Wheat has long been a dietary staple in our culture, but it may not be all it's cracked up to be (pun intended). Wheat has a dark side, and we're not talking about the color... we're talking about it's impact on your health. For starters, eating wheat bread increases your chance of developing diabetes, thanks to the high starch content. High starch means high sugar and a high chance of weight gain, both of which contribute to the disease. Unfortunately we're just getting started....
The Grief of Gluten
Gluten is a wheat protein that acts as a solidifying and rising agent in bread and other bakery goodies. While we know it makes things taste delicious, I'm sure also you're coming to the realization that it's not all that good for you.
Perhaps the most obvious symptoms of gluten intolerance strike those suffering from celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that has no known cause but plenty of consequences if you happen to be a wheat fiend. When celiac disease sufferers eat wheat, their bodies react by becoming inflamed and thus, begin to resist insulin. Once your body goes into insulin resistance mode, you are a prime candidate for gaining weight and developing diabetes.
Gluten addicts (most commonly bread addicts) will also enjoy an increased risk for a handful of conditions well-known for striking those over age 55. These include osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune diseases above and beyond celiac disease, acid reflux and depression. Even if you don't suffer from celiac disease, gluten can unkindly gift you with the same parade of inflammation and ailments. This is especially true if you happen to be one of the lucky seven percent of the American public who have elevated levels of gluten antibodies, or even just a plain old sensitivity.
So what's the answer? Choosing gluten-free grain products may seem like the easy path to take, but that road may cause even more problems. You see, gluten-free foods are highly processed, and thus, come with their own side effects.
The Perils of Processed Food
Even without the gluten, processed foods come with a whole host of pretty scary additives. A massive amount of sugar is typically one of them. In addition to bloating your body with extra calories, excessive amounts of added sugar can adversely affect your brain. It does this by decreasing its ability to produce BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Decreased BDNF can decrease your ability to create new memories, to maintain recall or learn new things, and can increase your risk of dementia and depression (III, IV).
And we're not done yet. Processed wheat rips the grain asunder and removes all natural fiber and other essential nutrients that would normally come with a whole grain. Processed foods are likely to contain added fat, salt, and other ingredients designed to perk up your appetite so that you continue to keep on eating even when you're already bursting the seams of your jeans. Sound familiar?
Should GM Stand for `Gross Mistake'?
Ok, so maybe you now agree, gluten and processed grains seem out, but wheat that's been genetically engineered or modified has certainly got to be in, no? Not necessarily. The point of the genetic engineering is to reduce the sugar load and enhance the benefits of wheat, and the engineers do this by suppressing a gene in wheat that creates the alterations [I]. Australia is striving to be the first country to grow GM wheat commercially, but scientists are not too impressed with initial results.
Microbiologists are saying that all that tinkering may come with severe side effects... like death by age 5? Woah. The scientific conclusion is that GM wheat may induce a condition called Glycogen Storage Disease IV. This ailment brings liver problems, such as enlargement and cirrhosis, and an overall "failure to thrive" [V]. Children born with this disease rarely live more than half a decade.
The manipulated wheat gene not only suppressed functions in growing wheat, but it remains intact through cooking and even digestion. Since it had so much fun suppressing wheat functions, it decides to start suppressing functions in the human body as well [II]. Dare you take a bite?
Phytic Acids Pilfering Nutrients
One more mark against wheat comes from its phytic acids content. Phytic acid has the very naughty habit of pulling nutrients from the body, particularly iron and zinc. Lack of iron can lead to iron-deficiency anemia, while lack of zinc packs a wallop of problems. Lack of a little zinc can lead to lack of appetite, suppressed immune functioning and growth retardation. Lack of a lot of zinc can give you diarrhea, sexual maturation issues, hair loss, impotence, mental lethargy and skin lesions, just to name a few.
Perhaps rethinking your wheat intake may be in store... at least if you want to keep your body and mind in order!
[I] Carman, J. "Expert Scientific Opinion on CSIRO GM Wheat Varieties [report]". South Australia: Flinders University; September 2012. Web. September. 2016. <http://safefoodfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Carman-Expert-Scientific-Opinion.pdf>.
[II] Heinemann, J. "Evaluation of risks from creation of novel RNA molecules in genetically engineered wheat plants and recommendations for risk assessment". New Zealand: University of Canterbury; Aug. 28, 2012. Web. September. 2016. <http://safefoodfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Heinemann-Expert-Scientific-Opinion.pdf>.
[III] Krabbe KS, Nielsen AR, Krogh-Madsen R, et al. "Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and type 2 diabetes". Diabetologia. 2007 Feb;50(2):431-8. Epub 2006 Dec 7. Web. September. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17151862>.
[IV] Molteni R, Barnard RJ, Ying Z, Roberts CK, Gómez-Pinilla F. "A high-fat, refined sugar diet reduces hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor, neuronal plasticity, and learning". Neuroscience. 2002;112(4):803-14. Web. September. 2016. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12088740>.
[V] "Scientists Warn on CSIRO GM Wheat Threat [press release]". Safe Food Foundation; Sept. 11, 2012. Web. September. 2016. <http://safefoodfoundation.org/2012/09/11/media-release-scientists-warn-on-csiro-gm-wheat-threat/>.