Many of us are constantly struggling with the battle of the bulge and can’t just seem to get the weight off. We are not alone, as over 1/3 of the US population is obese. What many of us don’t realize is that a common “staple” of our diet may be a huge culprit in the obesity epidemic. The old food pyramid features bread, pasta, and other grains as the predominant food in our diets. But, many experts believe that an increase in wheat consumption and hybridization of wheat may be a big contributing factor to the obesity epidemic.

Modern wheat, which is different from the wheat found 50 years ago, no longer resembles the wheat of our ancestors.  Wheat has been hybridized which means it has been cross-bred with other grains and species so it has a higher yield and contains less nutrients and more carbohydrates.  The history of the genetic changes in wheat can actually be connected to the increase in chronic diseases and obesity across the globe. The hybridization of wheat has caused changes in the starch and gluten which has also made wheat highly addictive.

The Starch thats worse than Table Sugar

The carbohydrate found in wheat is about 75% amylopectin A which has been called a “super carbohydrate” as it has the ability to increase blood sugar faster than other carbohydrates. The molecular structure of amylopectin causes it to be more easily digested than other more complex starches. Ends up, due to this digestibility it can raise blood sugar even faster than a candy bar!

In this study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, participants were given a diet of 70% amylose or 70% amylopectin. Those on the amylopectin diet had higher glucose and insulin responses after a meal. Chronically elevated insulin levels leads to fat storage, specifically in the abdominal area. The only way to get rid of fat is to allow insulin levels to decrease enough in the body so that your body will start burning fat again. So, due to its high amylopectin content, wheat causes not only excess weight, but a whole myriad of other health problems.

Gluten, the protein found in wheat, has also been modified into “super gluten” from its original form that has been linked to a whole host of health problems. The amount of gluten has actually been doubled in hybridized wheat. Gluten triggers inflammation system-wide which causes weight gain, diabetes, autoimmune disease, and multiple chronic diseases. In the digestive system, gluten can actually damage the gut lining triggering full-body inflammation and susceptibility to other bacteria or viruses crossing gut barrier. This syndrome is called “leaky gut” and can be a trigger for a variety of illnesses, especially autoimmune diseases.

Exorphin Addiction

Lastly, wheat is digested into short proteins called exorphins which act similarly to endorphins, the neurotransmitters released during a “runners high”.  Exorphins bind to and stimulate morphine receptors in the brain, making them just as addictive as any other drug. When we eat gluten, it soothes us and makes us feel calmer. This causes us to look for more of this food during stressful times to help calm us down, leading to overeating and weight gain. The FDA is actually looking into opiate blocking medication to help people lose weight.

If you are having difficulty losing weight, have an autoimmune condition, thyroid condition or diabetes, consider following a gluten-free diet for at least 6 weeks to see if you lose weight or if your symptoms resolve. But, don’t just remove gluten in your diet then add gluten-free junk food. Adopt a whole food, gluten free diet and avoid highly processed foods, even if they are gluten-free. Your body and your weight will thank you.

Dr. Axe’s Key Points:

  • Modern wheat has been hybridized and is different from the wheat commonly consumed 50 years ago.
  • Amylopectin A is the main starch in wheat and has been linked to weight gain and significant elevations in blood sugar.
  • Gluten, the protein in wheat, causes systemic inflammation and can also lead to weight gain and diabetes.
  • Wheat contains morphine-like substances that create an addiction.