Hot Off the Press: A New “China Study” Links Wheat with Weight Gain

You’re going to hate me. This isn’t the wheat post, which means I’ve broken my “wheat is next” promise for the 80th time and should never be trusted with anything again ever. But during my nightly Pub(Med) crawl, I saw this nearly-new gem of a study glimmering in the dust and said to myself, “Wow. Wow! Wow.” By the third wow, a blog post was inevitable. So here it is. I promise this is truly interesting (not that me promising things matters anymore).

But first, some background.

A few years ago, a study hit the stands with the audacious title Vegetable-rich food pattern is related to obesity in China. The paper showed that among four diet patterns—“macho” (meat and alcohol), “sweet tooth” (sugary drinks and cake), “traditional” (rice, vegetables, pork, and fish), and “vegetable-rich” (vegetables, wheat, whole grains, and fruit)—only one had any relationship to obesity: the vegetable-rich pattern.

The study didn’t exactly receive a lot of press, probably because no one wants to think vegetables make people fat (including the researchers, who hummed and hawed their way to a half-baked conclusion—check out this post by Michael Eades). And as Stephan Guyenet explained, the study really showed a trend between wheat intake and weight gain, with the pounds rising as wheat replaced rice as a staple.

I mention this because the new study is actually a follow-up to the old one. It tracked changes in the participants’ weight over the span of five years, using the same method of divvying up food consumption into distinct diet patterns. In fact, here’s the table with their “factor loading” system, showing how various foods were weighted to determine adherence to each diet pattern. (Go ahead, click on it. You know you want to.)

I’m going to explain this study point-by-point before getting to the good stuff, because it’s a little complicated (but totally worth understanding).

Note that only two patterns use wheat as a factor: the “traditional” and “vegetable-rich” diets. The traditional pattern loaded inversely on wheat flour and positively on rice, whereas the vegetable-rich pattern loaded inversely on rice and positively on wheat. In simpler terms, that means the “traditional” pattern is rice based and the “vegetable-rich” pattern is wheat based. These two patterns are polar opposites in terms of their staple grain. The “macho” and “sweet tooth” patterns don’t take grain consumption into account.

After the researchers schemed up these diet patterns, they divided everyone into quartiles of adherence. Folks in the first quartile of any pattern had the lowest adherence to it, whereas folks in the fourth quartile ate diets most in line with that particular pattern. The paper only gives a detailed breakdown of the “traditional” diet quartiles and smaller summaries of the other three, but you can still see how food intake changes from quartile to quartile:

From the paper:

A clear increasing trend of the intake of fat was seen across quartiles of the ‘traditional’ pattern from low to high. Participants in the first quartile of this pattern had the highest intake of wheat flour and dietary fibre compared with the other groups. … There was a significant negative association between the ‘traditional’ pattern and energy density.

Darn right. The first quartile boasts an average wheat intake of 298 grams per day, versus only 21 grams in the fourth quartile. And fat intake rises from 75 to 87 grams per day from the first to fourth quartile. Energy density (calories per gram of food) also drops, although the researchers don’t mention that total energy intake (calories) is actually highest in the fourth quartile.

The researchers also note that “across quartiles of the ‘vegetable-rich’ pattern, the intake of energy, wheat flour and vegetable oil increased.” Most of that info didn’t make it into any tables, so we’ll just have to take their word for it.

Now here’s where it gets interesting.

The following table shows the five-year weight change for the different quartiles of each diet pattern. Remember that the “traditional” and “vegetable-rich” diets are the only ones defined—at least in part—by wheat consumption (or lack thereof). (A) is the traditional pattern, (B) is the macho pattern, (C) is the sweet-tooth pattern, and (D) is the vegetable-rich pattern.

What stands out here? How about this:

After adjustment for age, sex and baseline weight, the ‘traditional’ dietary pattern was inversely associated with weight gain, while the ‘vegetable-rich’ pattern was positively associated with weight gain. … No significant associations of the ‘macho’ and ‘sweet tooth’ patterns with weight gain were found.

What interests me is that the largest change in weight out of any of the graphs—1.4 kilograms—occurs between the first and second quartile in the “traditional” pattern. This corresponds with a drop in average wheat intake from 298 to 40 grams per day. (Without knowing the actual per-quartile numbers for the “vegetable-rich” pattern, it’s impossible to say how changes in wheat consumption match up with that graph, although the researchers already stated that wheat consumption rises throughout the quartiles.)

The inverse relationship between the “traditional” pattern and weight (and therefore wheat and weight) doesn’t seem to be confounded by other factors, either:

In the stratified multivariate analyses, an inverse association between the ‘traditional’ dietary pattern and weight gain was present in subjects aged < 40 years and ≥ 40 years, in non-smokers and smokers, in overweight and normal-weight subjects, in alcohol drinkers and non-drinkers, and in men and women. There were no significant interactions between any of the above factors and the ‘traditional’ dietary pattern with weight gain.

The connection between wheat and weight was so prominent in this study that the researchers (who carefully tiptoed around the subject in their 2008 writeup) couldn’t beat around the bush any longer. They slammed the “discussion” section with a giant wall of wheat text. Since I’m not sure how long the study will be available for free, I’ll quote the relevant parts right here (interspersed with some commentary):

A large difference in the intake of rice and wheat flour was found across quartiles of the ‘traditional’ dietary pattern. It represented two different sub-patterns with two different staple foods in inverse proportions, i.e. rice and wheat.

(No quibbles there. But the next part is where they try painfully hard to rationalize the wheat-weight connection.)

Rice is a low-energy food that contributes to the bulk of the traditional diet. Compared with wheat, rice absorbs more water when cooked. In addition, different cooking methods are used in preparing these two staple foods. For instance, steamed rice contains twice the amount of water and half of the energy compared with steamed bread(17). Thus, the energy density of the rice staple diet is usually lower than the one based on wheat.

(Regardless of energy density, the fourth quartile for both diet patterns show that the rice-based pattern had a higher average calorie intake than the wheat-based pattern, yet lower five-year weight gain—0.0 kilograms versus 1.6 kilograms.)

Since the content of wheat was only predominant in the first quartile of this dietary pattern, this may partly explain the negative association between the ‘traditional’ pattern and weight gain in the present study.

(Ding, ding, ding. But is it because wheat has lower water content, as they suggest, or does our favorite grain somehow wreak metabolic havoc? The weight changes in the “traditional” pattern echo wheat consumption more consistently than total energy intake.)

Also, this association could not be explained by fat intake, since a higher intake of the ‘traditional’ pattern was associated with a higher intake of fat. Intake of fibre was the highest among people in the first quartile of the ‘traditional’ pattern. Thus, the benefit of weight maintenance of the traditional dietary pattern was not related to dietary fibre.

(Blasphemy! How did such nonsense pass peer-review?)

The reason I find this so fascinating is that it perfectly corresponds with the patterns in the Oxford-Cornell China Study, which showed that wheat was the single biggest contributor to BMI out of any diet variable. Calories didn’t matter. Fat didn’t matter. Weight followed the wheat.

I recommend reading the full study before the Powers That Be shove it behind a pay wall (or before the wheat industry files a lawsuit). And I’d say my real wheat/heart disease post is coming up next, but I don’t want to jinx myself. It’s on the way, though. I promise (?).



  1. Haha, awesome! I would say this new blog post offers unambiguous support for your “I’m not dead” hypothesis developed in your last blog post. 😉

    Did they look at body fat at all?


  2. That’s pretty remarkable. The old hypothesis has been that obesity followed sugar as it travelled around the world and replaced traditional diets. Of course sugar and wheat flour usually showed up in the same boat.

    Great find.

    But this doesn’t let you off the hook for the “real” wheat post. 😉

  3. OK – what strikes me after reviewing is that this study, like so many, is started with the same (faulty) premise – that the 2nd law of thermodynamics is somehow relevant to the functioning of our bodies in the way researchers are choosing to measure it – that is – we are perfect and consistent food processing machines – and therefore, the way to study obesity is to look at this “fixed” exchange – every calorie entered into our bodies is fully processed and must be accounted for in energy out via exercise, body heat loss etc etc. the only way this assumption could logically be used to validate a study like this is to measure one more hugely important factor – the calories in the poop.

    our bodies digestive systems are highly complex affected by many factors, chemical and physiological “choices” are made and every body has different priorities and efficiency.

    now in a study this is kinda hard to do of course, that if you are measuring calories in and energy out via exercise, normal body caloric necessities, you also would HAVE to measure the unused calories pooped out! if you accept that 100% of the available calories are NOT accounted for in the food-in, energy-out equation, then the balance of the calories are in the only other measurable (and up to now ignored) output of our biological system – our excrement – which could be, well is, of course, hugely loaded with input calories that the body either chose to was unable to process –

    this seems so obvious –

    wouldn’t you love to see how they would conduct that study?

    1. oh my – can o’worms – a little googling reveals that estimates/research results (and opinions) of caloric intake vs caloric content in excrement range from 0% to 80%. and this varies wildly with different minor and major medical conditions, eating habits, physical condition (and yes – physical activity) and on and on–

      how can one possibly draw any reasonable conclusions on efficiency (and all the possible effects on that efficiency) without knowing the total input/output of a system being studied? if you calculate the energy available in a gallon of gasoline, you can measure the work accomplished by the running engine and relate it to the energy density value of the gallon of gasoline – but how far off would you be if you did not factor in the energy loss through inefficient, friction and heat loss? with an internal combustion engine – you would not be in the ball park–

      so are the study subjects (on average for the group studied) 100% efficient in extracting calories or 50%? 80%? 25%? more in the morning meal? – are the different groups (macho, traditional etc) impacted by their individual habits like drinking? or more calories absorbed from fish? – or perhaps rice inhibits absorption? perhaps wheat enhances adsorption? what’s the digestive effects of drugs, or of the weird black slimy little aged eggs that my Taiwanese girlfriend once offered me?

      really – these studies can probably indict something as now-seemingly pervasive as the effects of consuming wheat – but only in a very general way – and certainly – as interesting as how things were cooked and so on – these variables would seem to be quite minor without knowing what overall calories were retained and which excreted before any meaningful conclusions could be drawn.

      your thoughts Denise?

  4. I’d say these results and conclusions are VERY consistent with the analysis linked below. Two of the key findings: (a) as rice intake increases, wheat flour intake decreases significantly; and (b) increases in wheat flour and rice intake are both significantly associated with increases in total calorie intake (but only wheat with heart disease).

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  6. An interesting study thanks for the link to the full study. The authors noted that people fried noodles and steamed rice. It’s a shame they didn’t control for cooking method.

    “In fact, stir-frying is usually used to cook wheat-based staple foods in the area, while steam or water, rather than oil, is used for the cooking of rice-based foods.”

    They also noted that rice absorbs more water when cooked than wheat, but other studies which found the opposite results for rice make the picture more complex.

  7. I’ve read, but don’t know if it’s true, that in India, the people who live in the south eat more rice and have more heart disease by far than the people in the north of India, who eat lots of wheat. If anyone knows if this is true or not, I would be interested.

    1. in nourishing traditions, sally fallon points out that the south of india is more strictly vegetarian – and they have some of the shortest lifespans in the world – i think there are lots of factors at play in your questioned correlation–

      and do remember, the way in which wheat is treated before consumption is critical – as in all grains. traditional “souring” (fermentation) seems clearly to play a large role in reducing the destructive power of eating wheat and render it more beneficial than harmful- and india does have some rather tasty fermenting traditions (re: lassi)–

    2. In one of Denise’s other wheat posts, someone said that they also eat more millet where they eat less wheat. Millet is the most goitrogenic food on the face of the planet, and there is nothing that adequately protects against its goitrogenicity. Thyroid hormone is one of the principal governors of the development of atherosclerosis, so I would be quite surprised if substituting wheat for millet didn’t, in fact, lower the risk of heart disease. In the Sudan, wherever more meat and wheat are eaten, less millet is eaten and the prevalence of goiter is much lower. None of this contradicts the hypothesis that wheat might contribute to heart disease, especially when substituting for something benign like rice.


  8. Explains a lot about the Italians and their weight! I know plenty of Italians who are slim throughout their young adulthood, but once they hit 30-35, they ballon into the size their parents are.

    No more pasta for me lol

  9. This may be nit-picky but in the charts you post above none of the weight changes listed are greater than 2Kg. Is there really any significance in a change in weight that small in any of the groups? We’re talking less than 5lbs here.

    1. Since the numbers are averaged within each quartile, the actual range of weight changes is probably a lot higher than 2kg (although it’s impossible to say how much higher without access to their data). The researchers noted that the weight changes were greatest for individuals who were already overweight, so if the normal-weight people stayed pretty much the same over the five years while the overweight people gained or lost more significant amounts, then averaging everyone together won’t reveal the full picture. I think this study is most significant when viewed alongside their earlier one (which showed wheat-eaters on the “vegetable rich” diet had higher BMIs in general).

  10. Wheat always made me put on the pounds. I remember in high school I used to enjoy eating Cream of Wheat and I gained tons of ugly weight (fat) from eating it. I stopped eating it once I realized this and the ugly weight went bye bye!

    I noticed the same pattern when I started eating lots of pasta my senior year in high school. I gained 16lbs of ugly. I stopped the pasta and the pounds melted away.

    I’m so glad I no longer eat it …

    WHEAT IS MURDER! Short term it ruins your looks and long term it ruins your health.

  11. Denise,

    I’ve been emailing the lead author of this work (Zumin Shi) for the last couple of months, and he tells me he suspects the reason white wheat flour is associated with obesity (and diabetes and metabolic syndrome), and white rice is not, is because white flour has twice as much iron as white rice. The ratio of iron to manganese, which protects against iron-induced oxidative stress, is twice as high in white flour as in white rice.

    Shi is in a difficult position. Western philanthropists are trying to make the whole world fortify its food with iron. So far, they’ve succeeded in China with soy sauce. Shi has been trying to point out that iron is associated with obesity, diabetes and metabolic sydrome in China. He’s getting nowhere, and he might even lose his job.

  12. Peter Silverman,

    I’ve read that too, I think it was in Cleave’s book The Saccharine Disease. Cleave said the northern Indians ate whole wheat, and the southern Indians, white rice, and this was the reason heart disease was so much higher in the south.

