this:
• Much of what’s grown with the potential to become “food” is actually turned into (as Michael Pollan dubbed them) edible foodlike substances — in short, junk food — that produces the opposite of health. (About this there can barely be an argument any longer.) Some of what we grow is also turned into fuel for automobiles, doing no one but corn farmers any good. And much of it is fed to animals, in itself not a terrible thing, although the way we do it is damaging on many fronts.
• While we generally manage to keep the neediest quarter of our population from actually starving, we do not reach everyone who could use help; for example, only half of those Californians eligible for food stamps (officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) actually get them, according to Roots of Change, a California nonprofit that focuses on food. And, of course, food stamps can be and often are used to buy junk, a pattern that causes as many problems as it alleviates.
• The budget for food education in the United States pales compared with the marketing budget for junk food, and much of that education is either unconvincing or ignored in the face of the barrage of “fun to eat” ads for the food that is worst for us. (These three charts, gathered in one place by Tom Philpott, pretty much tell the story.) There is, as I’ve complained before, no concerted effort to teach people how to cook, which cannot happen without simultaneously teaching people how to shop for real food.
There are also issues of economic justice and education, and all their complications, which is why talking about food and eating inevitably leads to talking about the structure of society.
Part of the problem lies in oversight. Although we have a first lady who cares about these issues (and presumably has the support of the president), we do not have an official government policy or agency responsible for coordinating and assuring that the nation’s investment in food and agriculture is for a nourishing and healthful food supply. The Department of Agriculture partly fills that role, but it also has a clear conflict of interest, since its primary goal is to support what has become a system of industrial agriculture that cares more about production and marketing supports than about what happens to soil, water and air, or the health of consumers who buy its products. (One need look only at budgets to determine what any individual or agency cares about most.)
In the long run, what’s needed is not a Farm Bill — that tangled mess that’s been stalled in Congress since its expiration in 2012 — but a national food and health policy, one that sets goals first for healthful eating and only then determines how best to produce the food that will allow us to meet those goals. It doesn’t make sense to tell people to eat vegetables and then produce junk; that leads only to bad health in the face of evident abundance. What’s so great about that?

Pursue A Healthy You