Category Archives: Wheat & grains - Page 2

Wheat Causes Arthritis and Other Diseases – But Victims Love It

Simona asked about her daughter’s scoliosis, and I advised that she cease eating wheat, since auto-antibodies to wheat are associated with development of scoliosis. In her response she mentioned the difficulty of convincing her family to give up wheat:

I have been trying to convince my husband to avoid wheat and gluten altogether, unsuccessfully, he sees it as extreme and unnecessary caution…. The only thing that could be changed besides introducing liver is eliminating the sourdough bread sandwich for lunch.(and obviously focusing on gluten-free cakes) Easier said than done.

This is the almost universal response:  people love wheat! 

In my first response to Simona I cited a paper that looked at wheat-induced auto-antibodies in rheumatoid arthritis patients. That was an interesting paper in several respects, but one of them was the reaction of the four patients with wheat autoimmunity to the results.

The clinical features of the four cases positive for IgG or IgA anti-tTG were as follows: The first case (female, 63 yrs) positive for IgA anti-tTG antibody suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, type II diabetes mellitus, iron deficiency anemia and gastric indigestion without symptoms of malabsorption. She denied any gluten sensitivity on her diet. Her esophagogastroduodenoscopic biopsy showed mucosal atrophy with no elongated crypts or infiltration of inflammatory cells in the lamina propria. The remaining three cases positive for anti-tTG antibodies had interstitial pneumonia, a herniated lumbar disc, and mild scoliosis, respectively. They all denied any malabsorption symptoms or gluten sensitivity. [1]

These four people were poisoning themselves with wheat; all had indisputable signs of autoimmune damage from wheat; and yet all insisted that they had no sensitivity to wheat.

In the book we mention one reason for this:  wheat proteins digest to opioid peptides which stimulate the same receptors as morphine and heroin. [2,3,4] Wheat is pleasurable to consume and, quite literally, addictive.

Of course, morphine is famously effective at pain relief. It’s possible that wheat has the same effect. That may be another reason that people with painful conditions, like arthritis, feel better when eating wheat, and reject the idea they have wheat sensitivity.

Conclusion

One reason chronic diseases are so rarely cured is that in many cases, essential curative steps make people miserable for a time, while steps that aggravate the disease make people feel better.

This happens in chronic bacterial infections of the brain, where sugary drinks relieve a bacteria-induced cognitive hypoglycemia, making people feel better, but also enable the bacteria to proliferate and worsen the infection.

I was for years a poster child for bad eating:

  • I used to love French bread and, when I was too busy to fix a meal, would eat a whole baguette with cheese.
  • For years I drank a lot of colas because it temporarily made my brain more functional and happier.

Perhaps my purpose in life is well described by this poster:

Maybe my story can help scare your family straight, Simona. I’d hate to think my illness did no good at all!

References

[1] Song KS, Choi JR. Tissue transglutaminase autoantibodies in patients with IgM rheumatoid factors. Yonsei Med J. 2004 Oct 31;45(5):960-2. http://pmid.us/15515214.

[2] Zioudrou C et al. Opioid peptides derived from food proteins: The exorphins. J Biol Chem. 1979 Apr 10;254(7):2446-9. http://pmid.us/372181.

[3] Huebner FR et al. Demonstration of high opioid-like activity in isolated peptides from wheat gluten hydrolysates. Peptides. 1984 Nov-Dec;5(6):1139-47. http://pmid.us/6099562.

[4] Fukudome S, Yoshikawa M. Opioid peptides derived from wheat gluten: their isolation and characterization. FEBS Lett. 1992 Jan 13;296(1):107-11. http://pmid.us/1309704.

Are the Boston Red Sox Malnourished?

Last Thursday’s post was mainly concerned with Abby’s bone injury that refused to heal. I noted that four nutrients – vitamins C, D, and K2, and magnesium – were essential for bone health, and that deficiencies could have contributed both to Abby’s injury and her slow healing.

Today’s post is about another group of people who frequently break their bones and don’t heal well:  the Boston Red Sox.

Injury-Prone Sox

Those who follow baseball may know that a promising 2010 Red Sox season was sabotaged by a rash of broken bones:

  • Centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury missed 144 games with hairline fractures in four ribs; they failed to heal properly and re-fractured months after the initial injury.
  • Second baseman Dustin Pedroia missed all but two games after breaking his foot June 25.
  • Catcher Victor Martinez missed a month with a broken thumb.
  • Backup catcher Jason Varitek played just five games after breaking his foot on July 2.