    Cleave also said heart disease in India had the wrong relationship with saturated fat, which was eaten in much larger quantities in the north than in the south.

    The Saccharine Disease was published 35 years ago, just as Leslie Klevay was starting his work on the role of copper deficiency in heart disease. He found that rats given copper did not develop heart disease on a high-saturated-fat diet.

    He says more than 70 anatomical, chemical, and physiological similarities between animals deficient in copper and people with ischaemic heart disease have been identified. He thinks copper deficiency comes from refined grains.

  13. Hundreds of grams difference in wheat consumption and the biggest weight increase difference across quartiles is 1.6 kg over 5 years? And this is an observational study. Interesting, but hardly damning of wheat…

    1. Hi David,

      I agree this study alone doesn’t damn wheat, but what’s so interesting is it points to wheat (especially as it displaces rice) being the primary determinant for weight gain — even more so than total energy intake or “sweets” consumption. On the charts, the difference in weight gain is an average of hundreds of people in a quartile and may be more meaningful on an individual basis. But more importantly, those numbers are for the diet patterns as a whole, without actually isolating any variables — so the influence of wheat alone on weight could be higher than the influence of the general diet patterns the researchers formulated. It’s impossible to say without having access to the raw data. What does seem interesting is that the findings here reflect the wheat/BMI link in the Oxford-Cornell China Study, where the raw data is available and the effect of wheat can be teased apart from the other variables. There is definitely a wheat/weight relationship in China, even if there isn’t a solid explanation for it yet.

      The 1.6 kg weight increase itself

      it highlights the exact same trend between wheat and BMI in the Oxford-Cornell China Study from 30 years ago.

    2. Hi David,

      I agree this study alone doesn’t damn wheat, but what’s so interesting is it points to wheat (especially as it displaces rice) being the primary determinant for weight gain — even more so than total energy intake or “sweets” consumption. On the charts, the difference in weight gain is an average of hundreds of people in a quartile and may be more meaningful on an individual basis. But more importantly, those numbers are for the diet patterns as a whole, without actually isolating any variables — so the influence of wheat alone on weight could be higher than the influence of the general diet patterns the researchers formulated. It’s impossible to say without having access to the raw data. What does seem interesting is that the findings here reflect the wheat/BMI link in the Oxford-Cornell China Study, where the raw data is available and the effect of wheat can be teased apart from the other variables. There is definitely a wheat/weight relationship in China, even if there isn’t a solid explanation for it yet.

    1. I have a personal experience with this. I dropped refined grains and sugars for 8 years in my 20s, and lost some weight, but still had a lot to lose that just sat there (I’m talking like 75 lbs left to lose, after losing about 75). It’s not just about white grains and sugar, it’s also about processed foods! I am now plant-strong vegan (40s), and the weight is melting off. BTW – I have always had decent cholesterol, blood sugar levels, so we’ll see if I can any lower or go up being vegan (I’ll get checked in a few months).

  14. Moksha,

    ‘.. and do remember, the way in which wheat is treated before consumption is critical – as in all grains. traditional “souring” (fermentation) seems clearly to play a large role in reducing the destructive power of eating wheat and render it more beneficial than harmful- ‘

    Did you know the Hunza, who in the 1920s when McCarrison studied them were probably the healthiest people in the world, did not ferment their wheat? They seem to have eaten quite a lot of it, too. According to the 1938 book The Wheel of Health, they were ‘great bread eaters’.

    I imagine by the ‘destructive power’ of wheat you mean gluten, lectins and phytate. Well, the first two are proteins, and should be broken down with no difficulty in the gut. Here’s a paper from 1941 entitled ‘The activation of intestinal peptidases by manganese’:

    Click to access 789.full.pdf

    White flour has had nearly all its manganese removed. We don’t know whether coeliac disease would exist in populations who eat only whole grains, but McCarrison does not seem to have found anything like that in his 7 years as physician to the Hunza. He found no degenerative disease at all.

    As for lectins, have a look at this, about the supposedly toxic WGA:

    ‘Indeed, experimental work carried out in vivo has shown that within a huge range of concentrations WGA is non-toxic, its toxicity for the normal gastrointestinal tract occurring at doses much higher (7 g WGA/kg bodyweight over a 10-day period) than those ingested in a regular human diet ([Pusztai et al., 1993] and [Dalla Pellegrina et al., 2005]).’

    The paper continues: ‘Within this concentration range, however, WGA is cytotoxic for human colon cancer cells (Pusztai et al., 1993).’

    Sounds like WGA might be rather good for you, don’t you think?

    So we’re left with phytate. Here too, it isn’t easy to find conclusive evidence. It inhibits mineral absorption in some experiments but not others. It seems to depend on the circumstances, and one paper even shows it can improve absorption of copper.

    The worst one can say about phytate is that it inhibits absorption of iron and zinc. Considering that iron overload is implicated in many diseases, and zinc overload in Alzheimer’s, it may be that phytate is actually more beneficial than harmful.

    1. Thanks for sharing all your info, Jane!

      Sounds like WGA might be rather good for you, don’t you think?

      One of the problems with WGA is that it can be cytotoxic for normal cells as well (I’m writing more about this for the next post).

    2. Hi Jane –

      you are alot more informed than i as to specific studies and references but i am not sure the ones you have offered are cogent here

      i would suggest that – as with what Weston Price found, if the grain – wheat – was freshly ground and then made into bread pronto- there is substantial phytase (and presumably other possibly beneficial enzymes) still available to assist in the digestion of that grain and all it’s attending characters. WP had considerable success with the issues he was treating by incorporating FRESH grain bread to the diets. As with raw vs pasteurized milk, in less-than-fresh grains and grain flours- we’re left with lotsa factors to deal with in the absence of the attending beneficial enzymes that are trashed by the heating/aging/rancidity. (phytase content of even short-term stored grain is hugely lower than fresh…)

      Also – since it was 1938 with the Hunza- is it also not possible (probable?? i really don’t know…) that the type of wheat the Hunza were eating was a more ancient one? Modern wheat is substantially different in many ways than even it’s not-so-old ancestor spelt with a higher GI, and other characteristics bred into it for the convenience of it’s production and not for it’s ultimate healthiness– just being 1938, even if it were “modern” wheat of THAT day – it’s still different than the ones of our last 50 years–

      as for example of the the Alzheimer’s patients benefit from phytate – well – why does that person have a zink overload in the first place? and of what benefit is an anti-nutrient that grabs up valuable zinc to me if i’m healthy and DO NOT have a zinc (or iron) overload? Clearly it would NOT be beneficial to me in a condition of mineral balance – too much phytate could create a serious IMBALANCE for someone with just enough iron or just enough zinc – a state that a healthy person’s checks and balances would – on a good diet – create.

      Aluminum is also being implicated in Alzheimer’s, so does that mean that a questionable component of some so-called foodstuff that grabs up aluminum is good for me too? i doubt it. That phytate would be good for someone with a highly imbalanced system because of a wide array of possible disease (and other) factors hardly is an argument that ingesting it is not unhealthy for a generally healthy person –

      and double up with the cancer cell cytotoxicity (as neisy says below) – hell – chemotherapy is also and conclusively DEADLY to cancer cells – and kills many of the rest of the person’s healthy cells as well! (shall we all rush to get chemo…?)

      also – the study of WGA you cited – if i read the citation correctly – is something about a 10 day trail showing no “toxicity” – and, if i understand the WGA issue in our digestive tracts – 10 days would hardly be a trail period that would create the problems that gluten ultimately causes for our digestive process – conventionally/experimentally defined “toxicity” is not the issue – it’s the medium-long term impact of gluten on the linings of the intestines that cause the damage–

      these findings are simply not a good argument in this discussion.

      finally, and this will be waaay to general a statement for you i think – but i go with the idea that seeds in general are packed with all sorts of things to STOP them from being well digested (so they can live to grow another day…) and by concentrating them in oils or grinding them into powders and bakin’ them up – well, that doesn’t get rid of the components that are meant to disrupt their ultimate digestive demise (no matter how good they smell…!) . – i still see that getting them on their way to the compost stage by fermentation and then consuming them after lots of the breakdown is done is our only healthy way of getting any of their benefit – if you want to bother with them at all–

      remember – even birds – who have (perhaps on their path from a dinosaur ancestory) evolved to eat seeds still end up poopin’ out lots of them undigested for happy widespread propagation.

      1. … i admit that i may not have the right argument regarding WGA and gluten – (the lectin thing) – i’ll look forward to Denise’s more truly informed discussion on this for my understanding as well…

    3. Hi Jane, I have a gluten intolerance. I can tell you from personal experience plus all the research I have read that coeliac/celiac disease is not affected by whole or processed wheat. You get sick with any kind of wheat gluten, even small amounts. To me, wheat is a poison.
      I can testify personally that I lost a lot of weight when I went off wheat. I also think that corn makes you fat, especially high fructose corn syrup. Anyone seen a study on that?

  15. …and considering that looking at the sun can cause blindness, it may be that having your head up your ass may protect your eyesight.

  16. Bravo once again, Denise!

    You are confirming what I have suspected all along: Digging deeper into the existing literature uncovers the evidence that wheat all along has been a major culprit in causing heart disease, not to mention diabetes, arthritis, cataracts, kidney disease, dementia, other neurologic impairments.

    Thanks for your continuing and stupendous investigative work.

  17. Denise,

    In this study, how did wheat consumption correspond with a more modern, industrial lifestyle in general?

    If the wheat-eaters were living a more urban lifestyle, there would be a thousand confounding factors that have nothing to do with eating habits, smoking, etc. For example: stress (very critical), industrial pollutants, fluoridation of drinking water, disrupted sleep habits, lack of sunlight, electromagnetic radiation (if you want to go that far).

    How was exercise factored into this?

    The first thing that comes to my mind, still, is the Tuoli. As you reported, they were eating 371.6 grams of wheat per day and had very good health.(Duh-Duh-Dr. Davis??? Helppp. What’s happeninggg?.)

    I know you’re looking at weight gain specifically here. And weight wasn’t mentioned in your Tuoli post. But I’m sure you’re comfortable assuming that a low incidence of all disease – as was the case in your Tuoli analysis – likely corresponds with a healthy weight. Not that weight is the least bit important if they had good health.

    The next thing that comes to mind…still…is that graph you were gracious enough to send me, showing wheat intake in our neck of the woods plummeting around the same time obesity, heart disease and diabetes were skyrocketing.

    At 371.6 grams of wheat per day, the Tuoli were consuming 291.3 pounds of wheat per year. That’s roughly 66 pounds per year more than our highest intake shown in that graph. 150 pounds per year more than what we were consuming in 2006, the most recent date in that graph. Yet they had great health.

    As you said before, that could be due to the Tuoli consuming ancient wheat (if they were) versus our hybridized varieties.

    Anyways, in this study, do we know whether the wheat consumed was modern, hybridized cultivars or could they have been consuming the same wheat as the Tuoli?

    And do you really place that much faith in a study that doesn’t find a correlation between a “sugary drinks and cake” diet and weight gain?

    And in all likelihood, a diet rich in cake was rich in white flour. So there’s a pretty good chance, if they looked at wheat across-the-board, that category would’ve shown no association between wheat and weight gain.

    And how heavy were the wheat eaters exactly? If a life-long wheat habit left them with only 10-15 pounds of weight gain, can we really juxtapose that with the level of obesity we deal with??

    1. Hi Roberto,

      Thanks for your comments!

      In this study, how did wheat consumption correspond with a more modern, industrial lifestyle in general?

      It’s impossible to say because the researchers looked at diet patterns, not specific variables. However, according to the first study, the “vegetable rich” diet pattern was associated with more “active commuting” and more exercise/less sedentary leisure time. All of the study participants were also from the same (fairly industrialized) province in China, so it’s unlikely a rural lifestyle for some participants was confounding the results.

      How was exercise factored into this?

      Via the variables “active commuting” and “leisure’-time physical activity” (see the second chart on this post). The researchers factored this into their statistical models and presented it in a graph I didn’t include in the post, but that you can look at here.

      I know you’re looking at weight gain specifically here. And weight wasn’t mentioned in your Tuoli post. But I’m sure you’re comfortable assuming that a low incidence of all disease – as was the case in your Tuoli analysis – likely corresponds with a healthy weight.

      In the second China Study, Tuoli actually has one of the highest average BMIs out of the 65 mainland counties. Also in the second China Study, they have high rates of hypertensive heart disease and surprisingly high rates for some vascular diseases in the 0 – 34 age group. If wheat does play a unique role in weight gain and vascular diseases, it’s possible that wheat consumption was lower there prior to the 70s/80s, and that the first China Study didn’t capture the effect because the mortality rates were recorded a number of years before the diet surveys were taken. Since the Tuoli data is iffy in China Study I, we unfortunately won’t be able to know how much their diet changed between China Study I and China Study II and how this was reflected in mortality rates.

      At 371.6 grams of wheat per day, the Tuoli were consuming 291.3 pounds of wheat per year. That’s roughly 66 pounds per year more than our highest intake shown in that graph. 150 pounds per year more than what we were consuming in 2006, the most recent date in that graph. Yet they had great health.

      The 371.6 figure may have been lower in China Study I; we can’t know what it actually was if they were feasting rather than eating normally. Although it’s interesting to note that in China Study II, the number is up to 488.8 grams per day and their health appears far less robust (judging from the mortality variables).

      As you said before, that could be due to the Tuoli consuming ancient wheat (if they were) versus our hybridized varieties.

      This is definitely possible — ditto for cooking/fermenting methods they may have used.

      Anyways, in this study, do we know whether the wheat consumed was modern, hybridized cultivars or could they have been consuming the same wheat as the Tuoli?

      Since this study was within the last decade and in a coastal province (Tuoli is in northwestern China), it’s pretty likely they study participants were eating modern cultivars, and possibly a different type than what Tuoli ate. That would be my guess, but it’s impossible to know for sure.

      And do you really place that much faith in a study that doesn’t find a correlation between a “sugary drinks and cake” diet and weight gain?

