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Monday, September 26, 2011

Wheat Belly on Fox & Friends

Dr. "Wheat Belly" Davis was on Fox and Friends a bit ago.  Video HERE.  For starters, he looked nothing like the picture on his website.  His presentation was weak overall.  He started out discussing the gliadins in wheat and how they've been modified to make them addictive, but when Gretchen asked him about gluten-free products and he likened them to filtered cigarettes.  This is when he did his BG schtick with the whole two slices of whole wheat bread will spike BG as much as 2 Tbs of sugar thing.    He discussed his preventative cardiology practice - paraphrasing - 80% of my patients are either diabetic or prediabetic and the rest are what I call pre-prediabetic. Therefore making it out that we're all destined for diabetes if we spike our blood sugar.  

Has anyone here read Wheat Belly?  Are the references there for his assertion that wheat specifically causes visceral fat accumulation?  I'm very interested in the referencing of that book.  

Unless he did much better in his other appearances, I don't see how this book is making such a splash, he sure didn't sell it very well.  I think many of us can certainly benefit by eliminating wheat because (a) some of us are clearly intolerant to it, and (b) it means eliminating (or dramatically cutting down) bread and other baked goods.  Aside from sandwiches, bread is often added to a meal = extra calories.  But the over-the-top rhetoric isn't going to square with most people.


Diana said...

"Unless he did much better in his other appearances, I don't see how this book is making such a splash, he sure didn't sell it very well."


As PT Barnum said, "there is a sucker born every minute." In a country of 300 million, if you can get a book published by a reputable publisher, you will have a formidable marketing machinery behind it, and you'll sell a few thousand copies.

The major pub. houses have deals with libraries. Think of it: we have 3100 counties in the US, each with at least one library (sometimes more as in the case of major met. areas). In the US selling 5000 copies of a book is considered good. In a more literate country such as Holland, 5000 copies is considered not so good.

People want miracle cures and this is just one of them. This year's miracle cure ends up in the remainder bin next year. I have taken books that "everyone was talking about" to the local 2nd hand bookshop and couldn't sell them.

That, IMO, is what WHEAT BELLY is. Just another miracle cure for suckers. Unfortunately, that shit sells.

Fred Hahn said...

Another snarky blog. Why don't you read the book?

You said:

"But the over-the-top rhetoric isn't going to square with most people."

Really? I wonder how it landed on the NY Times bestseller list then. Oh, and it's been there for 2 weeks.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Thanks LCIKC! Have you read it? Can you provide me with the references for his claims about visceral fat? That is, assuming Davis knows what visceral fat is as he's previously posted pictures of subcutaneous fat love handles as evidence :( Diana has the answer to your question. I wasn't talking about separating people from their money, I was talking about changing minds.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

For what it's worth, I can't see how anyone can take this man seriously after he wrote that battery acid post. Here's my blog on it: Bacon, Eggs & Battery Acid

Duffy Pratt said...

For hardcover books, sales of about 4-5000 books in a week is enough to crack the New York Times bestseller list. We are not a nation of readers, and definitely not a nation of people who read hardcover books on first release.

river rance said...

Well, the double and triple chins don't help Dr.Davis's appearance…granted he doesn't come across on tv very well .He reminds me of Jimmy Moore trying to sell paleo/low carb while being a 300 lb. obese man…who's buying that? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?

Swede said...

Anyone know where I can catch this video? Was not able to find it on Fox's website.

Fashiontribes Diet said...

@Swede here's the link:

@evelyn "Can you provide me with the references for his claims about visceral fat? That is, assuming Davis knows what visceral fat is as he's previously posted pictures of subcutaneous fat love handles as evidence" reminds of that joke: What do you call the person who graduated last in their class at med school? A doctor.

I kid, I kid (okay, maybe a bit "snarky).

One thing that did come to mind though as I was watching the Dr. Wheat Belly interview was when he mentioned the Franken-engineering of wheat, and how that makes you want to eat more-more-more. I immediately thought of the Food Reward idea & how "hyperpalatibility" is probably the Ground Zero factor that starts people eating to excess which then triggers the rest of the fattening consequences. That part of his interview did make me wonder if he has some kind of a valid point about the franken-aspect & excess food reward.

