Back in 1895 when Katharine Lee Bates was referring to those “amber waves of grain” in her song America the Beautiful, she was gazing upon wheat that was much different from what covers our landscape today.
Just ask Dr. William Davis. He’s a cardiologist who has done some serious investigation into the advice that government agencies give us to eat more “healthy grains”—which results in increased weight and other unhealthy outcomes. Davis was having no success with his diabetic patients utilizing diets with conventional whole grains, so he put on his “scientific investigator” hat and made some unsettling discoveries.
Davis says that the diet backed by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the American Heart Association (AHA)—a diet that asserts that 6-8 daily servings of whole grains is necessary for optimal health—just isn’t working. In fact, he believes that eating that many daily of servings of whole grains is actually harming health. First of all, cites Davis, the wheat of today is not the wheat of our ancestors. He says that over the last 100+ years, wheat has become monstrous—Frankenwheat, to be exact.
Back in the day, wheat plants were tall and majestic. Wheat plants today are more than two feet shorter than wheat of the past and “stockier, so it can support a much heavier seedbed,” says Davis. Years of cross-breeding and hybridization have made today’s wheat what it is today—and that’s not all positive. For example, new strains of wheat involve processes like gamma irradiation and a highly toxic chemical called sodium azide. Sodium azide is so toxic, in fact, that poison control personnel say that if someone accidentally ingests sodium azide, then you should never try to use mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or other direct contact because you could become toxic, too.
That’s not all. Wheat proteins undergo structural change in hybridization, and today’s conventional wheat contains a protein called gliadin, which, when it’s digested in the intestines, releases something called exorphin—an opioid peptide. When this peptide crosses the blood-brain barrier, it bonds with opiate receptors in the brain and supports an addiction to wheat. In short, wheat is an appetite stimulant and can increase your desire for even more wheat. This opioid peptide is so addictive, says Davis, that a pharmaceutical company wants FDA approval for a drug to block the receptor sites and to support weight management. A simpler solution, says Davis, is cutting down on or removing conentional wheat from the diet.
Those aren’t the only marks against today’s wheat. Wheat also contains a threatening carbohydrate called amylopectin A—a carbohydrate that increases blood sugar levels more than white bread, table sugar or even a candy bar does. (No wonder blood sugar imbalance is on the rise nationally and globally.) This specific wheat carb-induced increase in blood sugar results in the pancreas releasing additional insulin, pushing sugar into the cells and adding to weight imbalance.
After 90 to 120 minutes, however, the glucose/insulin levels bottom out. That creates immediate hunger and results in a spastic fluctuation in blood sugar levels that not only upsets blood sugar balance, but can also result in AGEs or advanced glycation end products—culprits in unhealthy aging and other unhealthy states. For example, glycation can form in the eyes, knees, hips and other places in the body to wreak havoc. No matter where glycation forms, however, it’s not healthy.
Then there’s the lectin in wheat. Lectins are indigestible wheat proteins that “unlock” healthy intestinal barriers and allow unwanted, foreign food particles to enter the body—and no one needs that. Additionally, small low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles form when you eat lots of carbs, including wheat. Those LDL particles are responsible for unhealthy levels of atherosclerotic plaque and can lead to cardiovascular unhealth.
So, there you have it. Our amber waves of grain have become amber waves of gain that can result in an unhealthy weight and other unhealthy outcomes.