      This study didn’t examine those variables independently; it weighted the “sweet tooth” diet based not only on cake and drinks, but also on dairy, yogurt, nuts, beef, lamb, poultry, and fruit (see the first graph in this post). My guess is the “sweet tooth” diet pattern included variables that counteracted each other in terms of effects on weight. What would be interesting is if they’d designed a pattern that weighted both cake/sweets and wheat.

      And in all likelihood, a diet rich in cake was rich in white flour. So there’s a pretty good chance, if they looked at wheat across-the-board, that category would’ve shown no association between wheat and weight gain.

      Not necessarily. If someone is eating wheat as their staple grain, they’re going to be consuming much more of it than someone who eats a rice-based diet with occasional cake as dessert. I doubt the folks in the highest quartile of the “sweet tooth” group were eating cake for three meals a day.

      And how heavy were the wheat eaters exactly? If a life-long wheat habit left them with only 10-15 pounds of weight gain, can we really juxtapose that with the level of obesity we deal with??

      The first study these researcher did (here) the “vegetable rich” (AKA wheat rich) diet pattern was associated with obesity, not just mild weight gain. These two studies are most significant when examined together, in my opinion.

  18. And I realize you placed a “grain of salt” disclaimer on that Tuoli post, because they were feasting the day they were analyzed and could have given the impression that they were consuming more wheat and dairy than they normally do.

    But when I look at the foods you reported as “sparse and non-existent” to them – basically every edible substance beyond meat, dairy, and wheat – I can’t see how they weren’t consuming wheat and dairy primarily on a daily basis, as they were on that feast day.

    From your disclaimer:

    “I recommend not quoting this post or citing it as “evidence” for anything simply because of the uncertainty surrounding the Tuoli data in the China Study.”

    I’m sorry. But, do you not find a certain level of uncertainty in this study. It exonerates cake and soda pop. And you use it to indict wheat, when two of the four diet categories analyzed don’t even control for wheat intake. And we haven’t even been told how heavy the wheat eaters were exactly.

    You said a 1.4 kg decrease in weight “corresponds with a drop in average wheat intake from 298 to 40 grams per day.” That’s 3.08 pounds. Not very significant. I could gain that much weight right now with a tall glass of water and a couple sandwiches.

    From the abstract:

    The vegetable-rich food pattern (whole grains, fruits and vegetables) was positively associated with vegetable oil and energy intake.

    Why are we not focusing on this vegetable oil association. It’s exactly what was found in your post on heart disease and the China Study?

    1. But when I look at the foods you reported as “sparse and non-existent” to them – basically every edible substance beyond meat, dairy, and wheat – I can’t see how they weren’t consuming wheat and dairy primarily on a daily basis, as they were on that feast day.

      Campbell indicated that Tuoli’s diet may change seasonally and they eat more fruit and vegetables during other parts of the year than when the diet survey was taken.

      I’m sorry. But, do you not find a certain level of uncertainty in this study. It exonerates cake and soda pop. And you use it to indict wheat, when two of the four diet categories analyzed don’t even control for wheat intake. And we haven’t even been told how heavy the wheat eaters were exactly.

      See my previous comment about the cake and soda — the study didn’t actually examine these foods independently, but as part of a diet pattern including various meats, dairy, nuts, and fruit that may have subdued whatever trend exists between sugar and weight gain.

      You said a 1.4 kg decrease in weight “corresponds with a drop in average wheat intake from 298 to 40 grams per day.” That’s 3.08 pounds. Not very significant. I could gain that much weight right now with a tall glass of water and a couple sandwiches.

      These numbers are quartile averages (so the actual range may be higher when looking at the data for each individual), and they’re for wheat as part of a diet pattern, not as an isolated variable. The only way to look at the effect of wheat itself would be to get access to the original data and run some statistical models on individual variables. The post above simply points out that in the two diet patterns that had any relevance to weight gain, wheat was the common theme.

      From the abstract:

      The vegetable-rich food pattern (whole grains, fruits and vegetables) was positively associated with vegetable oil and energy intake.

      Why are we not focusing on this vegetable oil association. It’s exactly what was found in your post on heart disease and the China Study?

      This is from the abstract of their 2008 study, not the one this post discusses. Regardless, it’s baloney — see Michael Eade’s post for a great explanation of what was really going on. You can see from the actual data in that study (table here) that fat intake didn’t budge throughout the quartiles (except for decreasing a bit), and vegetable oil intake was identical for three of the quartiles for men and only increased by 3 grams a day for women.

      1. Perhaps one of the mystery variables to consider is Sodium. So many of the great tasting dishes in Northern China consist of pickled veggies, from cabbage to mustard root. This effective food preservation method, in a short growing season area, seems like a biggie consideration for the old ticker.
        Keep up the great work! It’s so hopeful to hear young voices searching for the elusive truth.

    2. Yet a six pound rise across the board is significant to declare an obesity epidemic? That’s right. The average weight gained by americans under the obesity epidemic is six pounds. By your logic, there is no problem.

      Averages are just that – average. In the raw scores that make up an average, you’ll have people who are below average, and people who are above average.

  19. Hey Denise,

    Thank you, that makes a lot of sense. I don’t know why I’m bitching and moaning anyways. At the end of the day, I do think wheat is a pile of garbage. I’ve allowed myself quite a bit over the holidays so far, and feel like hammered dog doo-doo.

    1. Wheat isn’t garbage, it’s a legitimate fuel source. People who rubbish it are often the ones who aren’t burning enough of it which causes them all sorts of problems.

      1. you’re right of course Greg, with a grain silo full out back, i could heat my house for many, many years rather than burn wood…. probably a pellet stove would work well for burning wheat….and ….

        OH -wait – ‘scuse me – you mean burn it inside our bodies?!?!

        naw, don’t think so – i’d rather stay healthy and thin, thanks anyway–

          1. oh greg, if you can’t add something more articulate and useful to the conversation than “i do, naaa naaa”, then please go away.

            1. You find my reply annoying and yet in the post before you said the very same thing. It’s funny how a smug brain works sometimes.

              1. no greg – i was making a point about your non-contribution to the discussion and just nay-saying with sarcasm – please go away – don’t worry i will not bother to offend your obviously sensitive self by replying again.

                1. What I said was a valid contribution.

                  Often people can’t see the forest for the trees and try to find a fault with one tree i.e wheat. They are also blinded by their smugness by that’s another matter.

      2. “Wheat isn’t garbage, it’s a legitimate fuel source.”

        I spent 5 minutes wondering if I’d even dignify that with a response.

        Margarine, corn oil, high-fructose corn syrup, alcohol.

        They’re legitimate fuel sources as well. Base your diet entirely on those foods. Jump on a treadmill for 5 hours a day and do all the “legitimate fuel source” burning your body can handle.

        In two months time tell me how you feel.

        1. I wasn’t suggesting that it’s a good idea to use wheat as the only fuel source. It is your suggestion and a dumb one at that.

          By the way corn syrup is a great one which a lot of athletes use to fuel their bodies. Are they dropping dead? Ummm…no. Only the ones who use performance enhancing drugs perhaps.

          Wheat is just another kind of fuel which has its place in every sensible diet.

          1. Wow Greg, I’m sold. That brings new meaning to the term “hard evidence”. My eyes have been opened. As long as a food is a legitimate fuel source, it has its place in a sensible diet. Brilliant. Haha…

            Anyways, what you’re saying is that too much wheat can be bad, so eat it in moderation. I can get on board with that. But because I prefer better safe than sorry, I prefer to eliminate unhealthy food entirely.

            1. Roberto, water can kill you if you won’t drink it in moderation as it will flush sodium from your system and put you into a coma. Did you eliminate it from your diet as well?

              Oh almost forgot the obligatory….haha.

          2. In every sensible diet? No. If a person can tolerate wheat without digestive issues or getting fat, maybe in their diet. But not in mine. I’m celiac. And it has no place in the diets of millions of human beings who fatten when fed wheat. These studies that Denise is posting are starting to show that it appears to be a normal phenomenon to fatten when wheat is in one’s diet.

            Wheat has a sensible place catapulted into space, as far as I’m concerned.

  20. I am going to try that einkorn wheat, though. I’ll see how I fair with it.

    Have you ever tested it against your allergy??

  21. Just for info, I don’t know if it applies to China in anyway but cake is not necessarly wheat based. On Comoros people do a lot of cakes that are rice flour based even if wheat flour is available, because it’s cheaper and is really fine (I liked particularly the much softer texture of it). I suppose that in a country as huge and diverse as China and with thousands of years of cultural heritage, that there would be probably a lot of rice (and other grains) based pastries. So to equate cake with wheat is probably an error.

  22. Hi Moksha,

    You’re right of course, freshly ground wheat does have a lot more phytase. I was surprised to read in The Wheel of Health that the Hunza only ate some of their flour fresh, and stored the rest in large chests. Either they did not need to break down phytate, or their own gut bacteria could do it. Yes, human gut bacteria contain phytase, another surprise.

    In fact, if your colon is acid enough, the minerals will be liberated from phytate anyway. The Hunza did not eat much meat, so their colon would have been acid.

    I don’t know whether Hunza wheat was ancient, but I expect so. I eat large quantites of wheat myself, partly as an experiment to see if the modern varieties are OK. 25 years so far, and no problems.

    ‘… seeds in general are packed with all sorts of things to STOP them from being well digested …’

    Well, yes, but so are other parts of plants, and we digest them anyway. Digestive systems and detoxification systems need vitamins and minerals, and if you are short of them, things will be poorly digested and toxic that shouldn’t be.

    If you have iron overload from a diet high in meat, nothing will be working as well as it should be, and eating wheat may give you problems you think are the fault of the wheat.

  23. Denise,

    ‘ … One of the problems with WGA is that it can be cytotoxic for normal cells as well … ‘

    I expect you mean this paper of Pusztai’s: ‘Antinutritive effects of wheat-germ agglutinin and other N-acetylglucosamine-specific lectins’, Pusztai et al 1993, Br J Nutr 70:313.

    Arpad Pusztai is an old friend of mine. He would be the first to say that WGA is not toxic at concentrations found in the human diet, and indeed he does say so in the paper, see below.

    This work was done to establish the safety of using lectins as natural insecticides in genetically modified food crops. It was Pusztai’s job to find a lectin that would not be toxic to humans at the very high concentrations needed for toxicity to insects.

    ‘Moreover, as WGA occurs naturally in wheat germs and is consumed by man and animals without any apparent harmful nutritional consequences, its use as a natural insecticide may be safe. Clearly, from the results of the present work, the use of the WGA gene in transgenic crop plants will have to be viewed with considerable caution. Although WGA is present in staple foods derived from cereals its concentration is only about 300 mg/kg wheat germ, which is far below the level of the 10 g/kg shown to be effective against insects. It is not unexpected that at this low natural level, particularly when also diluted with other food ingredients, no toxic effects of WGA have been observed.’

  24. Jane said…
    “‘Moreover, as WGA occurs naturally in wheat germs and is consumed by man and animals without any apparent harmful nutritional consequences, its use as a natural insecticide may be safe.”

    Use of the word “apparent” is a bit worrying. What about subtle harm e.g. IBS, bloating, constipation/diarrhoea, Dermatitis Herpetiformis, Sjogren’s, Cerebellar Ataxia, other autoimmune conditions etc? Would you like to comment on Wheat Germ Agglutinin; how little is enough??

    1. I agree Nigel – studies seldom run long enough to make such conclusions (like weeks or months) when some of these substances do cumulative damage over the years –

      my bet is that anything, even if natural, that acts as an insecticide, herbicide, or, in fact, a deterrent to any living organism is probably best NOT consumed by us unaltered–that is – without being fermented, soaked etc etc.

      when you get in touch with your inner bell (yes – i’m being serious all you pragmatic science nerds…) you can take your learning, observations and apply them to what feels correct. Why do we love butter, animal fat (bacon) and all such things that have been vilified? Perhaps we have eaten them for time immemorial and because they ARE good for our biology? Now you can argue that we love cookies cake and pastry from refined flours too – but think for a minute – our taste buds and brain are actually being totally conned by the “sweet” sensation that was only available in tiny doses for most of humanity throughout evolution. On the other hand – there is now ample evidence that we (or predecessors) chewed animal flesh 200,000 + years ago. I don’t think they washed it all down with a banana cream pie, do you?

      here is the fact – we DID NOT have much if any grain in our diet until the last 20,000 years, for many populations the last 10k or even 5k. 20k is NOT enough time to fully evolve to eat something new that is full of it’s own survival mechanisms that try to keep you from digesting it (although properly treating the grains has rendered them somewhat useful and less harmful to us in the presence of other animal/seafood rich diets) Most assuredly, our last 50 years of changing grain habits are devastating our health – along with a plethora of other dietary and environmental factors that are difficult to extract and analyze individually.

      just to remind, Weston Price found that the introduction of just one little western-food store on isolated islands in the pacific IMMEDIATELY started devastating the teeth and general health of the previously well adapted and healthy populations eating animal-rich native diets. pretty f*ing obvious–

      1. oh yea – and that was in the 1930’s before high fructose corn poison, i mean syrup could be blamed – these stores introduced refined flours and refined white sugar products that started “conning” the natives taste buds (probably along with a huge dose of proselytizing about the amazing benefits of our superior modern western diet…)

        1. whoop! how timely – today a little statistic for dear ol’ crazy doc mercola:

          “Around 100 years ago the average American consumed a mere 15 grams of fructose a day, primarily in the form of fruit. One hundred years later, one fourth of Americans are consuming more than 135 grams per day, largely in the form of soda.”

  25. Hi Nigel,

    Thanks, yes I would like to comment. The paper you quote shows that nanomolar WGA can stimulate immune cells to secrete pro-inflammatory cytokines, and that these cytokines can then increase the permeability of gut epithelium.

    The authors tell us ‘Cells were treated for 48 h to allow cytokine accumulation in the supernatants.’ In other words, the immune cells needed 48 hours of treatment with WGA to get enough cytokines for the permeability experiment. So the concentration of WGA isn’t as significant as it sounds.

    Normally, WGA gets taken up into intestinal cells pretty fast, and enters the vesicle trafficking system which eventually delivers it to lysosomes. I haven’t been able to find a paper explicitly showing that it gets degraded there, but this is what lysosomes are for. Unless the WGA concentration is very high, there won’t be any left to cause problems.

