Welcome all seeking refuge from low carb dogma!

“To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact”
~ Charles Darwin (it's evolutionary baybeee!)

Monday, October 3, 2011

And I'm the one that's Paranoid? (Yeah ... Dr. Wheat Belly Again!)

I just had to laugh at Fat Head's recent post The Long Knives are out for Wheat Belly where he seems convinced that folks criticizing Wheat Belly are trolling the internet at the behest of the grain industry.  I mean why would anyone criticize the nonsense on the basis of its bad science?   They've got to silence Davis!   Maybe I'm missing out on this guy's notorious humor and this post is tongue in cheek, but ... Ha ha ha.    

Of course we then get the "well they haven't read the book" whine in the comments.  Folks, enough of this book is available for preview on Google to get the gist of what is in it.   It's a compilation alarmism and hyperbole laced blog posts from this past year, fleshed out with a few references.   As I demonstrated in Wheat Belly on Acid, this section of his book was simply a tirade against oats turned against wheat.  I love eggs.  I would advocate for eating them were I in the nutritional advice business.  But by Davis' logic, eggs are more harmful to your bones than wheat.  Were I to employ his logic I might accuse him of advocating eating bowls of steaming furniture finish for breakfast.

Have we not learned a thing from GCBC when it comes to references?  For starters, a mile-long list of references does not automatically imbue credibility to a book.   Davis seems to have learned from the master how to interweave unsubstantiated claims with just enough "science" to bolster his case.  Has Davis offered any specific references for how wheat specifically promotes visceral fat accumulation?  A search for visceral fat in Wheat Belly yields 33 hits, most of which seem to be referencing the correlation of visceral fat with various diseases.  In other words, his whole premise in the book is based on this assertion that wheat is particularly insidious when it comes to promoting visceral fat.  Anything?  Anyone?  (Where's Ben Stein when you need him ...)

His schtick seems to be nothing more than a  rehashing of TWICHOO, hinging on the insulin spikes causing insulin resistance and eventually wearing out your pancreas.  On page 115 Davis writes:

How about if the glove don't fit, you must acquit?  Because as OnePointFive blogged, obesity rates don't even mirror wheat consumption between nations, which should be enough of an inconvenient fact to keep this hypothesis balloon from reaching the trial stage.  In his recent Why wheat makes you fat post, 
High glucose and high insulin– This effect is not unique to wheat, but shared with other high-glycemic index foods (yes: whole wheat has a very high-glycemic index) like cornstarch and rice starch (yes, the stuff used to make gluten-free foods). The high-glycemic index means high blood glucose triggers high blood insulin. This occurs in 90- to 120-minute cycles. The high insulin that inevitably accompanies high blood sugar, over time and occurring repeatedly, induces insulin resistance in the tissues of the body. Insulin resistance causes fat accumulation, specifically in abdominal visceral fat, as well as diabetes and pre-diabetes. The more visceral fat you accumulate, the worse insulin resistance becomes; thus the vicious cycle ensues.
I'm hearing those voices again ... the cast of Seinfeld going yada yada!  But here's a question for Doc Belly, if it's the high GI foods that are doing it, why do you cite studies of weight loss in celiacs when they adopt a gluten free diet?  There is no reason to believe a gluten free diet is necessarily any lower in carbs, and may well be higher in GI if potatoes become the preferred starch.  I know that when my sister went gluten free for a long while (it did not produce the results she hoped for) she didn't go low carb, and none of the celiacs I know (admittedly only a few) seem to eat more or less carbs than the next guy/gal.

Has the obesity epidemic slowed in the 21st century in the US?  According to Davis, it should have.  We Americans have dramatically cut back on wheat consumption since 2000.  

