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Dr. William Davis: Wheat Indicted in Neurological Problems As Well AsObesity

I've been struggling of late to fit in time for everything I enjoy doing, and listening to my podcasts is among those things.  And due to the time involved in it, Robb Wolf's The Paleo Solution Podcast frequently gets put off.  Robb's a bit wordy sometimes.

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!


  1. I gave up wheat last winter through an elimination diet after i noticed I was having asthma like symptoms. Almost allergic like. I gave it up and the symptoms went away. What I didn't expect were the other benefits that came with it. Weight loss (40 pounds over about 8 months), anxiety issues greatly improved, mood swings much improved, and reflux so much better I have not taken an antacid in the 9 months. It has been amazing.

  2. Jude, interesting that the mood swings and anxiety issues were relieved. That's exactly what I've been getting at with these articles. Not that the weight loss and reflux going away aren't awesome, as they are (and something that I've noticed in my own diet as well). But the mental clarity and relief of such symptoms as these neurological ones are absolutely amazing and just lends to the idea that diet is about much more than just weight loss!

  3. I've been searching and searching for answers for my 6yo son who has sensory issues and other symptoms often found on the autism spectrum (but he has good eye contact, speech, etc... so no dx of autism). At 4yo he knew HOW to use the toilet but would have accidents 3 times a day. He also had major behavioral problems such as hyper activity (not just "being a boy" either) and if anxious or overwhelmed (easily) he'd put his hands in his mouth and curl up or he'd act like a wild animal and run on all fours. He would steal and destroy everything in his path and was so impulsive he'd hurt his sister. I couldn't keep up with him. But I knew going gluten-free helped some children with autism (my cousin is autistic) so I tried it. Just two days wheat-free and he used the bathroom - not a single accident....'til a week later I forgot and gave him a piece of garlic bread... he peed his pants right away - long before the wheat had a chance to digest into his gut. We saw this happen any time he ate wheat. To this day - he is about to turn 7 - if he eats any wheat he goes absolutely nuts (like today). I've tried to hide wheat products but it's no use - I will have to take my entire family off wheat in order to keep him from it. (keep it out of the house). I told his doctor and a developmental specialist about the wheat connection and they just looked at me cross-eyed like I'M the crazy one.


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