There were muscle and joint injuries too, but let’s stick to bones.

Is it possible the Red Sox players are suffering from micronutrient deficiencies?

The Red Sox Hire a Dietitian

A few years ago the Red Sox hired a professional dietitian to advise their players: Tara Mardigan of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Ms Mardigan is a lovely woman, a marathoner and former gymnast, with a charming personality that shines through in radio interviews. She obtained her position with the Red Sox after meeting Red Sox president Larry Lucchino at a charity breakfast.

But what is her diet advice, and which players are taking it? I found a hint about the latter question in an interview in the student newspaper at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science, where Ms Mardigan studied:

I stopped working full-time at Dana-Farber to accommodate working with the Red Sox, and luckily they have a great relationship with the team so I was able to reduce my hours.  I also work with the Red Sox’s minor league teams, the Lowell Spinners, Pawtucket Red Sox, and Portland Sea Dogs. This is where I really make changes.  I work with young guys who are interesting in learning about how nutrition can improve their performance.  They are hungry to get to the big leagues. It’s great to see them move up into the major league, and then become someone like Jacoby Ellsbury (Left Field/Center Field) who is now well-versed in nutrition.

Uh oh! Jacoby Ellsbury, who managed only 18 games in 2010, whose bones break on incidental contact and whose hairline fractures won’t heal in six months, is the dietitian’s prize pupil?

The Dietitian Advises Avoiding Supplements

The Friedman School interview didn’t tell us much about Ms. Mardigan’s dietary recommendations, other than that she opposes most nutritional supplements:

I try to get them to choose food before supplements, and only supplements when necessary. Athletes are vulnerable and think [supplements] are well made and well regulated, and they are shocked when they find out they are not.

Those who have read our book know that we have a chapter titled “Why Moderns are Malnourished” which explains why modern agriculturally-produced foods and treated water don’t provide enough micronutrients, and why supplements are needed to optimize health.

Among the micronutrients for which supplementation is most needed are vitamin K2 and magnesium – two crucial nutrients for bone health.

What Is Her Diet Advice?

To get an idea of what diet she might be recommending, I looked at the Dana-Farber nutrition team web site, and was surprised to see this graphic illustration of their “Optimal Diet plan for cancer survivors”:

Yikes! No fats, and no mention of healthy plant foods like starchy tubers. A quarter of the diet is toxic grains and the protein may be derived from toxic legumes. It looks like roughly 70% of calories come from carbs and 25% from protein.

Later in the page they suggest such omega-6-rich oils as soybean oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, wheat germ oil, and walnuts – all eliminated on the Perfect Health Diet.

It seems Ms Mardigan has recommended a similar diet to the Red Sox. From the Dana-Farber site:

On staff with the club since January 2006, she attends most home games to meet with players and make sure grilled chicken, steamed vegetables, and other healthful options are available in the team dining room.

Vegetables and lean protein, just like the Dana Farber diet. Another clue from this interview:

“My diet is very restricted right now, but Tara has been wonderful at helping me figure out what I can eat, like certain thick-skinned fruits and soy products,” says Anne Forgit, a leukemia patient and recent bone marrow transplant recipient.

Soy products. As readers of our book know, this is a highly toxic food.

Ms Mardigan does have a personal home page. The only clues I found there to her diet advice reside on her “Resources” page, where she recommends Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food and  Dr. Walter Willett’s Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy. Pollan is a journalism professor who has made a career attacking industrial agriculture, and has likened the Atkins diet to an eating disorder. He seems to avoid specific diet advice, but it looks like he favors grains and omega-6-rich plant fats over animal fats. Dr. Willett is mentioned in our book, where we object to his opposition to coconut oil and saturated fat. He is a promoter of polyunsaturated fat and whole grain consumption.

If this is what Ms Mardigan is recommending to the Red Sox, it’s no wonder their bones are breaking:

  • Grains are toxic to bones. Wheat, oats, and other grains induce rickets, a softening of the bones that leads to frequent fractures. (This is discussed extensively in our book, and has been known since Mellanby’s original experimental investigations into rickets in dogs [1].)
  • Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats reduce bone mineral density. [2]

The Missing Nutrients

So the Red Sox players are being recommended a diet that is highly toxic to bones. But what about the key bone nutrients?  Are they lacking in those as well?