    Lysosomes are part of the cell’s maintenance and repair system, which is controlled by a kind of master switch called mTOR. When mTOR is active, cells make protein and other macromolecules, and when it’s inactive, they break them down in a process called autophagy, which is controlled by mTOR’s partner Vps34.

    Cells need constantly to break down their proteins and make new ones, and failure of this process leads to diseases like the ones you mentioned. They are not caused by WGA, but by micronutrient deficiencies.

    mTOR and Vps34 are both reported to require manganese for their activity. mTOR also requires a lipid called phosphatidic acid, which can be made from another lipid called DAG with the help of vitamin E, which also has a role in autophagy.

    Vitamin E and manganese are both very high in wheat germ. If you feed animals WGA without its manganese and vitamin E, you can expect problems.

    WGA activates growth factor receptors, which in turn activate the mTOR-Vps34 system of maintenance and repair. So it could be argued that normal amounts of WGA are beneficial. Even the pro-inflammatory cytokines could be trying to help; if damage to the gut is too extensive to be repaired by the mTOR system, it will need inflammation.

    1. jane, just curious – you said you have been eating “modern” wheat for 25 years no problem – and you commented on iron in meat etc etc –

      would you care to elaborate a bit more about what your diet is composed of – type of wheat, amount/type of meats, etc etc? (and your age? – i know – terrible thing to ask a woman …)


  26. This is a great Web site. Very well-written and very informative.

    I’m not a raw-fooder myself, but earlier this year I did start an acid-alkaline-balanced diet. I did this in order to cure some fierce acid reflux that I had been having. This diet has a lot in common with a raw-food diet in that it encourages consumption of a lot of fruits and vegetables.

    The idea is that you need to eat approximately a 4:1 alkaline:acid ratio of foods in accordance with this chart:

    I also try to eat a 1:1 ratio of Omega3:Omega6. And, I just learned today on this blog that I should be eating a 3:1 ratio of potassium:sodium. I think I’ve been getting plenty of potassium lately but have been lax on the sodium and it has been causing jumpy, spazzy muscles.

    My ‘core’ diet which I strive to eat every day is as follows:

    20 cups of fresh, raw, organic, green kale
    1 cup of organic, ground flaxseed + 1 teaspoon of sea salt
    1/8 cup of organic blackstrap molasses
    1 tin of wild-caught sardines in water
    8 ounces to 16 ounces of chicken (no oil used in the cooking)
    organic green tea (drink all day as main beverage)

    The above gives me 100% of the USRDA of most vitamins and minerals and gives me a good reserve of Omega 3 (from the flax seeds and sardines).

    I supplement the core diet with the following depending on what is in season and what I feel like eating that day: watermelon, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, yams, egg whites, oranges, carrots, almonds, onions, beets, grapes, limes, lemons, blackberries, tangerines, cantaloupe, broccoli, apples, mushrooms, bananas, strawberries, lettuce, sunflower seeds, peanuts, figs, pecans, honey, pork chops, salmon, beer.

    Although the above diet works pretty well for me, I still get cravings for powdered donuts and occasionally go on a powdered donut eating binge.

    I think you guys are headed in the right direction with raw foods, but you might also benefit by paying attention to your alkaline:acid ratios and your Omega3:Omega6 ratios. For example, if you are eating lots of carrots, tomatoes, spinach and/or other acid-forming fruits and vegetables and then also loading up on whole grains you could end up feeling like crud because your body is struggling to rid itself of all the acidic waste products from such a diet. Further, nuts, grains, cereals, oils, and legumes tend to have 10x or more Omega6 than Omega3.

    Life is all about the yin and the yang and I suspect a healthy diet is also about finding the right balance. If you’re having trouble on a raw foods diet, check your ratios (alkaline:acid, Omega3:Omega6, potassium:sodium, others?) to see if something is out of whack. Note that Self Magazine has a great online catalog of foods that can assist with determining the nutrient values in various foods.

  27. Wheat makes you fat? A vegetable makes you fat? Wow!

    Wheat and products derived from wheat, especially the highly processed variety (e.g white flour) all have high GI. Wow! Some finding!

    Q4 is ‘vegetable-rich’. Ummm…

    and yet

    root veg=9

    This is some ‘vegetable-rich’ diet. No wonder it has the potential to make people fat. Wow!

  28. …oops – looks like the veggie crowd has dropped in again without really reading any of the posts and the analysis –

    oh well – their loss–

  29. Denise, looking good already – can’t wait for your next post.
    I need no convincing having lost over 50lbs in a few months purely by stopping eating bread. Nothing more.
    I’ve been looking at the worldwide trends and I’m convinced wheat drives deficiencies drives obesity, be that through phytates, lectins, lack of absorption due to GI tract damage, or interference with leptin reception.
    Given that there are nutritional deficiencies in the obese, given that we have specific appetite that drives us to find nutrients, and given that white flour is stripped of nutrients, the evidence is rapidly mounting.
    PS Greg. It isn’t all about GI.

      1. Two points about sugar-heavy meal replacement powders:

        1. Many of them aren’t actually high GI. Sucrose itself has lower GI than white flour. In fact many meal replacement powders available on the market today are loaded with protein and minimal sugar (or artificial sweetener).
        2. I would argue they don’t cause weight gain because they actually restrict overall calorie intake.

        1. Greg, true that – many of the more recent MRPs are low GI. The original crapfasts and the like weren’t though, and I’m ploughing through research that was testing these (which were similar GI to white flour) rather than the more recent low sugar varieties. But still, they worked for weight loss even then.
          I’d agree they work because of calorie restriction, because people eat less because they feel less hungry. People feel less hungry because they get enough nutrients, not only enough to survive but to burn fat too.
          A good diet is one where you have all the nutrients you need while doing you minimum harm. Be it vegetarian, meat-based, whatever. What is interesting is that wheat, especially modern varieties and especially white flour, is right at the top of the chain for playing havoc with levels of vit/mineral absorption, not just about spiking blood sugar.
          That’s why Denise’s research is not only overdue, but couldn’t be more important.

          1. My God. Finally a sensible, well-thought out response. After ‘conversing’ with moksha I was losing my faith in this site.

            I agree with you re: importance of getting enough nutrients. I would also add sleep to it as well. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body craves sugar and you tend to load yourself up with excessive empty calories. I have seen it in many many people over the years.

            More research is definitely needed. I am looking forward to any new findings.

            1. Greg,

              it seems to me that Moksha is writing quite well thought out responses to the civil posts here, I have found them quite interesting and informative – and that it was you who started off with an immediate sarcastic tone. i don’t think Denise or the others who post here actually care about your “faith” in this site. You either enjoy it and contribute or you go somewhere else where your style of interactions work for you.

              I applaud Mike for attempting to engage you in a civil way: he is presenting a full discussion with good points and interesting analysis as well as pertinent personal anecdotal experience. He is, in short, being interesting. You respond with one-liners, no citing of research, and provide no reasoned discussion. You simply provoke and let the others do the real work of presenting something interesting here (or, as with Moksha, provoke a bit more transparent candor about their visceral response to you).

              Finally – if you have read all the research you seem to have read – and are still recommending corn syrup and wheat as unquestioned healthy energy sources and ignore all the evidence as to their possible dangers (not to mention what Denise is turning up here), then you are not reading very deeply or well. Just the fact that most corn syrup will be GMO alone makes it a very questionable thing to consume at all given the now large amount of data about the multiple detrimental effects of GMO foods. Also, you would be hard pressed to find any evidence that we consumed anything remotely like corn syrup during our evolutionary development. It is also clear by not that HFCS is being implicated in all kinds of disorders and diseases.

              You are not perhaps, from “Sweet Surprise” and the Wheat Growers Association, are you?

              No reasonable person expects to be agreed with in every blog (well, some vegans seem to), so why not contribute without sarcasm and one-liners and provide some truly interesting substance to the conversation?

              1. daiaravi it seems to me that if I don’t interpret a piece of research in the same way as some people, I either can’t read, am dumb, can’t engage in a sensible debate, am a member of Wheat Growers Association or all of the above.

                ‘Possible danger’ doesn’t mean we have to run for the hills because the stuff being researched i.e. meat, fat, wheat will kill us. The key word here is balance.

                For the record I never said corn syrup was healthy. You said I did. Yes I will bite my tongue this time and not highlight this fact with my trademark one-line sarcasm retort.

                Wheat-free is a fad. Up there with no-meat, low-fat, high protein. All such diets miss one important point, balance.

                1. never said you were dumb, however a “debate” is not one-line, bite-your-tongue sarcastic comebacks. if you are not questioning wheat and grains, then i dare postulate that you are not even reading the pertinent studies and analysis that you claim to interpret in alternative ways. at great risk of you no longer restraining your rapier wit on my defenseless comments, i’ll give you benefit of the doubt and say perhaps you have never seen such studies, data, analysis, so…

                  I will let others much more fluent, thorough, educated and informed than I help educate anyone who would assign “fad” status to the growing body of anecdotal and research evidence raising concerns about wheat and grains in general:










                  some fad, huh? for my nickle, it’s nothing to do with “balance” at all, it’s about simply choosing not to consume a highly suspect foodstuff increasingly being shown to be out-and-out toxic.

                  everyone, however, may make their own sandwich as they wish.

    1. If this following info below is true, Jane – then it would follow that the PHYTASE available in the Hunza bread diet would jibe with Weston Price’s observations and subsequent use of FRESH ground and baked breads in his dental therapy (and general health results as well).

      the thing that strikes me about this description is that the bread is left intact “till the last moment” and then baked just barely enough to be nicely palatable– (since phytase is mostly destroyed by the baking)

      is this how you eat wheat?

      “The World’s Freshest Bread

      The bread which accompanies each meal enjoyed by the Hunza’s, and sometimes forms the mainstay of the meal, is called “chapatti” – and is quite different from any bread that we are used to. The grain is kept intact as long as possible, and is ground at the very last moment. The housewife grinds only as much as she needs for the next meal, and kneads it again and again with water – no yeast! She then beats it into very thin, flat pancakes similar to the tortillas of the Mexican Indians.

      Chapattis can be made from wheat, barley, buckwheat or millet, so although the chapatti is something new to us, the ingredients are all familiar and easily available. Sometimes the flours are mixed together and baked in several shapes, small or large, depending on the occasion.

      While bread baking at home in our country is practically a lost art because of the time involved, a surprising feature about chapattis is the incredibly short “baking time”, if you can call it baking at all. The dough is simply placed on the grill for hardly more than a moment and it is finished.

      “Just long enough to grow warm and no longer taste raw,” Dr. Ralph Bircher noted in his book on Hunzas published by Huber in Bernie, Switzerland. “No more effective method of preserving the health value of the grain exists and the taste is excellent even without butter or jam,” Dr. Bircher notes. ”

      oh yes- and one more observation (other than the meat and dairy they consume) – their water is exceptionally high in minerals – if one of the supposed negative effects of wheat (phytic acid) can be to leach certain essential minerals from your body – then being plugged into a constant daily supply of these possibly-leached minerals could well compensate–

      this is the thing – in wildly varying diets – there are going to always be positive and negative nutritional elements, even within the singular food items themselves – ultimately the benefits vs detriments ration will win out and that is what may be the most telling feature of these investigations – without compensatory nutrient sources (organ meats, dairy, high mineral water) then perhaps the consumption of NOT fresh modern wheat could well be – overall – detrimental to a population.

  30. Hi Moksha,

    Wow! Yes, I’m sure this is true, I’ve seen similar descriptions of Hunza bread elsewhere. I bet it tastes wonderful.

    20 years ago I used to make what I thought was Hunza bread, with a griddle, but it was nothing like this. Nowadays I buy bread, and the wheat is organic and stone ground but not ancient. I don’t expect the flour is all that fresh, either.

    My diet is actually an experiment. I am a scientist. When I first read about the Hunza many years ago, I decided science needed to know whether their diet would work using only food items that are easily available and cheap.

    My health has been improving ever since, but it’s not quite right yet. I needed to re-align my bones and joints, which had been deformed by years of the wrong chairs and the wrong shoes as well as the wrong diet.

    All my vertebrae needed remodelling, which meant enough vitamins and minerals to activate the enzymes of tissue turnover. I thought, if I never eat refined food, it should be OK. And it was.

    I also thought, I must not eat more meat than the Hunza did, because of iron overload. I think that was correct too. They ate meat every 10 days on average, according to The Wheel of Health. I never eat meat nowadays, but that’s partly because it’s expensive and makes a mess of my kitchen.

  31. Hey Jane,

    It’s my impression from reading that there was a bit more meat or at least animal products in the hunza diet – here’s another section from the page based on the swiss guy Bircher’s research and writing:

    “The 14 Hunza Practices

    1) Basic diet is grains (whole grain and sprouted), vegetables (raw or steamed), fruits (fruits are dried and reconstituted in water or diced and served in gelatin (goat and mutton tendon and cartilage). Meat at 2 to 4 pounds per week (i.e. – mutton, goat, yak, beef, poultry, brain, kidney, liver, etc.) is eaten as available; dairy (i.e. – whole milk, soured milk, yogurt, cheese and butter) is a staple. Grape wine known as Pani is consumed daily.”

    (and BTW – here is the link to that page – seems quite good: )

    I’m an organic grower – have a greenhouse and organically grow heirloom tomatoes and greens – when i read the hunza practices with an over view – one of the things that comes to mind from your description of your diet experiment is one of the things that agricultural america and the world is just waking up to – the re-mineralization of the soil.

