I just finished reading Wheat Belly. I inhaled this book like you’d inhale a good old Einstein’s bagel with cream cheese. I read it in three days. Perhaps it’s the fact that I put this book on hold three months ago and had to wait for 22 other people to read it before I got a hold of it, or perhaps it’s because it’s interesting and funny and I’m a bit of a health junky these days. In many ways I hate that I love this book, in the same way that I hate how much better I feel when I don’t eat wheat. I love pizza and rolls and scones and cookies. So I hate loving this book, but I love it nonetheless.
William Davis isn’t just some guy with an interesting new health idea, he is a preventative cardiologist. In his book Wheat Belly, William Davis does a compelling job of looking more closely at the history, genetic makeup and physical ramifications of eating wheat. One of the main ideas of his book is that the wheat we are eating today is not the wheat our great-grandmas were baking with. The wheat we are eating has been significantly altered by human engineering (the crossbreeding and hybridization of wheat). We altered wheat with the desire to increase yield and efficiency while decreasing harvesting time. The intentions for this project where noble and good, this push for new, “stronger” wheat came out of a desire to help solve world hunger issues. But while the intentions where good, Davis puts forth a good argument that the ramifications have been devestating.
I enjoyed the straightforward structure of Wheat Belly. The book is divided into three parts, in the first part he provides a helpful sociological and historical framework for understanding wheat and the deconstruction of wheat, as he explains the shift from the wheat our ancestors ate to the current “dwarf” wheat that graces our tables. In the second portion of the book, he does a thorough overview of how wheat affects our bodies from head to toe (from affecting our cholersteral, to diabetes, to skin problems to aging, to how it affects our brains!). It gets a little thick in the middle, and people could probably skip around chapters to read about the health concerns that are most pertinent to them. The third part reads as a sort of how-to as he discusses how to live gluten free, and he provides lots of great receipes and food ideas. This book is a great collaboration of theory, medical research, and how tos.
He makes a compelling argument that this is not just a concern for those who suffer from gluten intolerance and sensitivity but that this is something that should be on everyone’s radar. I’ll admit, I’ve totally bought into his argument, and so I should offer a disclaimer: I am incredibly gullible. I hold a reasonable amount of skepticism when reading new research (asking questions such as who funded the research, how large was the sample size, was it a double-blind study, etc.), but when it comes down to it, if you throw enough compelling rat studies in front of me, I’m hooked. It’s a hard life being this gullible. If I’m equally compelled by The China Study as by Wheat Belly, then it can make eating pretty tricky (currently I’m experiementing with a vegan, paleo diet…I know sounds like it should be an oxymoron). One thing that I liked about his theory is that it is aligned with some other nutrion/health ideas that I have found compelling in the last year. A year ago I read “Is Sugar Toxic” by Gary Taubes. In this article he talks about the damage sugar does as it is high in the GI (Glycimix Index) scale and therefore causes our bodies to produce high amounts of insulin after we eat it. Davis’s argument is pretty much in the same vein, since wheat (white, wholewheat, all wheat) is actually higher on the GI scale than table sugar. So the fact that his argument fits in nicely with health arguments already out there makes it more compelling for me. Now I just have to figure out how in the world to avoid both wheat and animal products!