The answer is almost certainly yes. The fat-soluble nutrients are critical to bone remodeling, and it seems the Red Sox diet is completely lacking in vitamin K2.  Plant sources of vitamin K1 aren’t sufficient for bones, and animal sources of K2 seem to be excluded from the Red Sox diet.

Bone fracture rates are very strongly dependent on vitamin K2 levels. Most people are deficient, and supplementation with K2 reduces risk of vertebral fractures by 60%, hip fractures by 77%, and non-vertebral fractures by a remarkable 81%. [3]

If that happens on ordinary diets, the reduction in fracture rates would probably be even more remarkable on a K2-empty diet like the one that has been recommended to the Red Sox.

Conclusion

If a biomedical scientist were asked to contrive a diet that maximized the likelihood of bone fractures, the advice would be:

  1. Eat lots of grains to induce rickets.
  2. Eat vegetable oils and non-tropical fatty plants to reduce bone mineral density.
  3. Avoid animal and dairy fats to deprive the body of fat-soluble vitamins needed for bone mineralization, such as vitamin K2.
  4. Do not take nutritional supplements, in order to maintain a deficiency of bone nutrients.

It seems that this is precisely the advice that is being given to the Red Sox and their minor league players.

This year’s broken bones cost the Red Sox a chance at a World Series. The player who followed this diet advice most rigorously, Jacoby Ellsbury, lost a full season to bone fractures, and his injury history could cost him millions when he becomes a free agent next year.

As a lifelong Red Sox fan, I beseech the team to reconsider their diet advice.

References

[1] Mellanby E. (March 15 1919) An experimental investigation on rickets. The Lancet 193(4985):407-412. Reprinted in Nutrition. 1989 Mar-Apr; 5(2): 81-6; discussion 87. http://pmid.us/2520279.

[2] Watkins BA et al. Dietary ratio of n-6/n-3 PUFAs and docosahexaenoic acid: actions on bone mineral and serum biomarkers in ovariectomized rats. J Nutr Biochem. 2006 Apr;17(4):282-9. http://pmid.us/16102959. Watkins BA et al. Dietary ratio of (n-6)/(n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids alters the fatty acid composition of bone compartments and biomarkers of bone formation in rats. J Nutr. 2000 Sep;130(9):2274-84. http://pmid.us/10958824.

[3] Cockayne S et al. Vitamin K and the prevention of fractures: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med. 2006 Jun 26;166(12):1256-61. http://pmid.us/16801507.

The Oldest Profession: Quinoa, Millet, and Emmer and Einkorn Wheat

I thought I’d bring some information up from the comments so it can be visible to people doing searches.

In the book we speak of “safe starches” whose safety is well attested: rice, sweet potatoes, yams, potatoes, taro, tapioca, sago. We also speak of the high toxicity of grains and legumes. But a variety of less popular foods were left unmentioned. These include quinoa and millet.

Mark asked about quinoa and I gave this view of it:

Well, quinoa is not a grain or legume and so does not fall in our excluded foods, but we haven’t been including it in our “safe starches” list either, mainly due to caution and unfamiliarity on our part.

Quinoa does contain saponins (http://pmid.us/18452959) even after being debittered (http://pmid.us/11829658), and needs proper handling including washing before cooking. With proper handling it seems to be relatively safe. A Pubmed search on “quinoa toxicity” yields nothing; “quinoa saponins” yields 22 hits.

Quinoa does have a lot of protein (12-18% per Wikipedia), which makes me suspicious. Plant proteins are behind nearly all the toxicity effects of grains and legumes, and I prefer to avoid plant protein. It’s possible there are undiscovered toxicity effects.

There was a debate in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in Nov 1999 about quinoa. (See http://pmid.us/10570670 and http://pmid.us/10570669.) One writer notes that the Celiac Sprue Association classed quinoa as “unsafe” because some celiac patients have had bad reactions to it. This does not mean that quinoa would cause problems to someone with a healthy bowel, but there is a lack of evidence either way.

