Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: Wheat Belly

Wheat Belly is next up for review.  The author, Dr. William Davis, is a medical doctor and preventive cardiologist in Wisconsin.

The basic premise of Wheat Belly is that the elimination of wheat products is the key to weight loss and improved health.  The book is broken down into 3 sections.  The first is a detailed history of the evolution of wheat and how it has changed genetically over the years.  The second part explains all of the negative health effects of eating wheat.  The third part of the book deals with tips on eliminating wheat from your diet, including a 7 day meal plan and recipes.  Overall, the book is well researched and very well written.  I enjoyed reading it.

Five Things I Really Liked About Wheat Belly
1) The Concept Of Blood Sugar Stability.  A major concept in this book is that swings in blood sugar have a negative impact on weight control and health in general.  I couldn’t agree more.  Blood sugar control is at the very foundation of my nutritional recommendations.

2) Explanation Of How Wheat Has Changed Over The Years.  I found this part of the book absolutely fascinating.  Agricultural scientists have changed wheat dramatically over the past 50 years.  It has been altered genetically to make it resistant to environmental conditions and to increase yield.  Wheat used to grow 4 feet tall.  The new genetic, “dwarf” version grows only 1 foot tall, so it will yield quicker, requiring less fertilizer.  The author found a woman who grows the old fashion wheat and bought some flour from her.  After eating 2 slices of bread made with this flour, his blood sugar rose to 110.  He repeated the test with modern flour.  His blood sugar after eating 2 pieces of bread made with modern wheat rose to 167!  It is quite plausible that wheat used to be a healthy, lower glycemic grain years ago, but is now high glycemic due to genetic manipulation.

3) Great explanation of LDL particle size.  The size of your LDL is just as important as your number.  Large, buoyant LDL’s are far less atherogenic than small dense LDL’s.  He explains this nicely.

4) Good Recipes.  The wheat free recipes are very nicely put together.

5) Comprehensive List Of Wheat Containing Products And Ingredients.  The author puts together an interesting list of places where you’ll find wheat unexpectedly.  You’ll find wheat in hydrolyzed vegetable protein, modified food starch, textured vegetable protein, flavored coffees, beer, flavored teas, vodkas, blue cheese, and my 2 favorites; envelope glue and lipstick.  Wheat really is everywhere!

Five Things I Didn’t Agree With In Wheat Belly
1) Promises Unrealistic Weight Loss.  The author says you will lose 10 lbs in the first 14 days, or even a pound a day.  When expectations are this high, it is easy to get frustrated with more realistic weight loss, such as a pound a week.  Having realistic expectations for weight loss is vital to long term adherence. 

2) Very Little On Exercise.  If you want to lose weight and keep it off, exercise is a huge part of the equation.  Both experience and the research literature have taught me this. Wheat Belly doesn’t focus on it very much.

3) Restricts Several Foods That Are Healthy.  The following foods are strictly limited on the Wheat Belly plan: oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, legumes, fruits, and polyunsaturated oils.  These have been shown in the literature to be health promoting, and I’m not quite sure why you wouldn’t want people to eat them.

4) Allows Several Foods That Are Not So Healthy.  The following foods are encouraged on the Wheat Belly plan and in the recipes: steak, pork, full fat cheeses, coconut oil, small amounts of fruit juice, daily use of non-nutritive sweeteners, dried fruit, full fat sour cream.  These are foods I have my clients limit due to their negative impact on health.

5) Fat, Protein, Carb Ratio.  This plan allows for unlimited protein intake, which typically amounts to no higher than 20-25% of calories, unlimited fat and 50-100 grams of carbohydrate per day.  On a 2000 calorie diet, this equates to 25% protein, 20% carbohydrate and 55% fat.  I think this is a bit too low on the carb and a bit too high on the fat.  I have my clients shoot for more like 20% protein, 35% fat and 45% carb.

Is Wheat Belly Worth Reading?
Absolutely.  Wheat Belly gets a lot right.  You’ll learn in great detail how the wrong types of carbohydrate can make you unhealthy and overweight.  For years, I have been recommending a lot of what is in this book to my clients.  There are just a few foods I would limit on this plan and a few foods I’d add in.  Oh yeah, one other thing I’d add in is a whole lot more exercise!