Diana said...

@Duffy Pratt, "For hardcover books, sales of about 4-5000 books in a week is enough to crack the New York Times bestseller list. We are not a nation of readers..."

Yes, I've read that. I've also read that in Holland you'd have to sell 10,000 to be considered a best-seller and Holland has @17M people.

The mass market publishing industry is kind of a fix. WHEAT BELLY will be sold to every library in the country, plus it will be shipped to every chain bookstore, and that makes it a "best seller."

The late British writer Anthony Burgess proposed a different standard for "best seller" - he suggested that we look at how well a book sells over a period of at least 100 years. Now let's see, WUTHERING HEIGHTS was published in 1847.

Not bad for a chick writer.

sixty-five said...

Thanks to the person who posted the link to the video, allowing us to form our own opinions. I haven't read the book either, but this clip didn't repel me or arouse my contempt. Not everyone is comfortable performing in the "sound byte" culture we live in. I see that Dr Eades has given the book a rave review. The problem I have with so much of this stuff is that I am simply not qualified to judge whether someone's "science" does or doesn't make sense. And I suspect that's true for many of us here. And all the acronyms flying around just make it worse. All I want to do is get rid of some extra pounds and get/stay healthy in the process, and, so far, my version of "low carb" (which includes pretty much zero grains of any kind) seems to be working well for me. So I guess I'll keep on with it. Sigh.

Dawn D said...

Read the book before you make such ridiculous comments. A hardcover book doesn't make NYT number 5 best seller in less than 2 weeks if it wasn't worth the read and captures it's readers attention. Perhaps you should attempt to go 100% wheat free for 1 month and see the results. Have you tried it? He looks exactly like the picture on his website with glasses. Perhaps if you lay off the wheat your cataracts and/or eyesight would improve and see it is the very same man.

Anya said...

This is getting old.
This group is getting upset with anyone and anything that has (had) success in weight-loss.
I dropped wheat, sugar and seed oils 5 years ago (paleo) and have lost a lot of weight. I mostly thank people like Jimmy Moore and William Davis for this.
A bit has has come back (15% ?) and then I discovered that calories/infections/stress/sleep /exercise also matter.
Don't become a pure bashing blog please.
I'm sure you can find issues with all diet books and scientific studies.

Ditching wheat DOES help.

Kindke said...

While I think alot of Dr Davis says is "way off the mark", bread is surely one of the most fattening foods known to man.

Marmite on toast is one of my favourite breakfasts, but bread just piles on the pounds for me.

OnePointFive said...

I can't understand why wheat per se has to take the blame. The French eat slightly more wheat than the Americans, (around 800 cal a day)47% of the French have BMIs over 25 and of those 9% have BMIs over 30. About 80% of Americans have BMIs over 25, of those over 40% have BMIS over 30.
Other countries with higher wheat intakes have far less obsesity. (I've put a couple of graphs on my blog to demonstrate this as the subject came up elsewhere)

Tonus said...

@Anya: "This group is getting upset with anyone and anything that has (had) success in weight-loss."

Oh, I dunno. I've had success with weight loss by drastically reducing sugar and grain intake, and no one in 'this group' seems upset with me.

Come to think of it, CarbSane herself has mentioned many times that she lost a good amount of weight on a low-carb diet.

It gets a bit annoying that so many people skip the more science-dense posts and then complain that the site is becoming one-dimensional. Sure, topics like this one will generate interest just from the controversy, but it doesn't make up nearly as much of the content as you might think.

Evelyn will bash people and ideas that she feels are wrong or stupid, but that doesn't mean that the site is written for the sake of bashing people or ideas. The content that people CLAIM to want is there, if they just stop to read it.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

@Anya: Yeah, what Tonus said. Don't look now, another Wheat Belly buster is on the way! I'm not sure where you get that anyone is upset with people losing weight.

@FTD: Thanks for the link, I'm going to edit it in.

@all critics: Do you need a book full of pseudoscientific rubbish to drop the donuts & lattes?

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Welcome Anya, Dawn and sixty-five. I do hope you'll stay a spell and read some of the science posts!