    I’ve had a challenge where i am with my greenhouse because the soil is high desert – void of any organic matter, the wrong ph and probably minerally out of wack as well (used to be sea bed) – i chose to “build” all my raised bed soil and i have had to pay close attention to ALL the necessary components –

    what strikes me about the hunza’s it that not only do they have mineral rich water daily, but the flooding of their fields was with the same water that left visible deposits of minerals yearly in the soil obviously replenishing the soil – the crops on that soil (the grains too) will have tremendous mineral content.

    our modern “fertile” soil is no longer – it is beat to sh*t from conventional farming methods (even organic ones wound not necessarily be re-mineralized especially if they were formerly conventional and transitioned to organic which many are) and therefore deficient or even devoid of these minerals – the re-mineralization of these depleted soils have led to amazing results (look here: )

    perhaps the missing link in your diet is that you are eating inexpensive available foods grown (even some of the organic ones) on mineral deficient soil? I would also strongly suggest that, even if you don’t eat meat, then – like the hunza, perhaps the bio-availability of some of your missing dietary issues (especially since they seem to relate to bones and joints) may lie in animal-based fat soluble nutrients and minerals? perhaps a bone broth or gelatin each week?

    again – it seems to me that the wheat thang that Denise is chasing down here may be that it is a) modern strain, b) processed NOT fresh, c) grown on less-than-ideal soils mineral wise, d) NOT soaked or treated (soured) before processing and e) therefore leaching (via un-dealt-with phytates) nutrients/minerals from those eating it rather than providing a net benefit.

  32. Moksha,

    I should have explained. My bones and joints are all fixed now. The Hunza diet worked. Only my eyesight is left, I still need glasses for reading.

  33. Jane and Moksha,

    I’ve been so fascinated by your comments to each other in this thread that I have done some preliminary research on the Hunza. I’m still waiting to hear back from The Centre on Aging in Victoria BC, but from what I’ve found the Hunza do in fact suffer from ill health and have no better longevity than other peoples living in that area of the world. The confusion apparently arose because some of the researchers who studied the Hunza took their claims of tremendous longevity at face value rather than looking at birth and death records.

    This is completely understandable. I’m sure it did not occur to those researching the Hunza that the people might exaggerate or deceive them. It appears in part to be a cultural misunderstanding. I also know that simple human enthusiasm can sometimes blind us and lead us to believe cheerfully what logic could never support. In any case, the birth and death dates of Hunza royalty reveal an unimpressive average lifespan. Likewise, the birth, death and health data actually recorded by one of the people who studied the Hunza also paints the portrait of a people whose wellbeing was not to be envied.

    I have concluded that the Hunza cannot be used as an example of a group whose health remained excellent despite the consumption of wheat. This is not to say that I do not believe such a group might exist or that I am wholly convinced wheat is detrimental to the health of all humans. I do believe, however, that we must vigilantly study the issue of wheat and human health and tease out the truth. The science must be rigorous and must welcome scrutiny.

    Jane I am pleased that the diet you follow has improved your health. I think that is what we all seek: a diet that heals and does not harm.

  34. Hey Liss,

    wow! this is ***very*** interesting – somehow also related to Denise’s new post about the varying “candor” of many vegetarians and how it confounds beyond redemption much data derived from these groups.

    I’ll admit that i am increasingly convinced that primal/paleo is the logical diet for us – and the “tweaks” should be made from that premise based on all the better knowledge we have now – for example, compensating for the iron buildup – more in men and post-menopausal women (Dr Eades has a good bit on this in his blog – give blood!)

    PLEASE give us links or whatever info you end up confirming – i would very much appreciate the real lowdown on this!

    and THANKS for the possible new and important insight.

    1. Have you read Dr.Kurt Harris’ new entry (hurra Kurt has blogged again), it’s about the lack of rigour in drawing nutrition rules from living hunter gatherers and is a must read for anyone claiming the benefits of diets coming from certain (remote) groups.

      1. THANKS – yes it is excellent – i have waaaay to full a life to do the kind of detailed research that Denise and Kurt (and others) are doing (i already spend too much time on this forum!)- i so much appreciate their enthusiasm and egghead ability (a compliment…) to slog though, decipher and re-present such an array of academic material for people less apt to digest more readily –

        yea for the internet! yea for Denise and Kurt!

  35. Liss,

    You are referring to the Hunza of today, not the Hunza of the 1920s as studied by McCarrison. Read The Wheel of Health (Wrench 1938), available in full online. It’s quite short, and very readable. You need a comprehensive account of McCarrison’s work, both his observations of the Hunza and his experiments on rats.

    Moksha, you should read this book too. We can discuss the Hunza further when you have done so.

    1. Hey Jane,

      Kurt Harris’ new entry is *excellent* and a good pre-read to the Hunza – i’ll dig up the Wheel Of Health and git to it as soon as i can–

  36. I was doing some research on nutritional information and stumbled across this website. Amazing.

    I am reading (and highly recommend) ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’ by Gary Taubes. He is a science writer who stumbled across nutritional research and thought it was a bit of a mess. His theory is that the concept of ‘Fat is Bad’ never really had any real evidence behind it. It was pushed into the general psyche, and now we can’t get around it.

    He is a vocal advocate of more research being done on refined carbs. He points out, as does this post, that the evidence repeatedly points to wheat/refined carbs as the source of affluent disease, but people keep ignoring it. It’s amazing how much Denise’s analysis fit with what he’s saying as well.

    1. @ Tonya – Taubes is more on the “carbs/insulin is bad” bandwagon than he is on the “wheat is bad” paleo bandwagon. The various China studies that Denise has discussed have suggested that polished-white rice isn’t so bad, but Taubes would likely argue that rice is high-carb like wheat so therefore bad.

      1. True – he does keep repeating the refined carb theory, and does mention evidence suggesting white rice isn’t the greatest. However, he does state very clearly that he’s not on any bandwagon per say. He doesn’t know what is right, and just thinks that the data is pointing towards carbohydrates. What I’m taking away from the book is more that he’s anti-establishment and is absolutely astounded by how hard researchers try and fit their data into a box that says low fat diets are the best. More of a scientific critique than nutritional guidance. I just find it interesting that his critiques and the ones here point towards sugars, refined carbs and wheat. From the sounds of it neither Taubes nor Denise would pick a single bandwagon to jump on.

        1. Well, his latest book is “Why We Get Fat and what to do about it”. I haven’t read it yet, but the title does seem to indicate that even if he is not on a particular bandwagon that he thinks he is ready to start giving nutritional guidance.

          He hasn’t ever looked at industrial seed oils or wheat vs rice or anything much from the paleo side of things, so he might be putting himself in a similar sort of box that he saw others doings.

  37. It seems to me that the evidence points to rice being rather benign overall – perhaps this is actually obvious in that it is used by so many cultures as a filler food (or staple in times of hardship) to seemingly not serious ill effects. My hunch is that it’s GI – and GI in general is not the be-all and end-all of a carb’s value or harm.

    We have a small off-grid community that’s talking about these things and lots more related if you’d like to check us out: and join the conversation.

  38. Daiaravi, totally agree. I was with Taubes right to about 3/4 of the way through when he maligns all carbs, which doesn’t chime in with the multiple communities that live of a high-carb, low fat protein without any effects of obesity. Wheat drives deficiencies drives obesity is my take on it – GI is only part of the story.
    A diet deficient in certain vitamins and minerals (being deliberately obtuse here; there are so many interdependencies, saying something like deficiency of B vits can only be a dangerous stab in the dark) may reduce ability to regulate insulin, but it doesn’t follow all insulin-spiking foods are therefore fattening. To someone unable to regulate insulin, sure they are. But before you blame potatoes for eg, look at the whole diet.

  39. I’m having a little trouble being concerned a 3 pound weight increase over five years. Not only is the effect very small (I have been known to gain and lose three pounds over a single week due to lifestyle changes – desk work versus vacation play, for instance) but I’m wondering if wheat eating isn’t a marker for general increased affluence and a decrease in poverty-dictated physical labor. Any clues or comments?

  40. Wow, thank you for the in depth analysis. I always find it a challenge to decide between high quality carbs for diet, and lower quality for fuel in training.. I have personally had ground breaking health gains since getting rid of wheat due to other health issues. Thanks again!

  41. Hi Jane,

    I wasn’t referring to the Hunza of today.

    I was actually referring to the documented data about Hunza health from 1950-1951 recorded by John Clark, the officer in the US Army Corps of Engineers that stayed with the Hunza for 20 months. He treated the Hunza medically while he stayed there and documented the experience well. His book Hunza Lost Kingdom of the Himalayas published in 1956 is available online. The following is from that book:

    “On my fourth morning in Hunza we faced sixty-two patients, the most
    I ever had in one day. They came chiefly from Baltit and Altit, but some
    were from Hasanabad, five miles west, and one family had walked all the
    way from Ghumessar, twelve miles east. Beg and Hayat worked right at
    my side. Both of them were fastidious about touching oozing sores, but cleansing of ringworm and impetigo sores was the only time-consuming
    job they could do for me. One boy would be soaking the gooey mess off
    the face of an impetiginous baby with potassium permanganate, while the
    other translated for me with the next patient. Beg was much more
    distressed than Hayat, both by revulsion at the sores and by horror at the
    pain he was causing. Twice I heard him mutter, “I’m sick myself!” but he
    went on. We developed our own medical vocabulary. Iodine was
    “Iodeen,” merthiolate was Shaitan’ka dawai—”devil’s medicine”—and
    magnesia tablets were pet dawai—stomach medicine.”

    I suspect it appealed greatly to people decades ago to believe there was a Shangri La existence in the Himalayas and that we’d stumbled on the way of life that was the true fountain of youth. We so love to romanticize faraway people and places. (Many people are doing that same thing right now with people of the Paleolithic age.) I believe 100% that Dr Wrench believed everything he stated in Wheel of Health. I simply believe his enthusiasm blinded him to the point that he was unable to differentiate between what the Hunza wanted him to believe–what he himself dearly wanted to believe–and what was scientifically true.

    The age that the documented royalty of Hunza have achieved has been low with the exception of Mir Sir Muhammed Nazim Khan who reached 77 years.

    I am still waiting for the Centre on Aging to reply to my query because they apparently have a more definitive document about the true longevity of the Hunza people, but the fact remains that the Hunza’s reputation for great health and long lifespan appears based on wishful thinking. Please understand I’m not saying Dr Wrench was lying, merely that he was caught up in something he passionately believed and wanted to share with the world. He meant well.

    I state again: we need rigorous, unflinching research on the topic of wheat and human health. I confess that it is possible wheat may be benign. The accumulating evidence does not suggest this to me, but confounding variables we haven’t considered could be distorting the picture. The quicker science deals with this, the sooner the answers will come.

  42. Liss,

    Following contact with the West, the Hunza population doubled, and their health deteriorated due to food shortages.

    ‘ … the fact remains that the Hunza’s reputation for great health and long lifespan appears based on wishful thinking. … ‘

    Was McCarrison’s work wishful thinking?

    ‘ … I state again: we need rigorous, unflinching research on the topic of wheat and human health. …’

    Yes, indeed we do. First we must find a population of people who eat a lot of whole wheat and no refined wheat. Then we must study them, preferably by acting as their physician for 7 years. Finally, we must do extensive and well-designed animal experiments.

    This is what McCarrison did.


  43. Jane,

    I can find no reference to the Hunza population doubling so quickly. Perhaps you could help me find that data?

    While I do believe food shortages could explain some of the discrepancies between earlier claims of the Hunza’s great health and John Clark’s experiences with them in 1950-51, it does nothing to address the issue of longevity. That detail is a long-term variable. Multi-generation living family lines should have been common and easily documented at the time of John Clark’s stay with this Hunza if the Hunza truly lived as long as they lead earlier western visitors to believe. I can find no good evidence–beyond the words of the Hunza–that they attained great lifespans.

    Rat studies are not useful in determining a healthful diet for humans.

    Different subsets of mammals require and naturally eat different diets. According to a website on rats: ” Wild rats eat nuts, seeds, grains, vegetables, fruits, insects, worms, eggs, dead animals, and even frogs, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals that they catch and kill.” Seeds and grains are a natural part of the rat diet. Since the nutritional element most in dispute with regards to the healthfulness of the Hunza diet in this thread is a grain–wheat–testing its effects on an animal for which there is zero doubt grains are appropriate yields no data that can helpfully be applied to humans.

    In general, with regard to rat studies and diet, I do believe they can be helpful in uncovering substances that are concretely toxic to all/most mammals, but they do not allow us to discover the diet that Homo sapiens will best thrive eating.

    McCarrison’s work was not wishful thinking. It applies well to rats. It cannot logically be assumed that it applies to humans.

    Jane, I do not believe it is sufficient to find a single population and study it, although I do think it is a start. Observations of these populations can generate good hypotheses, but variables that we may not have considered could influence the health of people in a specific population both positively and negatively and give us a false impression that the diet is the cause.

    I state again that research is needed, but I must be more clear: studies done with human beings will be required. This is a difficult thing, yes, but it must be done.

    1. great back-and-forth Liss and Jane – i must put in a plug here for one bit of info that increasingly irks me when i see it endlessly quoted – experiments on rats – of course our favorite icon Dr Campbell uses rats for studies –

      how can these researchers use animals that have specific adaptations/differences in the very arena that is being studied and get away with it??

      if i understand correctly – rats have 30X the phytase in their digestive systems than we do – don’t these researchers know this and if they do – how can they extrapolate from rat guts to human guts especially in the area of grains?

      just askin…

  44. Liss,

    ‘Rat studies are not useful in determining a healthful diet for humans. … Seeds and grains are a natural part of the rat diet.’

    How do you know seeds and grains are not a natural part of the human diet?

    ‘I can find no reference to the Hunza population doubling so quickly. Perhaps you could help me find that data?’

    Nice try.

    1. Jane,

      I apologize if you felt my words were sarcastic in tone or disingenuous. I would truly like to be looking at the same data that you are so that we can, as near as possible, understand each other’s point of view. I honestly tried to find reference to the Hunza population information on Google for around 10 minutes and uncovered nothing. Since I thought further effort would be wasting time I felt it best to abandon the search and tell you I could not find a reference. I had hoped you would offer one, but I should have been straightforward and asked. I actually thought that would have felt rude to you, but now I see it worked out the opposite of my intentions.

      Text doesn’t carry point of view well. I fear that you’re interpreting my words as hostile when that is the furthest from my intention. I strive not to mix emotion with science, but maybe that’s making me seem uncaring.

      You are a 67-year old female who is a scientist, Jane, so you automatically get my respect to some degree. Universities have not always been accommodating to women entering scientific fields. I salute you for the challenges you undoubtedly faced and I thank you for (most likely) making it a little easier for other females to follow in your footsteps.