Off the cuff, tentative view? Quinoa seems to be quite a bit safer than grains, and since “the dose makes the poison” it can probably be eaten in moderation as a way to diversify the diet. However, its safety is not as well proven as, say, rice or sweet potatoes or taro, and personally I wouldn’t make it my primary starch source.

This is the basic problem: we just don’t know. We know about the toxicity of wheat because billions of people have made it their primary calorie source and we can see that after 60 years of eating it, people have much worse health than those who made rice their primary calorie source. Then, because wheat is so important, scientists have studied it and identified most of its toxins.

With quinoa, we lack that kind of usage and there has been little scientific study.

Since the Perfect Health Diet only calls for around 400 starch calories a day, it’s not too arduous to confine one’s self to only those starches known to be safe. At least, that’s my view.

Becky then asked about millet. I replied:

Millet is a grain and so it is guilty until proven innocent. Grains in general are very rich in toxins, so odds are millet is no exception.

That said, it is an ancestral variety which may not have undergone a lot of modification by breeding. Dr. Davis has presented some evidence that the biggest problem with wheat may be that it has twice been hybridized, expanding its genome from 14 chromosomes in its ancestral form (einkorn wheat) to 28 chromosomes (emmer wheat) through hybridization with goat grass, later to 42 chromosomes through another hybridization with Triticum grass to create modern wheat. This means wheat has toxins from three separate species, which may explain why it is the most toxic grain.

Dr William Davis has reported that some people who cannot tolerate modern wheat can tolerate einkorn: see here and here.

I recommend avoiding millet and other grains except rice, whose safety is well-attested. Since we only need about 400 carb calories a day, it’s not too difficult to confine one’s self to known-to-be-safe carbs.

But, daredevils, drunkards, and other risk-lovers may find millet worth the risk!

I was fascinated by Dr Davis’s report that ancestral wheat varieties may be much safer than current strains. It makes sense: tripling the number of plant toxins through hybridization must increase toxicity.

It appears that the progress of agriculture through hybridization and breeding has caused our food to become progressively more toxic. And this toxification of food was not an innovation of modern industrial agriculture, but was already underway in the early Neolithic.

So next time you’re tempted to criticize Big Pharma and Big Agriculture for placing mammon ahead of safety, remember that Natufian farmers were doing the same thing! Perhaps the oldest profession was not prostitution, but genetic engineering of food.

Wheat and Obesity: More from the China Study

Obesity seems to have the same cause the world over, in both humans and lab animals: It results from food toxicity compounded by malnourishment.

The most important food toxins are cereal grains (especially wheat), omega-6-rich vegetable oils, and fructose from sugar and corn syrup.

The United States government in its wisdom chose to give agricultural subsidies to wheat, corn, and soybeans, thus reducing the price of the most toxic food crops. The natural result was to make Americans the fattest people in the world, as this chart comparing body-mass index (BMI) in 30 countries attests (from http://diabetescure101.com/BMI.htm, via Matthew Yglesias):

Look at the two low-obesity countries at the left of the chart: Japan and Korea are the only two Asian countries in the sample. What are they doing right?

Well, everything:

  • Their staple starch is rice, not wheat. Rice is the only non-toxic cereal grain and one of our “safe starches.”
  • They consume far less vegetable oils than Americans.
  • They consume far less sugar than Americans.

With a minimally toxic diet, it’s almost impossible to become obese.

Of the three main toxins, which is the most important single factor in causing obesity?

An interesting place to look for an answer is the China Study. Since some regions of China traditionally eat wheat and others rice, the China Study is especially effective at distinguishing the obesity-promoting effects of wheat toxins. The China Study compiled massive epidemiological data by region, including correlations between wheat and rice consumption and body weight and body-mass index (BMI).

Denise Minger, who is fast making herself the world’s leading interpreter of the China Study, has continued her analysis of the raw data. Denise points out that in China, wheat eaters are “fatter with fewer calories”:

In both China Study I and II, wheat is the strongest positive predictor of body weight (r = 0.65, p<0.001) out of any diet variable. And it’s not just because wheat eaters are taller, either, because wheat consumption also strongly correlates with body mass index (r = 0.58, p<0.001). 

Here is the data in pictures:

Denise goes on to point out that the correlation of BMI with wheat intake is 56%, with calorie intake only 13%.

It seems the evidence is consistent.  It’s not eating more calories that makes a person fat. It’s overdosing on toxins – especially wheat toxins.