@River: Welcome to the Asylum! He looked half asleep at the beginning which didn't come off well. Since he likes to pick on men with boobs, I'd point out that guys with squeaky voices shouldn't pick on other guys with effeminate features.

Anya said...

You don't have to welcome me again Evelyn, I was here when you still insisted on being addressed as CarbSane.

I do read all the science posts and sometimes they make sense and I try to adjust my views.

The bashing diet(guru) 'du jour' posts are just tiring and, I suppose, are there mainly to attract traffic from people that have failed/are failing at diet du jour ...

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Well don't read them then.

bentleyj74 said...

Dawn said

" A hardcover book doesn't make NYT number 5 best seller in less than 2 weeks if it wasn't worth the read and captures it's readers attention. "

Response to implication that marketability = substance/quality...


Swede said...

Poor wheat. Where is the justice? I see a bad case of guilt by association here. I have serious doubts that anyone who claims they lost weight by "ditching grains" was previously eating nothing but whole wheat products without added sugars, oils, or aluminum and bromide dough conditioners. Notice how they always say "I gave up grains, seed oils and sugar."

I don't know the actual numbers, but I would say that over 99% of the time wheat does not travel alone. In my house we eat a lot of Trader Joe's organic whole wheat pasta. It has a great ingredient list: durum whole wheat, water. It's nutritious, cheap and filling. I even feed a lot of it to my 1 year old. If she becomes autistic then I'll know what to blame :)

Of course, those with actual celiac should avoid wheat. If you cannot digest a food then there is no point in eating it. Apparently the true rate of celiac is quite low, i.e in the single digits as a percentage of the whole population.

Tonus said...

Yeah, I think that most of us who lost weight while cutting back on grain intake fall into the scenario I described in another comment. Since the idea is to lose weight and since carbs are easier to overeat than proteins or fats (my belief), such a diet will lead to weight loss. It's tempting to point to one item and put all credit/blame on it without really knowing what's going on, and I think that people have a particularly bad habit of doing that where health is concerned.

I'm on something approaching speaking terms with grains now. One benefit of my dietary changes was that a number of stomach ills have vanished (and I'm still tickled to find that my lactose intolerance was one of them). Initially I was of the mind that of COURSE it had to be the grains because, um... *mumble mumble*

With a more reasonable approach to diet these days, I've been trying to find what works and what doesn't via experimentation. Wheat bread in moderately small amounts is fine, and I try to manage it for the reasons Swede mentions- it's something I eat as part of a larger meal or food item, and makes it easier to eat more than I need. But it does not seem to have any adverse effect on how I feel.

Sadly (tragically so!) it seems that granola does have a very unpleasant effect on my gut. I love granola, but so far any attempts to eat it again result in stomach cramps and general unpleasantness. The same for instant oatmeal. It's fair to point out that I prefer both of those in their refined form, which is accompanied by copious amounts of refined sugar and vegetable oils. Further experimentation will be required, but so far it doesn't look good, and I'm not particularly eager to revisit the stomach aches of yore when I can already enjoy a diet that keeps my weight under control and me feeling very very good.

I would definitely advise people to find what works and not be too quick to demonize one food item, especially when you've made a lot of changes at once. I suppose I could have worded my previous comment more clearly, but my point was that no one here gave me grief for losing weight while cutting back on grains.

Lerner said...

I suppose it's been discussed here previously, but I see the shift to blame wheat as just an attempt to salvage Taubes and company*.

Anyone who is reasonable can see that the rice-eating Japanese weren't fat for many generations. Then being reasonable, they can easily read and learn about the yam-eating people in Okinawa, New Guinea etc.

Still want to claim that calories don't matter, only carbs? The way to try and keep Taubes and CHO from being tossed on the scrap heap of history is to claim that it's really a subset of carbs (wheat) that is the culprit.

I'd suspect that there are regions of noodle and dumpling eating people in Korea or China that expose the myth there. So what next? Well then, it's a strain of wheat (a subset of a subset) that is the magical villain.

Yes, there surely are people who have sensitivities to wheat/gluten. But you can't sell lots of books unless you claim that everybody is affected. Then throw in the guaranteed crowd-pleaser: "the evil Agribusiness is behind it". Nobody is more suspicious of corporations than me, but that doesn't mean I buy into the marketing hype, either.