      You generally express yourself calmly and–normally–without sarcasm or derision. I believe this is always the best way to handle topics of science.

      Please do not think that because I do not personally find the data you have presented to be persuasive that I do not respect that *you* believe it to be pertinent. It is regrettable that we cannot discuss this issue face-to-face because then you would understand that, as often as I may not find your arguments convincing, I have always been impressed by your posts. I suspect that in person we would like each other even if we did not in the end agree. I want to believe we could amicably agree to disagree. (In fact, if you happen to live anywhere near me, I would truly love to meet and discuss all this because I think I could learn a lot from you if you would be willing. I know the likelihood you live in the PNW is small, but nevertheless…)

      I ask, please, could you point me to Hunza population information. As I said in my prior post (and possibly too hastily because I was in a desperate hurry to get to work) I do think food shortage could affect health.

      And in the interest of (crossing fingers) letting you see I am not some contrary brat, I will get a bit personal. I have two dogs in this wheat fight. Dog #1: I live in a small farm town. Family and beloved friends make their living, however meager, working like crazy farming wheat. I love this life and these people. It’s become harder for them to make any sort of profit over the years. The only other crops that will grow around here make even less money than wheat. If wheat is shown to be harmful to health and people decrease their consumption of it, my life and the lives of those I love will be devastated.

      Dog #2: My sister and I suffered for years with abdominal pain and (sorry if TMI) out-of-nowhere uncontrollable diarrhea. Yes, we both went to more than one doctor looking for the cause, but the doctors were stumped and laid the blame on anxiety or irritable bowels so we were stuck hoping that we wouldn’t get sick anywhere we went. By luck we finally found it was a gluten intolerance. It changed my life. Suddenly I could stop living in fear of losing control of basic bodily functions at school and work. Looking at family history and seeing similar symptoms in mother and maternal grandmother, my sister and I began to suspect, as our understanding of gluten risks grew, that our mother’s Multiple Sclerosis might be due in part to consuming wheat when she was genetically unsuited for it. I do not want any other human being to suffer the humiliation that I have or the misery that my mother has.

      Those are my two dogs.

      To answer your question how do I know seeds and grains are not a natural part of the human diet: That is the very point of this thread. I do *not* know. No one knows. And we *need* to learn. I feel it is of utmost importance to throw every blazing light science has at this problem and uncover the truth–whatever it may be. I want it studied with full force!

      It is quite possible that some people are undamaged by wheat consumption. I dearly hope this is true. My wishing it, however, doesn’t make it so. My ignoring the potential risks may imperil my fellow human beings in ways that are utterly unacceptable to me.

      I will be candid and state that I fear wheat is not safe. My best hope at present is that it may be safe for many people while posing a risk for a small few. It would be wonderful if science could uncover a means to determine at birth (perhaps via a simple DNA test) whether wheat could be a safe choice in an individual’s diet.

      And a disclaimer: just as I do not find your N=1 experience of gaining health through a Hunza-style diet to be sufficient to recommend it, I do not find my own and my sister’s n=2 experiences to be sufficient to denounce wheat; nor can I definitively point to wheat as the cause of my Mom’s MS. These things can only justifiably support me urging others to be cautious. They are not proof.

      I am a broken record: I want serious, long-term, unflinching studies. I want them asap.

    2. Jane, from what we know, grains did not play a big part in our ancestral diet. Here is a study:

      “High fruit and vegetable intake and minimal grain and dairy consumption”

      So it’s hard to claim that seeds and grains are a natural part of human diets when for the past 200 000 years since the appearance of Homo Sapiens (2 million years for the homo genus), we only rely heavily on grains for the past 10 000 years. At most we adapted to them by using technology to make them less toxic, like removing the husks from the grains, fermentation..etc. So while i see no problem in eating white rice, i will think twice before eating whole wheat. I am more inclined to think the Hunza were healthy in spite of their whole wheat intake. But i also will admit that some studies have shown whole wheat to be superior when compared to refined wheat:

      From what i can gather, from your book(Wheel of Health) regarding meat intake: “It is more frequently eaten in winter. As with the Eskimo and others, the Hunza eat all that is edible of the carcase and not the meat only.” I presumed since you follow the Hunza diet, you eat meat once every 10 days during summer and more (including the offals) frequently during winter?

      I noticed that they consumed lots of fermented dairy and fruits. From all these variables, it is hard to make a case for whole wheat consumption. At most, we can hypothesize that whole wheat is better than refined wheat.

  45. Moksha,

    If you look up ‘phytate hydrolysis by germfree and conventional rats’, you will see that the phytase activity in rat gut comes from their bacteria.

    Our own gut bacteria also contain phytase (look up ‘human gut bacteria phytase’). This suggests that humans are just as adapted to eating phytate as rats are, and might have just as much phytase on the right diet.

  46. Dear Liss, (and Jane)

    I am sincerely touched, Liss, by your heartfelt candor and your story – I’ve had many discussions with my partner about just your kind of situation – that of finding that your backbreaking labor and/or life work that you deeply believed in (or were stuck with) turns out to have been seriously bad for yourself, your family and your fellow man (persons…). What would one do with that realization? (the farmers in india are committing suicide literally in the 1000’s per year over the failure of their horrific GMO crops foisted on them by the truly evil Monsanto).

    I have to support Liss on this Jane, and for the reasons that Ravi so effectively responded to Greg above – undoubtedly we are in the process of “adapting” (as we are constantly doing) to our 10,000 year stint with eating grain as a staple (or a bit more or less depending on the archeological findings/datings), but is that enough time? I don’t think so – because if it was enough time and we all could tolerate grains so well over long term consumption, then these negative findings would not be happening:

    (thanks to Ravi for that)

    Jane, your comment: “This suggests that humans are just as adapted to eating phytate as rats are, and might have just as much phytase on the right diet.”

    “suggests” ? “might just”? – those words are no more comforting or relevant than “doesn’t suggest for sure” or “might not”. All the references I have found do not say we have NO phytase in our guts, but that we have considerably LESS than rats for whatever reason. Rats in experiments can be fed a subsistence grain diet and do not develop the same negative effects (although they too, do not thrive)

    So let’s look at this from adaptation/evolution: how many generations of rats have accompanied humans in their grain-eating travels on this earth compared to the number of generations of humans? For argument, let’s say that SOME humans are STARTING to develop the ability to process grains and reduce the damage of all the nasties as you postulate (just as some humans can eat dairy with no effect but the ones who can’s suffer immensely). We know that rats DO have more phytase available in their digestive tracts, yes? I don’t care why it’s there (ie bacteria or…) – the fact that it is in considerably higher amounts indicates that rats have adapted more completely to eating grains. Let’s also postulate that rats in their “hunter-gatherer” state (pre-wide availability of grain from human ag) would also have not eaten so much grain since it was not so readily available – but their consumption increased dramatically with access to human grain storage.

    so back to the generation thing – human generations in 10,000 years – what? – maybe 150 to 200 for evolution to get the grain digestion right? even if it was 2x that – most evolutionary/genetic biologists would consider this not enough generations for a substantive population-wide change/adaptation. But the rats? in 10,000 years they have had 3000 to 5000 generations to adapt (10 times the generations!). now THAT many generations would assuredly be time enough for more substantive genetic adaptation with exposure to the same grain abundant consumption. So that is why i think rat/human comparisons in this case are bogus.

    What has not entered the discussion is the $ – that is, how every economic system in Amerika especially regarding the production of food, is utterly distorted by money. Dairy, sugar, corn, wheat, – every one of these industries (and more) are NOT driven in any way shape or form by concern for the ultimate health of the end product but rather by how much money in both subsidies and exports the industry giants can rake in after their unholy lobbying for laws that make their profits the law of the land.

    The individuals locked into this system (like Liss’s family) can be as sincere, well-meaning, hardworking as they can be – but the controlling political/industrial puppeteers don’t give a damn. That is a big part of why we have: destroyed milk (pasteurized – because big producers could NEVER distribute healthy raw milk effectively), HFCS (and highly inefficient production-wise ethanol) – Because govt subsidies drove so much excess production of corn that the big guys get paid to produce no matter what- the surplus corn had to be used for something (preferably something that further increases their profits once the lowly farmers are paid off) AND to protect these resulting sugar producing industries we’ve had imported sugar tariffs on much cheaper cane sugar from tropical countries in place for years, and then finally dear ol’ wheat, hybrid-ed and altered to produce like crazy with absolutely no science applied as to the ending health of it specifically or grains in general. (i haven’t even touched on the industrial grain paint oils being massively and shamelessly peddled as food when their usefulness as paint products was displaced by petrochemicals after WWII – and in doing so, displacing very healthy and cheap coconut and palm oils being imported – they were successfully villified so as to drive consumption of the more profitable and hugely less healthy corn and grain oils)

    Jane – we are not personally attacking you – that you have done your due-diligence and chosen the Hunza diet you believe to be healthy and thrived on it is, i am sure, a wonderful thing in your life. If you never suffer the ill effects of grain-consumption then perhaps YOUR gut and YOUR system does deal with it effectively. But why are so many studies – many very recent studies – linking gluten (often wheat gluten) and WGA to soooo many debilitating chronic symptoms and diseases? Schizophrenia, MS, Diabetes, IBS, neurological disorders, immune disorders, obesity, heart disease, and on and on?

    It’s going to be a tough nut for sincere, hardworking wheat farmers if more and serious data/analysis continues to indict wheat. Of course, like the HFCS industry – the battle to verify and legitimize such wheat-indicting data will be fierce if it hits the mainstream – see the disgusting website “Sweet Surprise” for example, and the evisceration of the british doc Wakefield for suggesting a link from one of the most profitable vaccines to autism. Big pharma is literally crucifying this guy via it’s influence on government agencies, paid-off medical journal editors and the like.

    It’s a nasty world out there and uncovering the “truth” is all-too-often the demise of he/she who uncovers- and i don’t just mean a ruined career.

    (be safe niesy…!)

    1. Great Hunza discussion, guys — this is really interesting. I’m only going to dip my toe in this conversation because my Hunza knowledge is pretty limited, but I have a few thoughts:

      1) How rigorously has the Hunza lifespan been documented? In a lot of cultures, age is an indicator of influence and authority, which is a good incentive for people to exaggerate how old they are. It’s also not uncommon for younger generations to adopt their parents’ or even grandparents’ birth certificates/birth records as their own. Age exaggeration has been found in other regions claiming great longevity, like Vilcabamba (see

      2) From what I’ve read and seen, the photographs of Hunza families and elders typically show no more than three generations of people. If the Hunza were routinely living to be 90 – 100+, we’d expect to see documentation of families with four or five generations (or more).

      This site has an interesting discussion of the Hunza. I can’t vouch for the website’s credibility, but the claims they make in the article should be verifiable elsewhere, if accurate: (scroll a bit down the page to get to the part on the Hunzas).

      Regardless, I think it’s relevant that the wheat the Hunzas were eating decades ago, pre-Green Revolution, is not the same wheat most Westerners are eating today. The changes that have occurred while breeding high-yielding, disease-resistant dwarf wheat might play an important role in disease etiology.

      That said, this is obviously a really complex issue, and there’s probably enough individual variation in reactions to wheat so that folks like Jane can eat it and be okay while another person’s body may react horribly.

      1. These are great points.

        For those who are interested and haven’t seen it yet, I recently made a post about wheat supporting the idea that many people should try going gluten-free to see if it helps, but slicing through some of the dogma created in anti-wheat circles based on a pretty popularized but pretty horrible study claiming to show wheat causes intestinal inflammation in non-celiacs:

        Wheat: In Search of Scientific Objectivity and New Year’s Resolutions

        I also just received word about a half hour ago from French Meadows, whose 100% rye sourdough I like to eat, that their sourdoughs are fermented for 24 hours:

        “Hello Chris,
        Thank you for contacting French Meadow Bakery.
        Our Yeast Free Sourdough Breads are made with a sourdough culture. When the flour is mixed with water and sourdough culture, the mixture is left to proof for about 24 hours. Then it is baked. Since no baking yeast is used in the process, it takes a lot longer for the bread to rise.”

        That might perhaps mean the 100% rye sourdough I like to eat is actually gluten-free, or very close to it.


        1. Hello Chris,

          After going lacto-paleo, my swiss partner (who is deeply attached to bread but willing to give it up for the “cause”) and i dug into our Nourishing Traditions cookbook and did exactly that – bought several sourdough cultures and spent a month practicing making truly soured 100% rye bread.

          Here’s the thing (in regards to your gluten-free comment) – we **do not” want to eat gluten and several of the recipes call for numerous “feedings” of the dough – some over a 3 day period – to get adequate souring and raising of the bread. however, several call for the addition of 1/3 or so more fresh rye just a few hours before baking OR just call for a total souring period of only 4 hours (that one is in NT).

          Chris, our BIG question for you is – what to you base your comment on that 24 hours of souring will process/eliminate all gluten from the bread? It would seem that a portion is changed by starch gelatinization that could perhaps impart some structure to hold the bread together in the absence of gluten –

          but is 24 hour soured rye bread really going to be “almost gluten free”?

          Thanks for your input!
          Discoveries for a Good Life

            1. I should note that the study selected certain strains from sourdough culture in order to boost the efficacy of gluten degradation, so we can’t make any assumptions about a particular bread just based on fermentation time. But given the right mix of microorganisms it’s possible to break down the gluten in 24 h.


    2. Moksha,

      Thank you for the kind words.

      And Monsanto is evil. Period. I’ve never seen a company operate with such ruthless disregard for decency.

  47. Liss,

    I see. You condemned Wrench in the strongest possible terms without having read a single word of his book.

    Chapter 1, paragraph 25 says the following.

    ‘Here dwell the Hunza, whose numbers Major Biddulph in Tribes of the Hindoo Koosh (1880) roughly calculated as 6,000 people, but who have, since the census was instituted about 1911, it seems increased, to their detriment, to 14,000.’

    1. Jane,

      Thank you for the reference. That is helpful.

      I apologize again for causing misunderstanding. I state for the record here that merely because I refer to a work or even quote from it does not mean I have read it in entirety and with care. I have briefly skimmed very small portions of the writings of Wrench and Clark.

