Debunking Dr. Davis

One of the earliest critics of Dr. William Davis’ book Wheat Belly was Sue Becker of The Bread Beckers Inc., purveyor of grains and cooking appliances (including $600 mixers). The company’s customers seem to be folks who either make their own bread at home, or who run small-scale, local baking operations, which usually tend to cluster in upscale parts of the country.

Ms. Becker has a degree in Food Science and is a Certified Nutrition Counselor, and brings some unexpected perspectives. Her very extensive review of Wheat Belly seems to want to be briskly scientific, but much of her evidence consists of anecdotal reports about her own nine children and their robust health.

Becker complains about other authors’ use and interpretation of studies from the pages of journals, but then presents her own life experience as if it were the most pristine laboratory science:

In more than 20 years of hearing the testimonies of others, we have seen many people experience great weight loss if needed when they began to eat freshly milled whole grains, including wheat. They also saw improvements in their overall health, skin and hair.

She rebuts not only things asserted by Dr. Davis, but things that she claims he implies, which is a bit dodgy. But let’s get down to brass tacks. Here is one solid objection:

Dr. Davis mingles the terms “genetic modification”, “hybridization”, and “human modification” throughout his discussion of modern wheat.

Becker says that using these terms interchangeably leads readers to draw the incorrect conclusion that genetic modification is involved — presumably, because Dr. Davis wants to scare people. But in truth, no genetically modified wheat is allowed to be grown in the United States, and all the interference with wheat genetics has been accomplished with traditional plant breeding techniques, with no crossing of genes from other species.

The purpose of this harmless modification was to make shorter stalks that would not bend under the weight of the grain heads, and most people don’t have a problem with that. Becker is also annoyed because Dr. Davis uses examples of other, truly genetically modified foods, such as soybeans, as examples for his arguments against wheat. Becker says that Dr. Davis claims that 5% of the proteins in modern wheat are not found in either parent, which Becker says is scientifically impossible, since “Plants can only express proteins they have the genetic code to produce.”

One of Becker’s charges is that Dr. Davis distorts the meaning of a Mayo Clinic study. She says, “I am not sure why the facts are misrepresented, but they certainly are.” (Anyone interested should go to his book, page 36, and her article, because the controversy is too long and complicated to recount here.) She has major quarrels with Dr. Davis’ interpretation of Mayo Clinic research into celiac disease and dementia — again, too elaborately argued to capsulize.

The Bread Beckers credo

But what about Becker’s beliefs? Like many others, she regrets that the grain food group is over-represented in the grocery store, but not because she is anti-grains per se. She is against altered, processed grains, and this is the theme of her goal as an educator:

I explain how the common diseases that plague this nation are directly related to our consumption of processed flour.

The only flour that maintains its nutritional value is the freshly milled kind. This is undisputed. Becker says that a diet based on whole grains and whole grain flour can regulate the bowels, stabilize the blood sugar, resolve weight issues, lower blood cholesterol, decrease sugar cravings, and even banish warts and psoriasis. And all this may be true.

But as Becker points out, the benefits she attributes to whole grains are actually some of the same benefits that Dr. Davis attributes to the complete deletion of grains from the diet, which constitutes a huge contradiction. But while she wants Dr. Davis and others to refer to scientific studies, her own rationale is,

In the more than 20 years of teaching others the health benefits of wheat and other whole grains, I have seen thousands of lives changed for the better… The most life changing dietary improvement I ever made for my family was when I began incorporating freshly milled whole grains, including wheat, over 21 years ago — and we are still going strong!

In other words, she reverts to presenting anecdotal evidence. So it seems like a bit of cognitive dissonance might be going on.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Wheat Belly Fact or Fiction,”, 07/16/10
Photo credit: Phillip Wong (tetracarbon) on BY

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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