Taubes and company* = those making money, and even those garnering prestige by being on top of a popular trend

Lerner said...

Anyone suffering from leaky gut might be interested in this:

Glutamine supplementation decreases intestinal permeability and preserves gut mucosa integrity in an experimental mouse model. dos Santos 2010


GLN had a positive impact on the intestinal barrier by reducing permeability and bacterial translocation to physiologic levels and preserving mucosal integrity.

M. said...

Lerner, I don’t know if it is so much to salvage Taubes and company. One of the interesting aspects of the China Study data was the differing correlations with disease between wheat and white rice, which somewhat contradicts Taubes view that it is all about the glycemic index. I think a lot of the interest in wheat comes from Denise Minger’s posts.

Dr Davis has a big fanbase in the lowcarb community, so pretty much any book he published would have been seen favorably by these fans. (Even if he doesn't know the difference between visceral fat and subcutaneous fat...)

Sue said...

Lerner, thanks. Yeh glutamine is used by naturopaths to restore guts. Glutamine is food for the villi. Most people have issues with wheat (gluten)because of compromised guts. When this is fixed that problematic food isn't an issue anymore.

eulerandothers said...

OnePointFive said:
'I can't understand why wheat per se has to take the blame. The French eat slightly more wheat than the Americans, (around 800 cal a day)47% of the French have BMIs over 25 and of those 9% have BMIs over 30. About 80% of Americans have BMIs over 25, of those over 40% have BMIS over 30.'

Yeah! Say it loud and say it proud! When wheat starts making you fat, the average French man will waddle down the street. But until then, the baguette rules! (800 calories a day more is not 'slightly more' to me, though... it's almost half of an average calorie limit for a person who diets and is of average height)

Diana said...

It's not bashing to say that someone is trying to sell you a line and you should save your money.

@euler: It's that damn French paradox. Don't you get it? What is it gonna take to make you understand the French are different from you and me? They have a metabolic advantage! It's the way they pronounce their language!

Brandon said...

I see a lot of people whining that the posters here haven't read the book, but not a single reader who's actually commented on question asked in the blog post regarding references in the book. It makes it seem almost like those brave readers didn't much care at all whether there was any science to back Davis' claims.

CarrollJ16 said...

Currently reading WB. Davis tested his blood sugar after eating bread made from einkorn flour(a heritage wheat genus), and an organic modern wheat variety. From a fasting level of 84 the heritage variety put his blood glucose up to 110, the modern variety up to 167. He credits wheat's high amylopectin A content for causing glucose and insulin surges which over time leads to fat deposition, particularly visible in the abdomen. This last assertion is not referenced to any study. However later he uses 3 studies (Murray Watson Clearman Mitros "Effect of a GF on gasto symptoms in celiac disease" Am J Clin Nutr 2004) (Cheng Brar Lee Green "Body Mass index in celiac disease: beneficial effects of a GF diet" J Clin Gasto 2010 Apr) (Venkatasubramani Telega Werlin "Obesity in pediatric celiac disease" J Pediat Garto Nutr 2010 May) as proof that significant weight is lost on GF provided people are not emaciated to begin with. Indirect evidence of sorts.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Hi Carroll, Thanks for those! I'd read about his Einkorn experiment ... not sure I trust that, when he claims a normal person's BG will go up to like 180 after a bowl of oatmeal.

Here's the abstract from one:
Obesity in Pediatric Celiac Disease
Venkatasubramani, Narayanan*; Telega, Grzegorz*; Werlin, Steven L†
Background and Aim: Celiac disease (CD) is a T cell–mediated chronic autoimmune enteropathy occurring in genetically susceptible individuals, and manifested by a permanent intolerance to gluten-containing products. CD commonly presents in children as failure to thrive and malabsorption or after screening high-risk groups such as people with diabetes. Almost half of adult patients with CD have a body mass index (BMI) >25 at diagnosis. Classic symptoms like diarrhea are less common in obese patients. Few children have been reported with CD and obesity. Because many children with newly diagnosed CD are identified by screening high-risk groups, obesity is more common than previously suspected. The aim of the study was to estimate the prevalence of obesity at diagnosis in children with CD and to describe the clinical characteristics of this group.