      I do not now and never have condemned G T Wrench. That he believed what he wrote was accurate and valuable I do not dispute for a single second. Here is what I wrote with regard to Wrench and his book:

      “I believe 100% that Dr Wrench believed everything he stated in Wheel of Health. I simply believe his enthusiasm blinded him to the point that he was unable to differentiate between what the Hunza wanted him to believe–what he himself dearly wanted to believe–and what was scientifically true.”

      I stand by that statement. And the reason why I wished to have the population information (thank you for offering it) was so I could decide for myself if the dates and figures would realistically account for the difference between early claims of Hunza health and the reality John Clark encountered in 1950-51.

      The passage you quote shows the doubling to have happened by 1911, but Wrench goes on to offer a positive second-hand account of the Hunza from 1927. Again, I will acknowledge that a population increase could lead to a food shortage that would compromise health. There are other factors that could also have altered health status.

      Jane, as you appear to be misunderstanding many of my statements and reading hostility (for example condemning Wrench in the strongest possible terms) where none exists, I believe we are likely wasting each other’s time.

      I respect that you have attained health with a Hunza-style diet. I am truly pleased for every individual who finds the nutritional path that helps him/her to heal and thrive. And I do suspect that some people can eat wheat without harm.

      I merely disagree that the Hunza diet creates optimal health and that wheat is universally benign.

      We shall have to agree to disagree. On my side I will do this with a continuing interest in your posts (particularly about manganese) and a positive sense of you as a person. You, of course, are free to dismiss me and my statements as you wish.

  48. Seems like the discussion is degenerating a tad…

    I would like to ask ANY readers of this blog to please comment on any substantive information they have on the Hunza and their diet/life stats etc. I believe that is what Liss has been most kindly begging for.

    I too am suspect of embracing a complete program of any culture – after all – we don’t live anything like any of these cultures, have a whole different set of resources and are probably considerably differently-predisposed genetically.

    Isn’t the value of these observations to extract what is realistically/potentially useful to our situations? To merely mimic the eating habits of an isolated account of a supposedly healthy tribe could be an interesting experiment for a time – but i would think a critical ongoing evaluation (in a longer term) of that diet would be prudent, especially when there is not much more information regarding that diet and it’s people.

    Discoveries for a Full Life

  49. Liss,

    ‘The passage you quote shows the doubling to have happened by 1911 …’

    The passage actually says ‘ … who have, SINCE the census was instituted about 1911, … increased … to 14,000.’

    I am sure you have no hostility towards me. I see no problem in continuing this discussion.

  50. Moksha, are you still there, or have we frightened you off? I would like to ask you something about evolution.

    ‘ … so back to the generation thing – human generations in 10,000 years – what? – maybe 150 to 200 for evolution to get the grain digestion right …’

    My question is, what is it about grains that humans need to be ‘more evolved’ to deal with? I don’t think you can mean gluten or lectins, because they’re proteins and nobody argues humans cannot break down proteins.

    So is it phytate? If you think it’s a problem that humans have less phytase than rats, and we really need to analyse Hunza poo to be sure of this, consider that phytate could actually be enormously beneficial to people eating a paleo-type diet. Phytate has the potential to correct the mineral imbalances that can be caused by a diet high in meat.

    Meat has a lot of highly-available iron and zinc, and it’s low in manganese. Except for organ meats, it’s also low in copper. Phytate-contaning foods, ie grains and legumes, are high in manganese and copper. Phytate binds iron and zinc better than copper or manganese, which means that whole grains and legumes will not only deliver the missing manganese and copper, but can also inhibit absorption of the iron and zinc. Iron is very difficult to excrete, so limiting its absorption is important.

    A recent paper has shown that the protein involved in Alzheimer’s, the Amyloid Precursor Protein, is needed for iron export from brain cells, and it’s poisoned by zinc. This is consistent with many other observations pointing to an important role for iron and zinc overload in Alzheimer’s. Here is an account of the paper, which I think everyone eating a paleo diet ought to read.

    Here too is a Klevay paper entitled ‘Alzheimer’s disease as copper deficiency’.

    Nobody has so far published a paper about manganese deficiency in Alzheimer’s, but there is much indirect evidence of an important role. Grains are arguably the best source of manganese. Anyone who is terrified of wheat should think about this.

    1. Jane, It would be nice if you can provide us some tightly controlled clinical studies demonstrating the health benefits of whole grains and legumes.

      In my honest opinion, as a scientist you should base your arguments on controlled clinical studies to demonstrate the benefits of whole grains instead on an old book or possible mechanisms. N=1 Experience is important but should not be used to make health recommendations to the public.

      I am very wary of wheat because of various studies like the ones below:

      1) Feeding wheat bran to healthy volunteers caused them to burn through their vitamin D reserves at a fast pace:

      2) Title: Gluten Causes Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Subjects Without Celiac Disease: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial.
      Result: “Patients were significantly worse with gluten within 1 week for overall symptoms (P=0.047), pain (P=0.016), bloating (P=0.031), satisfaction with stool consistency (P=0.024), and tiredness (P=0.001)”

      3) “…researchers took gut biopsies from celiac patients and asymptomatic controls. Five out of six asymptomatic controls showed elevated interleukin-15, a marker of innate immune activation, upon exposure to gliadin. An activated innate immune system (commonly called ‘inflammation’) is associated with a wide array of chronic diseases, from obesity to cancer to cardiovascular disease”

      4) “Intolerance to cereals is not specific for coeliac disease.”

      5) After 6 months of gluten-free diet, stool frequency and gastrointestinal symptom score returned to normal values in 60% of d-IBS (Diagnosed with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome) patients

      6) The presence of gluten sensitivity by blood test is about 12% in the general population.

      Based on these studies, I would not readily claim that whole wheat and other grains are optimal for health before more researches are done.

  51. hi jane – naw – i don’t scare THAT easy… 😉

    here’s the thing – i’m not a scientist or doctor or statistics analyst or probably even that bright (well maybe…) and i’m not convinced that micro-studies – that is studies in incredibly tight parameters or even bigger studies that don’t take into account all the factors – like factors that are largely impractical (see my poo post above about calorie counting studies) or impossible (like what was the stored age of the grains and flour that all of the chinese ate in all 64 china study data counties).

    I also see from our communications here, that i am coming here already partially convinced that wheat is problematic and you are coming here already pre-disposed that it is not. I’m in very active searching/learning time for both my not-so-young body and even more important for me – the developing body of my 3 year old. If i err on the side of caution about wheat at this point given my analysis of the increasing body of evidence as to wheat’s potential ills – it just means that I and my child and family have one utterly dispensable foodstuff less at our disposal. On the other hand, if i err on the side of consuming/feeding grains to myself, my child and my family and the data starts to gel against wheat in 5 or 10 years, well then, you can see what i mean.

    We simply do not know everything – in fact hardly anything – about the ultimate effects of all the new foodstuffs, processed foods, new chemicals and new energies like EMF’s on our bodies and minds that have evolved in these things absence. I did study pre-med biology and basic genetics and with notable exceptions, genetic adaptation does not race along for widely dispersed populations. Perhaps small population groups have evolved – perhaps via rapid mutation – the ability to eat this or that which would be hazardous to another population – but **is this what has happened with grains**??

    fact is – i can get absolutely great nutrition from our basically lacto-paleo diet and, as Dr Eades advises, if, as a non-menstruating, not bleeding-injury-prone male, i have to give blood several times a year with a needle pinprick (and not a gash from a wild boar i was hunting) to control my iron buildup – well so be it.

    finally – after 3 years pretty exhaustive self-building of my house, greenhouse and having a child – i was really feeling my age as they say. hard to make it though the day, naps were almost obligatory and some minor chronic conditions were getting worse. Now – about 6 months into our new diet sans grains – my childs starting tooth decay has stopped and visibly re-mineralized, and i easily jog though my day, no nap, my chronic sinus is clearing, and my partner and i are enjoying each other again at previously-known frequent intervals… if you know what i mean 😉

    … and i don’t miss bread a bit!

    1. and also – it was statistically clear from Weston Price’s actual tooth-examined, tooth-decay data that the native diets were much better, but among the native diets that also included grains (usually treated before consumption) – even those diets had noticeably more tooth decay than those that ate no grains at all (grain eating native diets being from 2-5% decay, non-grain native diets below 1% decay) and when either of these groups moved to eating “modern” processed flour and sugar diets – 30% to 50% decay!

      now it grains in the diet do that to teeth – the 1) WHY? and 2) I don’t give a damn, i’m NOT eating them or feedin’ them to my kid!

      1. correction:
        now IF grains in the diet do that to teeth – THEN 1) WHY? and 2) I don’t give a damn, i’m NOT eating them or feedin’ them to my kid!

      2. Moksha,

        I’m curious if you could provide a little more detail in what you are considering grain and non-grain, and in which groups you consider the grains improperly prepared.

        Mellanby did show that grains antagonized the curative effect of calcium and fat-soluble vitamins on tooth decay, most likely because of the phytate.

        However, Price states that in most cases among the Swiss where there was a cavity, they had gotten it while traveling out of the village and it had become inactive when they returned to the village.

        Also, some of the non-grain data is confounded by genetics. For example, the Inuit appear to be rather invulnerable to skeletal system loss of calcium, but appear to be unusually vulnerable to hypoglycemic tetany and the neurological manifestations, when they fall below the calcium requirement. That probably affects their tooth decay rate.


        1. Hey Chris,

          I think the data that i was remembering are exemplified in these 2 passages below from Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (and i do remember his comment about the swiss going away and coming back with decay observations) :

          regarding the swiss who eat native diet WITH grain:

          “We left the mountain railroad, which makes many of the grades with the cog system, at the town of St. Nicholas, and climbed the mountain trail to an isolated settlement on the east bank of the Mattervisp River, called Grachen, a five-hour journey. The settlement is on a shelf high above the east side of the river where it is exposed to southern sunshine and enjoys a unique isolation because of its physical inaccessibility. An examination made of the children in this community showed that only 2.3 teeth out of every hundred had been attacked by tooth decay.” (please – note that these were children and would not have been the ones traveling out and back…)

          as opposed to the Rarotonga who apparently do not eat grain with their native diet:

          “The Cook Islands are British and under the direct guidance of the New Zealand Government. Rarotonga is the principal island. – snip- A large number were found in Rarotonga living almost entirely on native foods, and only 0.3 per cent of the teeth of these individuals have been attacked by dental caries. In the vicinity of Avarua, the principal port, however, the natives were living largely on trade foods, and among these 29.5 per cent of the teeth were found to have been attacked by dental caries. ”

          from an observational standpoint – this strongly implies to me that eating the native diets are best and they are so good that they even overcome most of the damaging effects of adding grain to the mix. The swiss soured their rye, so that assumed-ly would help the positive side of the equation.

          From my layman’s viewpoint, it seems to me that the indited components of grains/wheat are the gluten, the phytates and WGA and my distillation of the substantial number of “studies” i have read and understood as best i can, merged with Prices’ observations make me want to avoid any substantive amounts of those 3 stooge’s.

          As i have said, my swiss partner dearly loves bread having been weaned on it, and that is why we were inquiring about the gluten comments you made earlier. That study is certainly telling – however, it was only 30% gluten grain i think – and contained millet – and a comment from you in another one of your articles set me back from millet – something about it being splendid for causing gout?

          Anyway – i think we are still having our internal family debate about the soured rye (haven’t thrown out the flour yet!) We have concluded – for the moment- that rice is mostly benign, and buckwheat is actually beneficial – and we use both of those in moderation.

          as for preparation – i look also to both Price observations and research indicating that traditional souring, sprouting or at minimum soaking are possible “proper” treatments for grains prior to consumption. Since each of these procedures is time and/or resource consuming – and since the general public has lost all knowledge and connection to “traditional” grain preparations (that generation of grandmas are dead and long-gone…) – industry has just skipped or substituted with quick-rise and similar short-cut strategies that produce “apparently” safe edible products quick and cheaply.

          1. i will note that the Gaelic population observed was not indicative of this trend i’d pitching (Price quote below) – but their fermented grain was oats – and i believe that oats have quite a different profile regarding gluten, have no WGA of course, but are villains in the rickets arena–

            These people ate, in my view, exceptionally positive amounts of many different seafoods and i would be willing to postulate that their “compensatory” factors were huge – even much more than the swiss with their raw got milk and bone broth. seafood before the ocean was polluted is a brilliant and diverse nutrient source and they apparently ate loads of it.

            My grandmother who lived with my family growing up was a diminutive but hearty glasgow homey and the only ailment she ever fell to was B12 deficiency – she lived to be 96. I would now have advised her to eat a bit different upon arrival for her last 40 years in america as her first 50 was pretty much seafood, oats and tea in scotland.

            form Price:

            “Through the department of dental inspection for north Scotland, I learned of a place on the Isle of Skye, Airth of Sleat, in which only a few years ago there were thirty-six children in the school, and not one case of dental caries in the group. My examination of the children in this community disclosed two groups, one living exclusively on modern foods, and the other on primitive foods. Those living on primitive foods had only 0.7 carious teeth per hundred, while those in the group living on modern foods had 16.3, or twenty-three times as many.”

          2. Millet is apparently goitrogenic – it causes goiter, not gout. Goiter is the outward sign of your thyroid rolling over and dying. You kind of need the thyroid 🙂 your thyroid and pituitary regulate almost all the hormonal activity in your body, and your metabolism.

            You might be interested in knowing that buckwheat is actually not wheat at all; it is the seed of a tree.

  52. Moksha,

    One day your 3-year-old will be going to school, and will be exposed to refined carbs whether you like it or not. If you forbid it, the child will eat it behind your back, and find out how delicious it is because of the sugar buzz.

    Much better that the child should find out how delicious wholemeal bread is, from you.

