It seems like every few years, we pick a new food (or “food group”) to villainize. While these trends are sometimes exaggerated for the benefits of a certain diet plan or book, they are most often based in some truths. The latest food to face the fire is wheat, and with mounting evidence showing its potentially toxic effects, there is a good chance that the anti-wheat crusade is mostly fact and very little hype.
GreenMedInfo’s founder Sayer Ji offers perhaps one of the most extensive lists of studies on the dangerous effects of wheat. Citing 205 diseases and thousands of related studies, he suggests the grain we all grew up on could be having horrific effects on our collective health. And he’s not alone.
Last month, I reported on a study that found wheat gluten could be to blame for neurological disorders most commonly considered age-related disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. In the research, an elderly man with signs of Parkinson’s was put on a strict gluten-free diet and had remarkable results.
Many people who have given up the grain report benefits like clearer thinking, better memory, and more regulated moods—and these are only the psychological improvements. Other physical benefits include weight loss, reduction of pain and headaches, better digestion, elimination of chronic digestive problems, and improved blood sugar, just to name a few.
If we step outside the anecdotal evidence, scientific studies are also affirming that wheat may do more harm than good. And as Sayer Ji reports, more are likely as interest in the potentially toxic effects of wheat is growing.
“There has been a sharp increase in interest and research on the topic of “gluten intolerance” – although we prefer to label the subject “gluten toxicity,” in order to shift the focus away from the “victim” back to the “aggressor,” the gluten itself. In 1971, there were 71 studies listed on MEDLINE which referenced gluten. Last year in 2011, there were 514.”
One of the more recent studies suggests wheat may be to blame for depression in those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. That study indicated, “short-term exposure to gluten specifically induced current feelings of depression with no effect on other indices or on emotional disposition.”
“Such findings might explain why patients with non-celiac gluten sensitive feel better on a gluten-free diet despite the continuation of gastrointestinal symptoms,” said the study found in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
Much of the research on gluten remains anecdotal, but this doesn’t negate it’s importance. Have you quit wheat or grains altogether? What did you experience as a result?