Patients and Methods: This is a retrospective study of 143 patients with CD diagnosed between 1986 and 2003 at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. Data collected included patient's age, sex, ethnicity, presenting signs and symptoms, BMI, celiac antibody titers, small-intestinal biopsy results, and follow-up weight 1 year after initiating a gluten-free diet (GFD).

Results: Seven of the 143 (5%) patients had BMI >95th percentile. The most common presenting symptoms among obese patients were abdominal pain, diabetes, and diarrhea. Symptoms improved in all of the patients on a GFD. BMI decreased in 4 (50%), increased in 2 (25%), and was not available in 1 patient at 1 year after starting on GFD.

Conclusions: Obesity is more common in children with CD than previously recognized. In the appropriate clinical setting, CD must be considered even in obese children.


Convincing evidence for the wheat belly hypothesis?

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

@Lerner: I see it more as carving out a niche. How many ways to rehash the TWICHOO??

CarrollJ16 said...

Hi Evelyn,

Clearly this is the weaker of the 3 studies as he references it last. The first one (Weston) of 215 obese Celiacs showed at 27.5 pound weight loss in the first 6 months of a wheat free diet. In the second study (Cheng Brar Lee Green)'wheat elimination cut the frequency of obesity in half within a year, with more than 50% of participants with a starting BMI in overweight range of 25 to 29.9 losing an average of 26 pounds'.

Davis references a study by Bardella Fredella Prampolina ("Body composition and dietary intakes in adult celiac disease patients consuming a strict GF diet" Am J Clin Nutr 2000 Oct) to assert that GF diets tend to result in a spontaneous 14% reduction of calorie intake. He puts this down to the addictive appetite-stimulating effect of wheat.

You should take a look at WB. No doubt there is a pile of things you'll find fault with - Leaps in logic, overstatements, indirect evidence, the folksy tone. However Davis can also be surprisingly undogmatic in places as well, and I believe there is some good information here despite any failings.

Davis is not just a science journo like Taubes. He has a wealth of clinical experience to draw on, which is not nothing. According to him many of his patients' biomarkers improve significantly with a nutritional approach. I'm not a paid-up fan, however I do find WB an interesting hypothesis.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Hi Carroll,
That eliminating wheat or switching to gluten free results in weight loss is not evidence that wheat/gluten is the cause of Wheat Belly -- that's his meme. I think many have said here, as did I, that cutting wheat can be an effective weight loss strategy. I think going gluten free probably rectifies some micronutrient deficiencies that can drive overeating and/or being more energetic b/c they feel better. One friend of mine was diagnosed celiac b/c she was refused to donate blood twice in a row so she went to the doc to find out about her anemia. Anemia = lethargy. All of this is not necessarily relevant to non-celiacs and that is the vast majority of us.

I have a hard time (does it show? LOL) with folks like Davis because it's impossible to get past the bad science to see if he has any valid points. I'd rather read a book by someone who is consistently presenting sound science. I shouldn't have to go to the references to see what they actually show vs. what he implies from them. So, no thanks, I'll pass :)

Kurt G. Harris MD said...


"From a fasting level of 84 the heritage variety put his blood glucose up to 110, the modern variety up to 167."

He also has type II diabetes (!!!) and did not do the experiment in a blinded fashion.

This difference is just reflective of the glycemic index, which makes it relevant if you have diabetes but absolutely meaningless if you don't. It would be like giving a diabetic an egg or a potato to tell which one is "dangerous". Nonsense.

You can drive your blood sugar up just with an adrenaline surge if you are truly scared of what you are eating. I have normal patients who can drive their blood glucose up by 30 points while fasting with EXERCISE.

He claims to have been seriously ill for 36 hrs after the"bad" wheat, which he knew was supposed to be bad when he ate it. Does that tell you anything?

Kurt G. Harris MD said...

"He credits wheat's high amylopectin A content for causing glucose and insulin surges which over time leads to fat deposition"

This is the CIH. This fails as an explanatory mechanism.

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