But as I've been getting caught up, one of the big pleasures was listening to episode 95 of the podcast, where Robb interviews Dr. William Davis. Dr. Davis has just released a new book, entitled Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health. With a title like that, you can bet what it's going to be about - Dr. Davis asserts that wheat, and particularly changes in the actual wheat plant during the population-crisis-scare of thirty years ago, are responsible for the obesity crisis in the US and increasingly around the world today.
But what's truly interesting about the discussion is the number of other effects that wheat has on the population, including (probably not surprisingly, as I'm going into it) on neurological issues.
Dr. Davis began with discussing how his practice changed from cardiac surgery to cardiac treatment - basically going from patching up symptoms to actual treatment of the condition from the ground up. In doing so, he noted a connection between small, dense LDL cholesterol particles (the bad ones) and intake of carbohydrate. This probably comes as no surprise to Paleo/Primal readers, but he also noted that reducing blood sugar reduced the presence of the small, dense LDLs. And as wheat is known to spike blood sugar levels more than other grains , he started to experiment with removing wheat from his patients' diets for a time to see how they reacted.
Sure enough, the patients began to see reductions in those LDL counts. But something else happened as well. Symptoms as wide-ranging as obesity, symptoms of autism, rheumatoid arthritis, skin conditions, and more were talking about their symptoms clearing up immensely. One specific quote from the interview as he described his patients' reactions:
I did it to my son and his behavior is far better. He has autism, and he had behavioral outbursts. Now his behavior is far improved.
Results like this are nothing short of amazing. But Dr. Davis also saw a neurological effect in his own daughter, a professional tennis player. She had gone wheat-free, but didn't realize that Clif Bars had wheat in them. She ate one before a match at one point, and was lucky to make it through and win.
My daughter, I finally persuaded my 17 year old daughter to do this. What she was experiencing was exactly that that is very inconsistent mood and focus, and I saw it happen just in a recent tournament in San Diego. She was wheat free, and she said, Yes, dad, I stopped eating wheat. But she didn’t realize the Clif Bar contains wheat.
So she had a Clif Bar just prior to her finals, and she almost threw the entire match because of, I think, a mental inconsistency and a struggle to focus. She did manage to win the entire tournament, but I think she nearly lost because of the lack of focus from this one silly bar.
But this doesn't seem related only to the presence of gluten in the diet. Dr. Davis goes on to discuss the effects of another wheat protein, gliadin, in neurological issues. Gliadin is the Uebermensch of appetite stimulants, it seems, but it's also being implicated in other problems, namely neurological impairments.
Gliadin also has been backtracked to numerous neurologic impairments.
So if you give gliadin protein to a kid with autism, they have behavioral outbursts, et cetera. So one of the most interesting aspects of the wheat conversation is the brain effects of wheat, addiction but also effects in abnormal brains. So there have been - I was surprised at how well documented the relationship of wheat with schizophrenia, bipolar illness, ADHD, autism, and some other conditions has already been - this is actually recently well described in the literature, but it's hardly ever talked about.
And Dr. Davis relates studies done by researchers at the Veterans' Administration hospitals, and how they've experimented with wheat in hospitalized paranoid schizophrenics. Taking them off wheat for four weeks reduced their symptoms measurably, and then putting them back on it sent them right back to where they were. The experiment was duplicated by a similar researcher in Great Britain.
Much of this calls to mind the story of Scarlett and the effects of the Paleo lifestyle on her autism. And it also goes along with Mat Lalonde's comments in the same story on Robb's site about going gluten-free not being enough.
I'll definitely be reading this book and coming back with more later as commentary. This is big news, obviously.
Do you have any experience with better neurological functioning in yourself or your children when taking wheat out of the diet? Please share in the comments!