Wheat Wars

Sue Becker is a whole-grain enthusiast who advocates freshly-milled flour and no other kind. Some of her points would be hard to verify or refute without undertaking an extensive meta-study. Dr. Davis might insist too heartily that wheat consumption causes abdominal fat. Becker cites the Framingham Heart Study which she says “found that those who ate at least 3 servings of whole grains everyday had the least fat accumulation around the middle.”

Dr. Davis says in 1985, the government started hyping whole grain, and ever since then, Americans have been getting bigger. Becker says no, the problem started in the 1970s with the high-protein, low-carb Atkins diet. According to her, wheat consumption has actually declined:

In 2011, the estimated consumption of wheat is only 132.5 lbs/person/year. That is nearly 100 lbs/person/year less than what it was 100 years ago.

In other words, we are asked to believe that 100 years in the past, the average American ate more than 200 pounds of flour per year. Who was even keeping track of this stuff a century ago? Did the purveyors of bulk grain really ask their customers what end product would be made from it, or who would consume it? And they all kept immaculate records, and all those records survived? Anyway, she goes on to say that by the 1980s, dwarf wheat had been invented to help solve world hunger.

Let us digress, to introduce the so very different viewpoint of the Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Mark Hyman, who describes today’s wheat as resulting from hybridization and genetic manipulation, “with much higher amounts of starch and gluten and many more chromosomes coding for all sorts of new odd proteins.” He goes on to say,

The man who engineered this modern wheat won the Nobel Prize — it promised to feed millions of starving around the world. Well, it has, and it has made them fat and sick.

During WWI, schizophrenia decreased in North America and Scandinavia, which Dr. Davis suggests might be attributed to the wartime unavailability of bread. Becker counters:

According to the History Learning Site, it was sliced white bread that was rationed, not wheat or bread in general. Nothing was to be wasted, so the entire kernel of wheat was to be used for food… Significant health improvements, less diabetes, and lower death rate were recorded even during wartime. This improvement in health is attributed to the whole grain wheat…

Dr. Davis is quoted as saying that “eliminating wheat is the easiest and most effective step you can take to safeguard your health and trim your waistline.” Becker vigorously disagrees, especially when it comes to feeding children. Although she has her own reasons for making this objection, it is an opportunity to wonder how many children Dr. Davis has actually dealt with.

This digression is from an anonymous online commenter whose son, at age five, would eat nothing but crackers:

Fast forward three years and he was having tantrums for another slice of bread, every two hours like clockwork. He would get downright violent if I refused him…

When we finally went gluten-free, and then grain free […] it was probably a good month before he stopped crying for wheat, red faced and rolling on the floor, sometime assailing me with tiny fists of fury.

Becker’s reasoning can be a bit wacky in places. For instance, she asks,

If wheat is the problem, then why have China, Mexico, and many Third World countries, which all use the dwarf wheat variety, not seen the rise in obesity and decline in health like America?

Oh, but they have! Sadly, Mexico is second only to the United States in obesity. China’s obesity rate increases every year, and they got so spun out, they set up a system of boot camps to coerce kids into losing weight. Becker says,

Wheat is considered a good protein source for adults as it supplies significant amounts of all essential amino acids, except lysine. The addition of legumes, meat, or milk will supply the needed lysine, making wheat a complete protein source even for growing children.

Now, that claim is just plain silly. Adding other ingredients to the meal still does not make wheat a complete protein source.

The main objection that some might have to Becker’s criticisms of Wheat Belly is the philosophical underpinning, which is solidly biblical. For instance, Dr. Davis asserts that, without human intervention, modern dwarf wheat would be unable to grow at all. Becker pushes back:

To say that modern wheat can not survive in the wild is nothing short of ridiculous… We are talking about a plant that needs water, soil, and sunshine. The Bible tells us to “consider the lilies of the field and learn thoroughly how they grow, they neither toil nor spin.” Matthew 6:28

Rather than a Gospel verse, how about just show us examples of modern wheat growing in the wild?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Three Hidden Ways Wheat Makes You Fat,” DrHyman.com
Source: “Wheat Belly Fact or Fiction,” BreadBeckers.com, 07/16/10
Source: “Is Wheat Addictive?,” MarksDailyApple.com, 07/18/12
Photo credit: cakeeater23 on Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

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.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


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.

Food & Health Resources