I think Jamie Scott wrote a good blog post on this Wheat Belly phenomenon.  (Although I take it from his comments he's no fan of your's truly).  I think if the low carbers, paleos, ancestral types, etc. want to be taken seriously by the "establishment" -- something they seem to want to be, but are loathe to want to be associated with -- they ought heed Scott's warnings:

Perhaps if these disciples weren’t so eager to embrace the flawed writings of TCC, and were more robust in questioning their own science, they could have saved themselves a lot of embarrassment. And so we must with “Wheat Belly”, for if we don’t, we are at a very real risk of the above scenario being played out within the paleo paradigm – after which point, we are dead in the water as far as convincing “conventional wisdom” that we have the ability to challenge this wisdom.
I would want nothing else than for every “fact” written in Dr Davis’ book to be correct – I really do. But I have to remain sceptical. We all have to. We should be questioning ourselves far more rigorously than anyone else. And we shouldn’t get too upset when this happens. As long, of course, as the line of questioning is informed, focuses on the facts, and does not descend into personality bashing in either direction. And with our decentralised framework, this challenge is going to get played out, publicaly, in blogs (and similar forums), for all to see. For those who perhaps have never been exposed to this academic rigor, it perhaps can be disconcerting. But it is part of what we need to keep our paradigm robust, and not have us turned into the equivalent of meat-eating T. Colin Campbell fans.
Ahh ... no mention of the messenger allowed?  Answer me this.  If T Colin Campbell decided to go on an anti-quinoa campaign on his blog Ken Wah Gets Diabetes, would it not be acceptable to bring up his past lapses in scientific rigor?  This is what my criticisms, when they get personal, amount to.  Frankly, after reading his blog from time to time this past year, I knew what to expect from Davis.  It is more than fair to take the messenger into account when passing judgment.  Many of us don't have time to wade through volumes of junk science.   That doesn't make the criticism invalid.  It's not personal to discuss credentials and credibility either, although with his moob fetish, and that backside picture of an obese lady in her undies that formerly graced the sidebar of his blog, it certainly makes Davis' physique and appearance fair play.

Let's start with this premise folks.  If anyone makes a claim, let them prove their case.  Not vice versa.  Wheat sure looks guilty, but did Davis make his case?  Absent a single reference demonstrating that wheat promotes visceral fat accumulation -- e.g. leads to the "wheat belly" at the very core (all pun intended) of his thesis -- I'd say not.  And if I may suggest another "rule to live by", if someone is going to write a science-based book, they should at least make the effort that it be correct.  If newer studies prove you to be wrong, that is not unrecoverable error.  But if existing literature -- heck, just observation and common sense -- do?  Your own references, or those that didn't qualify as the rightly ripe cherry?  This is the person making the claim's making a case against themselves.   Pointing it out is not the problem.  Repeatedly?  Well, unfortunately some myths die harder than others.  

Yep Bob Grant was an original.  To paraphrase him, 'Somebody's gotta say these things.  It might as well be me!'


Tonus said...

Well, at least she's not bashing Taubes. ;)

Brandon said...

Something I've consistently noticed with these folks (anti-wheat, paleo, low-carb fanatics in general) is that they seem to very much like the idea of aping science, and occasionally reference real science, but are entirely willing to reject out of hand any science that contradicts their claims. They get how important it is to actually have scientific backing for claims, yet they believe that any science that doesn't support their views is the product of some big corporate/government conspiracy. The cognitive dissonance is unreal.

Lerner said...

I'm pleasantly surprised that somebody knows that typical whole wheat bread isn't necessarily low GI. (Taubes apparently doesn't know that.) However, he doesn't seem to know that stone ground bread *is* significantly lower. The same goes for pumpernickel and rye and sourdough. At least that's what I garner, from my using Amazon's 'search inside'.

Btw, it might very well be the gluten in pasta that makes it significantly lower than typical whole wheat bread and brown rices (so says Brand-Miller).

The Japanese apparently have a lot of different varieties of rice. But still, my guess is that most of it is short-grain and also the "sticky" rice kinds. Sticky is the highest GI (aka waxy aka sweet rice). Short is the next highest. The GI apparently didn't make the Japanese get fat for generations.