    1. … and by using such logic, Jane, i should be getting out a big platter and laying out the Big Mac’s, Whoppers, Double Downs, double pepperoni thick crust’s, toss on a couple large orders of fries (i *loved* them as a kid), a big gulp and finish it off with a maraschino cherry.

      my little girl is being well, and positively indoctrinated in eating REAL food – she munches carrots, and tomatoes hangin with me in the greenhouse, absolutely loves brussel sprouts and broccoli, and even to our amazement, eats steamed buttered chard with enthusiasm.

      as of now, she has no idea that these other garbage fake-foods exist and by the time she does, she will have had years of developing a palate for real whole foods and will be (she is already) learning the concept of ‘foods good for her body and food not’. what she does with that knowledge in her adult life is her bag – but i am willing to guess that if her whole childhood/young adulthood is filled with delicious real food – the concept will stay with her and serve her well.

      as for your example, well, she will have as much chance to land a MacDonalds as she will in a classroom – she will be home-schooled.

      I must be candid now Jane – i’ve continued to engage in discussions with you despite often feeling that logic was a pretty fluid concept for your thinking, and i’ve grown tired of the repeated tossing of incomplete arguments and edgy retorts.

      if you eat wheat for years and have suffered no ill effects that you can ascertain – good for you. My view of the discussion here was that it is trying to investigate the likely ills of wheat and grains for *most* persons, not to vindicate its consumption for the seemingly unaffected few. Considering your oft-curt responses (your unnecessary abruptness with a very sincere Liss), apparent lapses of logic and reasoning, and your continued comments here adding marginally related nay-say after nay-say, perhaps you should reconsider if, in fact, wheat perhaps has affected you in ways you have not realized.

      I AM seeking the smoking wheat gun and will continue to gather and discuss with those interested in the ballistic tests.

  53. Moksha,

    My purpose in mentioning your child was to highlight another evil of the modern food industry: the peddling of refined carbohydrate to children.

    You may have seen the chef Jamie Oliver on TV telling us how to prepare healthy meals for our children. He has received official endorsement from the UK government in this role. His meals are full of refined carbohydrate.

    In the late 1990s I wrote several letters to the then Prime Minister Tony Blair about food and disease. He did not believe me, and it was he who later endorsed Jamie Oliver.

    The problem was, and is, that Blair believed modern disease is caused by faulty genes, and that biotechnology and the human genome project were going to ‘cure half our diseases and prevent the other half’. We were going to have ‘a completely new world’. Britain would be great again, and rich from selling our cures abroad.

    This belief of Blair’s was so strong that he was prepared to go to war in Iraq in order to obtain cooperation in the biotech project from the Americans.

    The reason I know so much about this is because I know some of the scientists who told him these things. Obviously, I tried to tell them the truth about genes, food and disease a long time ago. Their response was to relieve me of my Oxford college fellowship.

    The biotech project and Tony Blair’s dream are now in tatters. Biotech drugs are no better and no less toxic than conventional drugs, and they are vastly more expensive. Gene therapy has failed, and public health is in crisis. The UK, rather than becoming rich from the biotech project, is drowning in unpayable debt.

    I rather think the scientists who refused to listen to me, and I should mention that they are all friends of mine now since I did not take revenge on them for destroying my career, had at the time much the same opinion of me that you have.

  54. Moksha,

    I should perhaps explain my ‘unnecessary abruptness’ with a ‘very sincere Liss’. I have had endless problems getting people to read about McCarrison’s work. They simply will not do it. Liss said Wrench is not to be trusted. Is anyone going to read his account of McCarrison’s work after that? No, of course not.

  55. Kudos to you Jane for making a stand and putting your career on the line. Now we’re in a new coalition government who are keen on evidence-based outcomes, maybe there’s a more practical way of pushing this message?

    I don’t share your views on Jamie Oliver incidentally – while he’s not averse to using white flour, pasta and sugar from time to time, his general approach of cooking whole foods from scratch seems sensible enough.

    Re McCarrison, really interesting work. I’d never heard of him till now, but for anyone who’s not come across him – he’s the British Weston Price, and there’s now a society dedicating to continuing his research:

  56. Hi Mike,

    Here in the UK, Jamie Oliver’s TV series featured exclusively white flour and white rice. There was no brown rice or wholemeal pasta/pizza at all. And he was in the school kitchens teaching the school cooks what to do. McCarrison would turn in his grave.

  57. I was not going to comment again on these exchanges with Jane but i want to thank Nigel **very** much for that link (so good i repeat it here: )

    with the patience of Job, Mr Colpa attempts to wrap some logic thinking and critical analysis around Jane’s (IMHO) sometimes incredibly absurd postulations –

    Sorry Jane – it seems like there is a giant chasm in your logical flow – your ideas on sat fats are so reasonable and seemingly well-thought through but the grains?? it’s amazing and incredible actually – and i appreciate that Mr Colpa was so amply qualified to so excellently attempt to answer your repeated and often amazing contentions given the evidence he was citing. You also became rather unfriendly with him as well when he called you on your illogic or lack of citing evidences – something we in this blog have also requested from you.

    Now – i DO NOT want to get in to any further exchange – and i am sure you will respond to this comment –

    I have never claimed to be anything more than a layman in these discussions – citing and speaking from the perspective that MOST common folk have to deal with – that is not being PhD’s or MD’s in this field – and so we do our best to gather and sift the information as intelligently as we can.

    I will admit, however, that i was strangely gratified to find Mr Colpa having the same difficulties with you as I wish not to think of myself as nuts as one might trying to understand you. I do wish you the best in your endeavors, but however hope, like Mr. Colpa stated, that you do not have much luck convincing people that grains are a perfectly healthy and wondrous foodstuff.

  58. Hi Nigel,

    Yes, it was indeed me.

    Hi Moksha,

    His name is Colpo, not Colpa. He is a great friend of mine.

    ‘ … i DO NOT want to get in to any further exchange …’

    Why not? If we continue this discussion I can clarify any ‘illogic’ and give you the ‘evidences’ you say I have not provided.

  59. Jane,

    I’ve never “flamed” anyone like this but you have raised my ire – and this WILL be the last i exchange with you.

    You are a provocateur and clearly a liar, or at least seriously imbalanced. How stupid do you think others are anyway? I read the WHOLE exchange between you and Anthony – it’s right there a click away ( )- and if you and he are “great friends” then i’m a qualified rocket scientist from mars. Below are a few choice comments from Anthony regarding your exchange – which, BTW, happened waaaaaay back LAST MONTH. He is patient beyond belief, brilliant, and informative and your responses are vapid.

    It does not take a rocket scientist to see that your association with Mr Colpo is hardly that of “great friend” and in fact – it seems to me he has never even heard of you before your exchange LAST MONTH.

    “Recently, I received an email from one Jane Karlsson, PhD, vigorously asserting that whole grains were wonderfully healthy foods that could immensely benefit humankind.”

    …. from “one” Jane Karlsson? oh yea – that’s how i would refer to a “great friend” of mine.

    “Perhaps these types of exchanges are fun for you, but they really are a waste of time for me considering my current workload. Given your inability to supply the evidence requested and your inability to provide straight answers to my questions, I think we should end the exchange right here. All the best in your future endeavors and I do hope you consult the references I have cited”

    … seems if you and he were “great friends”, then he would know a bit more of what you were about, no?

    “It is obvious that you are unwilling or unable to provide any of this requested information, so once again, please respect my time and wishes and find someone else to converse with on the topic of whole grains.”

    …PS – Jane, it won’t be me….

    “I think we have clearly established by now you are unable to supply the evidence backing your pro-whole grain stance, but are intent on nevertheless arguing the point until the cows come home. Sorry, but I just don’t have the time for this – I entertained your antics up to this point in the vain hope I could get through to a PhD who is presumably in a position to influence others, but it appears your inculcation by mainstream propaganda has become far too ingrained.”

    … amazing the extended engagement that even an intelligent Mr. Colpo will tolerate with those 3 little letters behind an (anonymous) name. I think i’ll start posting as “Moksha, PhD, MD, EFGHI, JK, LM, NOP”

    “As for your stance on whole grains and celiac disease, that a supposed PhD would ignore the relationship between gluten and celiac disease (news flash: if you are celiac and eat gluten-containing grains, you are not going to experience good gut health!) is truly astounding. I sincerely hope you are not in a position where you are able to influence the eating habits of celiac individuals. Your ignorance at that point becomes dangerous.”

    On this last point i could not agree more. If you do not have anything of real substance other than a single book from 75 years ago on one tribe in the world’s diet to offer us as conclusive evidence that all of us concerned about grains are dead wrong, please go away and pick another place to play your provoking and un-informative games.

  60. Moksha,

    “Recently, I received an email from one Jane Karlsson, PhD, vigorously asserting that whole grains were wonderfully healthy foods that could immensely benefit humankind.”

    This is the one part of my conversation with Colpo that did not happen. He is ‘a great friend of mine’ because he reproduced the rest of the conversation accurately.

    He wanted to discuss something quite different from whole grains, and he thought I was not familiar with the topic he did want to discuss. I am.

    “that a supposed PhD would ignore the relationship between gluten and celiac disease…”

    Colpo does not understand the relationship between celiac disease and ‘oral tolerance’. The gut immune system is normally instructed not to react to dietary proteins such as gluten, and celiac disease can result when this process fails. Celiac has a strong genetic component, as expected from a disease involving failure of immune tolerance. Colpo needs to explain why there are people with genetic susceptibility for celiac who never get it.


    Were you the one who said you’d read The Wheel of Health? The support for my ‘unsupported conjectures’ is in that book.

  61. Here’s a little food for thought. Today while reviewing ScienceDaily blog entries, I encountered one that reminded me of the China Study data that connects eating wheat with weight gain in humans. This time, though, the weight gain is with horses kept for leisure. Could there be something in “course mix” horse feed that humans also eat? The blog entry is at

  62. The wheat used in India for chapati (the bread Mccarisson used on his rats) is low in gluten ( Apparently Monsanto was trying to patent the strain. Also note that the “Healthy Diet” of the Siks that Maccarisson used was rich in animal fat compared the Madras and Bengal diet that was high in grains and low in fat.
    Jane – If you insist on consuming gluten I suggest that you find a biploid (Eincorn) strain since recent hexaploid starins contain particularly toxic forms of gluten (

  63. After long hours doing my own internet research I found out that my hand eczema was caused by wheat and dairy*. Now that I don’t eat those two (or hardly ever, it’s very difficult to avoid these two) I have so much energy, I am losing weight without even trying (I still eat my normal dose of chocolates) and my digestion has improved a lot (no more smelly winds!).

    I only wish wheat wasn’t so popular. There’s rye flour that doesn’t taste that bad. It’s just a matter of getting used to it.

    *I still eat fresh mozarella cheese and kefir once in a while. They are good to my stomach.

  64. I don’t know … I think people knew a long time ago that bread and macaroni cause obesity. When I came to New York from a different world, I was stunned to see “sophisticated New Yorkers” eating in rather expensive places what they considered healthy food (pasta). I doubted that a change of a name would change the nature of “stuff.”

    1. I just had a thought. According to the above article wheat/gluten is toxic to all human bodies. The people with CD are only showing full blown symptoms. So what if there is a continuum of wheat intolerance sxs and we ALL show it in one way or another and to a lesser or greater degree?

      What is the most prevalent diagnosis among otherwise healthy person of all ages? Allergies. Seasonal allergies to GRASSES and other plants. Asthma being the worst case in this manifestation.

      I would love to see if there is a strong positive correlation between wheat consumption (cripes, how may kids are raised on sandwiches!!) and severe seasonal allergies and asthma.

      The real study would be to follow asthmatic kids who abstain from gluten for a good 6 months. What I wouldn’t give.

  65. Thanks for all your good work!


    A) The first mentioned study’s conclusion is, according to nature[1]:
    “The vegetable-rich food pattern was associated with higher risk of obesity/central obesity in Chinese adults in both genders. This association can be linked to the high intake of energy due to generous use of oil for stir-frying the vegetables.” Oil, not wheat. Does contradict your point. And “can be linked”, not “further research is needed whether it can be linked”.

    [1] =

    B) The second (newer) study is not accessible by the link provided. It could just be made up or contain a few words or numbers that totally contradict your point. Not that I believe that, but believing is not of much help in these issues, is it?! So for the sake of the health of all of us, can anyone point out how to get the study; or proof (not assure by “I saw it”) that this study is what is told on this page?

  66. Psh! Didn’t need a study to tell me that. I dropped a lot of weight when I went wheat (and dairy and corn and nut. . . Mostly soy) free. And not because I was “just eating less” like others said to me! I ate way more than before because I actually had an APPETITE (sign of health) for the first time in years, and wasn’t just eating to keep my blood sugar up. Friends were like, “ok, but how did you REALLY lose weight?”. Grrr. I hate the overall wheat ignorance. Sure, some people can have it, but a lot can’t! Plus, a typical Chinese (healthy- a la Traditional Chinese Medicine) diet doesn’t include wheat really: rice, steamed vegetables, fish, chicken, baked apples and sweet potatoes. . . Where’s the wheat? Oh wait, there isn’t any. Wheat is the devil. Ok it isn’t. But, to me, it is! I think the majority of people’s weight loss from going wheat-free is dropping all that digestive waste.(sorry, gross) that stays in your gut from eating wheat. Just my humble theory. Whatever the studies say, if it works for you, there’s no denying it.

    1. Northern Chinese eat way more wheat (wheat noodles, etc.) than southern Chinese, who eat way more rice and rice products. It would be interesting to study the two populations and compare their health.

  67. Hi Denise, I’m a fan and have read all your posts to do with the china study as well as your latest part 1 on actually low fat diets. My question is regarding non-food based confounders. Wheat is grown in the northern regions of china, while rice is a southern grain. The north is also poorer, and the communist government has spent the last 65 years trying to do something about that. One of those things is free coal, at least from 1950 -1980:

    The result of this was both bad ambient air outside, but hugely terrible, awful, disgusting indoor air quality, from poor peasants cooking with the stuff. I think it’s not too far of a stretch to believe that some of the effect seen with wheat is due to the phenomenal amounts of unburnt hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, NOx, mercury, and fine particulates in the air. This will do more than just kill everyone from lung cancer; heart disease and strokes will go up, too.

    The demarcation line of rice vs. wheat is not the same as the free coal vs not free coal line, but it’s close. I think the correlation of air pollution (low to high) will correspond very well to diet (rice to wheat), but I’m not sure if there’s any non food data in the China Study database…

    Thanks for a great site!

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