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Is Wheat-Free Better for You?

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

To bread or not to bread, that is the question – “Ham and Omelet” by Shakespeare

The multi-colored pasta that your grandparents ate (and possibly made themselves)

The multi-colored pasta that your grandparents ate (and possibly made themselves)

Dear Fun and Fit: I was wondering if you could either discuss, or give me some good sources of information about the new “no wheat” trend. What I have heard about it is that wheat has been completely altered from the wheat of our parents’/grandparents’ generations and is not the same crop, as addictive as some drugs, and can cause numerous health problems including substantial weight gain in the belly region.  Danielle, Torrance, CA

Wow, that is quite the question! Since we are neither nutritionists nor dietitians, we will present some research and links to help guide you, but not give advice on your timely question about wheat-free (and its popular cousin, gluten-free) eating.

Celiac disease is an immune disorder triggered by gluten (a protein found in grains) in genetically predisposed individuals. There is a loss of small intestinal villi, small finger-like projections that significantly increase the surface area for absorption of nutrients. Celiac disease is being diagnosed with more frequency than ever before (it’s estimated that 1 in 250 Americans has it), so there is a correlation between the higher rates and grains.

In a study that just came out last week, researchers found that consumption of bread on a daily basis, particularly wholemeal, was good for cardiovascular health. They go on to mention that it’s associated with a lower insulin concentration, and that eating bread helps prevent insulin resistance.

Also, according to Harvard you can help prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, type 2 diabetes, and constipation by eating whole grains (not refined wheat that strips away more than half of its B vitamins, 90% of Vitamin E and virtually all of the fiber).

You Won't Get a Stroke from Wheat...or Will You?

You Won’t Get a Stroke from Wheat…or Will You?

Gastroenterologist Joseph Murray at Mayo Clinic led a study that found that young people today are 4.5 times more likely to have celiac disease than in the 1950s. “Celiac disease has become much more common in the last 50 years, and we don’t know why. It now affects about one in a hundred people (note that the study above said 1 in 250). Celiac disease could be a significant public health issue.”

As to what exactly has changed over the past 50 years to cause this rise in celiac disease is up to researchers to fully answer, but it is true that wheat is different than what it was for our grandparents. The linked article talks about the changes in wheat, highlighting the ways it has been genetically modified.

An interesting book called “Bread is the Devil,” by Heather Bauer, R.D., C.D.N., puts forth a case for bread being on the wrong side of the weight loss “battle,” so you might want to check it out at the library. You might also enjoy our radio interview with Nicki Anderson, 5 Nutrition Mistakes Women Make. Scroll down as Nicki’s comments on wheat-free, gluten-free, and other eating trends are interesting and filled with quick stats and advice.

Is There a Link between Ry-Krisp and Weight Gain?

Is There a Link between Ry-Krisp and Weight Gain?

Having said all that, Alexandra will not knowingly eat GMO food (genetically modified organisms), and she does a lot of baking using flour. She does not have a weight problem.

One thing you might like to do is compare the rates of celiac disease in the U.S. to those in Europe, where they eat a lot of pasta and bread, but it’s usually whole grain and non-GMO. Then compare obesity rates. From there, you can decide if a wheat free / gluten free diet is right for you. As to your question about it being addictive, so far most of that claim is anecdotal, not research-based. There is a really good write-up about the true definition of “wheat addiction” and the small bit of research that has been done so far.

So is wheat the devil or the cardiovascular savior? We leave it to you to decide for yourself. We’re just that nice. And half-baked.

Get on the Ball and Vote For Us!

Get on the Ball and Vote For Us!

The voting deadline ends on 21 December, and we want to win. Please head over to Anytime Fitness and click on the link to give us your vote. We are the Running Twins on the Ball. We appreciate every vote! Did we mention that we want to win the trip?

We won’t feed you wheat, but we will wheedle you to subscribe now to our YouTube channel and blog. Please also follow us on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Click now on the icons above or below. We make it easy to share and subscribe!

Photo credits: Ry-Krisp ad Van Michelle; Colored pasta moonlightbulb; Shredded Wheat  Captain Geoffrey Spaulding

About Fun and Fit

Get practical exercise advice, your fitness questions answered, and cutting edge health edu-tainment that is accessible and doable from long time fitness experts, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA. We have taught on land, sea, and airwaves for 3 decades on 4 continents. From writing to speaking, emceeing to hosting a radio show, reviewing products to teaching classes, we believe that little steps turn into big paths. Move a little more than the day before. FitFluential Ambassadors and award-winners both online and off.

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15 Responses to Is Wheat-Free Better for You?

  1. Tamara December 13, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    Hmmm. I’m still on the fence about all of this. It seems like every other week there’s a new study or book that presents convincing evidence one way or the other.

    I’ve read Wheat Belly and the changes in wheat from it’s ancestral form to the form we consume today scare me (as an evolutionary biologist).

