Groundhog Day: Wheat and Modern Disease
As early as 1988, Boyd Eaton, MD, was publishing papers in the American Journal of Medicine on the possible role our modern diet may play in the development of chronic degenerative diseases (see “Stone Agers in the Fast Lane”). Several years later, Loren Cordain, PhD, author of “The Paleo Diet” , wrote “Cereal Grains: Humanity’s Double-Edged Sword” concluding that the growing epidemic of modern diseases is “directly attributable” to the consumption of cereal grains. Gary Taubes, who was recently listed by Forbes Magazine as “one to watch for changing health care forever”, published “Good Calories, Bad Calories” in 2007. In 601 pages, Taubes clearly makes the case that it’s not a diet of saturated fat but one of refined carbs (wheat flour) that has accelerated the heart disease, diabetes, and obesity epidemic in this country. In fact, in his prologue, Taubes references research from the 1800s (continuing to present day) citing flour as the cause for obesity and modern disease. In 2009, before publishing his New York Times Best Seller book “The Paleo Solution”, Robb Wolf became wildly successful advocating a grain-free diet to his clients and the growing CrossFit community. In 2010 Steffan Lindeberg, MD, PhD published his book “Food and Western Disease” clearly linking, chapter after chapter, modern diet and disease. Even I, the simple health-obsessed housewife, blogged in 2010 about the role wheat may play in making you very sick (see “Got Leaky Gut?”). In 2011 William Davis, MD, a cardiologist, published “Wheat Belly” sharing the success he has had improving the health of his patients by prescribing a wheat-free diet. Aleisso Fasano, MD, a well-known researcher in celiac disease, in 2012 published “Leaky gut and Autoimmune Disease” highlighting the role wheat plays in the loss of the intestinal barrier which can trigger an autoimmune response.
Here we are again: same foods, same conclusions. In March 2013, after an extensive review of the literature, researchers report yet again what the Paleo community has known for years: wheat products and other cereal grains can contribute to chronic inflammation and autoimmune disease.
Then why in the world are we continuing to encounter resistance in the medical community? Physicians will unanimously agree inflammation plays a key role in the development of cardiovascular and autoimmune disease (and cancer too), but they are reluctant to make an association between these same diseases and our modern diet.
Physicians are comfortable relying on traditional practices (and observational studies), but wary that serious diseases may be caused by a “heart-healthy-whole-wheat-diet” recommended by the American Heart Association.
Your local gym may also be making matters worse. Talking with a well-respected physician in my home town, she shared with me that she was not interested in coming to a “Paleo Talk” based on comments made by a local Fitness Professional. I was taken aback because this “Fitness Professional”, although a nice person, at that time exhibited symptoms associated with metabolic derangement!
Despite the lack of support in the medical community (and health and fitness industry) the number of every day folks interested in better understanding the science behind The Paleo Diet continues to grow. Forty-five individuals attended my last “Paleo Talk” (on a work-night) to learn more about the effect Neolithic foods have on both present and long term health: from the ill effects of hyperinsulinemia to the role gut permeability possibly plays in the development of auto-immune disease.
As a nation we are fatter and sicker than ever. Folks are looking for solutions. Sadly, they are not finding answers with their physicians, Registered Dieticians, or fitness professionals (well, unless you’re in a local CrossFit Gym). It doesn’t have to be so complicated. Time and time again, individuals who follow a “Paleo diet” of grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, veggies, fruits, and nuts – avoiding all grains, dairy, legumes, and vegetable oils – are reporting weight loss and drastic improvements in their blood work (see Robb Wolf: Paleo Nutrition Guru), some in as little as two weeks (see “Paleo in the News“)!
A month ago, talking with a Neurologist, he shared with me that the process of “molecular mimicry” is now believed to be at the heart of the autoimmune disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This may be exciting new information to him, but not to me. I watched a video from 2007 of Loren Cordain,PhD, author of the Paleo Diet lecturing at an MS Symposium on the role wheat may plays in “molecular mimicry” and the development of MS.
Just like Bill Murray in the movie Ground Hog Day, physicians who cling to their misconceptions about diet will continue to see the same health issues with their patients – over and over again – until they are willing to change their way of thinking.