High GI might very well result in higher fat deposition, but then you'd burn it off before long UNLESS you are overeating. The net change would be zero. So this looks once again like the magical ability to make fat from thin air - unless he is contending that muscle is lost and recomposition is occurring.

I went through most of this when my father had impaired glucose tolerance from prednisone. I laid it out here:

which is the same as:

Duffy Pratt said...

Nice references to Seinfeld and Ferris Bueller, but the comment about furniture finish immediately reminded me of New Shimmer: It's a floor wax and a dessert topping.

King said...

It's science in the twilight zone. It looks like science, but it ain't. Does anyone really care about GI these days? It was debunked years ago.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Hey King! Nice to "see" you :-)

@Brandon: I remember in the first few months after I found Jimmy's forum there was a flurry of studies that came out. Those favoring LC were shouted from the rooftops, those not were trashed as bad science. I asked Tom Naughton once (back when I stalked his blog by attempting, gasp!, to post like 4 comments) when mouse studies were relevant or what makes them relevant. Yes, it was a rhetorical question, but "we are not mice" is the common dismissal cry for any studies producing an undesired result on LC, but when a study comes along that seems to favor LC, now we're all mice! It's mind boggling. And anyone who dares question their Einsteinian analyses is labeled a troll or worse. Ha!

Funny stuff Duffy :-) I age myself when I make Rosanne Rosannadanna references. Thanks for the nostalgia!

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Cool, you started a blog Lerner!

GI can certainly be useful in managing hyperglycemia, but I don't think there's much evidence that it effects weight one way or another except perhaps by high GI foods eliciting reactive hypoglycemia in some => eat more.

Tsimblist said...


I started milling my own wheat back in 2007 when I embarked on my lifestyle makeover. I make a 100% whole wheat bread in the bread machine with it.

My T2 diabetic father tried it and discovered that it did not spike his blood sugar. He had quit eating commercial bread before this because of what it did to his blood sugar.

Fashiontribes Diet said...

When Denise Minger soundly tromped all over TCC's work in her high heels, it certainly didn't hurt that she's cute & healthy-looking as compared with many of the waxy vegan stringbeans running around defending it. Definitely plays better in Peoria. I certainly have my doubts about wheat, but I would hate for the lack of science in a popular book in turn undermine or Minger the evolving paleo template (Kurt Harris's EM2).

Brandon said...

Anyone that's considered granting Davis any credibility should head over to check out the most recent post on that blog... it brings the crazy to a whole new level by claiming that wheat literally makes you crazy.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Hee hee FTD. Whenever someone refers to Denise's looks I can't help but remember being told what my big problem is over in the comments at Hyperlipid. See, apparently I shouldn't have waited until I was an over-the-hill post menopausal pudge ball to do my blogging. Ahh well ... LOL ... life's not fair!

Lerner said...

Thanks, Evelyn. One of the nurses from 5 years ago had the GI weight-loss book. It did seem like a gimmick for weight-loss (as opposed to health).

I see that WB is also a book that says, "no calorie counting... nor portion control, exercise... just losing the wheat". (pg. 67) Always a trendy gimmick. Btw, the same is very true in weightlifting supplements - probably as in everything.

@Tsimblist: Thanks for relaying that, it's a first for me to hear something so similar. And so I'd think that Davis would/should at least mention coarse bread, if he were interested in being ever-handed. That's almost a joke... fair and even-handed in a diet book :)

Lerner said...

LEF has a fairly lengthy WB excerpt:

note the following: "This has important implications for body weight, since glucose is unavoidably accompanied by insulin, the hormone that allows entry of glucose into the cells of the body, converting the glucose to fat. The higher the blood glucose after consumption of food, the greater the insulin level, the more fat is deposited. This is why, say, eating a three-egg omelet that triggers no increase in glucose does not add to body fat..."

Sounds like somebody besides Taubes hasn't heard of insulinogenic proteins.

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