While the subject is not new, there still remains great confusion surrounding the topics of wheat, gluten, Celiac disease, gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity. While many still consider wheat and gluten to be one and the same, it is important to identify that they are extremely different and should be treated as such. Considering the differences helps to understand the relation to other diseases and conditions that have recently come to light.
In the past several years two physicians have published books focusing on the association between wheat and gluten to even more health conditions and diseases than simply accepted digestive disorders.
Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist and author of “Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health,” found that when wheat was eliminated from a patient’s diet, weight loss and optimal health was attainable. Focused specifically on wheat and its relation to heart health, Dr. Davis found that low-fat dietary plans, which often substituted larger amounts of carbohydrates for fats, were causing increased levels of cholesterol. Furthermore, Dr. Davis discovered that it is in fact high blood sugar levels, caused by carbohydrate-rich meals – primarily whole wheat, that caused elevations in both triglycerides and small low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles (the more dangerous type of LDL Cholesterol).
Current guidelines for a heart-healthy diet include whole grains, a recommendation since the 1960s, but recent studies like Dr. Davis’ have shown no positive effect and even harmful results when diets included wheat and gluten. After carbohydrate-rich meals, small LDL cholesterol is elevated for seven days – the longer these particles spend in circulation, the more opportunity they have to be oxidized. Oxidation can damage tissues of the body, and pose a threat to overall heart health.
Dr. David Perlmutter, a neurologist and author of “Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers,” compiles research findings on carbohydrates and their link to chronic diseases like dementia, depression and Alzheimer’s Disease. Dr. Perlmutter describes a similar series of chemical reactions whereby the consumption of high carbohydrate meals leads to elevated blood sugar and insulin levels, inflammation and which can cause oxidation and subsequently, tissue damage.
As described by Dr. Perlmutter, dementia and cognitive decline like Alzheimer’s Disease are conditions of inflammation and aging in the brain. Alzheimer’s Disease has also been called Diabetes Type III, due to the correlation between elevated blood sugar and insulin dysfunction in the brain. Additionally, those with Diabetes are at twice the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.
So what does a heart- and brain-healthy diet look like? To start, an ideal diet would eliminate unhealthy fats such as hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats, as well as the removal of processed grains and refined sugars. Meals consisting of only grains and easy-to-digest carbohydrates elevate blood sugar, as highlighted by Dr. Perlmutter and Dr. Davis. Consuming a balanced diet high in micronutrients (fruits, vegetables, nuts) can help you maintain your energy, reduce fatigue, eliminate cravings and keep your heart healthy. If you are concerned about your overall well-being, consider contacting a health professional for a complete health assessment and therapeutic lifestyle program to help you achieve your health goals for the New Year.