    I’m working through ‘It Starts With Food’ and they do a fantastic job of explaining the effects of grains in general on insulin, glucagon, leptin and cortisol.

    I wish there was a clear cut answer, but then, it’s so difficult to do the proper, controlled studies on humans that we may never know.

    P.S. I get this question a lot too, and I think your answer was very balanced!
    Tamara recently posted..January motivation and inspiration | tearing into 2013My Profile

    • AlexandraFunFit December 14, 2012 at 9:33 am #

      Thank you for saying this post was balanced, as we did not want our personal opinions to interfere with anyone making an informed choice. I’ve read a lot about food and its origins and the politics surrounding it, and the whole issue can make you very scared. Or, in my case, get you outside to grow your own.
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..TheraFit Shoes Were Made for Walking: Product ReviewMy Profile

  2. Elle December 13, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

    I read WHEAT BELLY and it changed my life and my way of thinking COMPLETELY because I could personally identify with so many of the symptoms and scenarios he described. I will never go back to WHEAT unless it is the last food left …

    I think everyone has to make these choices for themselves by doing as much research as we can, relying on scientific studies. It is sometimes hard to separate the chafe from the quackery!
    Elle recently posted..It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…My Profile

    • AlexandraFunFit December 14, 2012 at 9:35 am #

      Ah, the chaff and quackery! Great phrase. I am glad I learned how to read research back in grad school, as it makes it easier for me to make informed choices. It’s also always good to read who paid for the research! My body is lucky when it comes to wheat, as I can tolerate almost all foods, but my youngest son had so many allergies as a kid that I taught myself to cook from scratch and even do a veggie garden (with help).
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..Prevent Shin Splints: 3 Calf StretchesMy Profile

  3. Jody - Fit at 55 December 14, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    GREAT RESPONSE!!!! I am never ever going to give up my bread unless a doc says I have to to stay alive! ;) Saying that, I do eat very healthy & whole grain breads & love them. I am not gluten insensitive so feel no need to go that way as many do whether they are insensitive or not….

    I like the balanced answer & people have to research & decide for themselves. Balance in life for me! :)
    Jody – Fit at 55 recently posted..Holiday Workout Help – Same Effect in Less TimeMy Profile

    • AlexandraFunFit December 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

      Thank you Jody. It’s interesting in today’s world of altered food that what is healthy for one person can be deadly for another. I hope the industrial food complex gets pressured into leaving the chemicals out.
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..Prevent Shin Splints: 3 Calf StretchesMy Profile

  4. Debbie @ Live from La Quinta December 14, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    Is it any wonder that people get confused about what to eat. Even we, as fitness professionals, aren’t really sure what to tell them.

    I can read reports and listen to people who have gone wheat and/or grain free, and think, maybe they have something there. Then turn around and read about the benefits of whole grains, the studies that show the benefits, and there I am right back to where I was.

    It is fine for us to say, whatever works for a person is what they need, but it still leaves so many people wondering what they should do, who they should listen to.

    I don’t know the answers, but I think that your answer was quite informative, and certainly helpful for someone trying to make decisions on their diet.
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted..Two Vegan Recipes: Spicy Lime Soup & (another) Tofu Scramble + the #Therafit Winner!My Profile

    • AlexandraFunFit December 15, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

      You are so right Debbie. What is bad for one might be good for another. Although I’m not sure GMO wheat is actually good for anyone!! It’s more like, What’s bad for one might not cause an allergic reaction in another! I do think people can make their own choices if they have good info.
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..Crank Up Your Metabolism and DigestionMy Profile

  5. eric December 15, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    “Celiac disease has become much more common in the last 50 years, and we don’t know why” I bet it has nothing to do with the mass amounts of chemicals we use today.. herbicides, pest control, drought resistant stff, etc etc…..

    Just my 2 cents… good post! I enjoyed it!
    eric recently posted..The experiment continuesMy Profile

  6. Sara December 23, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

    Thank you – I am learning about all of this so I appreciate the resources. MERRY CHRISTMAS!
    Sara recently posted..Stick it to Me: Antiphospholipid AwarenessMy Profile

  7. Rita Nagy@ehealthyliving December 25, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    I love the detailed and objective response to this question we have all been asking ourselves lately. I also love the touches of humor in it, thanks – made me smile and think!
    Personally for myself, I have chosen to eat whole grain alternatives, whenever possible. I not only consider them healthier, but in time have found them tastier too!
    Thanks again and keep posting!
    Rita Nagy@ehealthyliving recently posted..Basic facts, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancerMy Profile

    • AlexandraFunFit December 25, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

      Thank you for the compliment Rita, as we try to stay objective on issues such as this. I know that I’ve moved away from processed foods and toward whole grains and alternatives too, especially as one of my sons had food allergies (not wheat) as a child, so I do like to be aware of the stats and research.
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..BlogTour: Cologne, Amsterdam and Gifts for Your HomeMy Profile


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    […] you want further info about bread and wheat, read our post “Is Wheat Free Better for You?”. You probably know the […]

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