Let’s Unpack A To-Be-Published Gluten Sensitivity Study Touted To Vindicate Dr. William Davis and Wheat Belly

You folks really need to try harder.

I do like Bill Davis and have had some nice exchanges with him going way back and most importantly, he was very friendly to the revolutionary work Tim Steele and I did here on Resistant Starch. I got notice of a post on a new study a couple of days ago that strikes me as a bit bright eyed.

Here’s the study. In fairness, it’s not yet published and so might be different in the final.

Wheat gluten intake increases weight gain and adiposity associated with reduced thermogenesis and energy expenditure in an animal model of obesity


BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES. The association between gluten and body weight is inconsistent. Previously, we showed that a gluten-free diet reduces weight gain without changing food intake in mice fed high-fat diets. In the present study, we investigated the effects of gluten intake on fat metabolism, thermogenesis and energy expenditure in mice fed a standard or high-fat diet.

METHODS. Mice were fed four different experimental diets during eight weeks: a control-standard diet (CD), a CD added with 4.5% of wheat gluten (CD-G), a high-fat diet (HFD) and a HFD added with 4.5% of wheat gluten (HFD-G). After the eight weeks, the mice received 99mTc-radiolabeled gluten orally to study gluten absorption and biodistribution or they underwent indirect calorimetry. After euthanasia, subcutaneous (SAT) and brown (BAT) adipose tissues were collected to assess thermogenesis-related protein expression. Lipid metabolism was studied in adipocyte cultures from the four groups.

RESULTS. Despite having had the same energy intake, CD-G and HFD-G mice exhibited increased body weight and fat deposits compared to their respective controls. 99mTc-GLU or its peptides were detected in the blood, liver and visceral adipose tissue (VAT), suggesting that gluten can even reach extra-intestinal organs. Uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) expression was reduced in the BAT of HFD-G and in the SAT of CD-G and HFD-G mice. Indirect calorimetry showed lower oxygen volume consumption in CD-G and HFD-G groups compared with their controls. In HFD mice, daily energy expenditure was reduced with gluten intake. Gluten also reduced adiponectin, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) α and PPARγ and hormone-sensitive lipase in cultures of isolated adipocytes from HFD mice, while in the CD-G group, gluten intake increased IL-6 expression and tended to increase that of TNF.CONCLUSIONSWheat gluten promotes weight gain in animals on both HFD and CD, partly by reducing the thermogenic capacity of adipose tissues.

International Journal of Obesity accepted article preview online, 07 October 2015. doi:10.1038/ijo.2015.204.

OK, let’s take a look.

The gluten used in this study is not in the composition one finds in freshly-baked bread or other sources of gluten, which are varied. It’s isolated; not in whole food form, which is an issue for me. This sort of methodology seems to be pervasive and goes back a long time. I’ve called it unbridled deconstruction and reductionism in the past, and that’s because it is.

For instance, eating fruit is not the same as taking a multivitamin with a glass of sugar water. And with all of the knowledge building on more knowledge and understanding over the gut biome, the glaring omission beyond the balances of nutrients in whole foods is the lack of fiber (and maybe even probiotics on your food), and fiber feeds gut bugs and gut bugs are important in body fat homeostasis and probably appetite control: 52% Reduced Fat Gain Over 4 Weeks of Overfeeding Twenty Young Men W/ 1000 kCal/Day on a High Fat (55%) Diet Due to Double Dose of a Commercial Multistrain Probiotic. That’s in isolation too, but it has the advantage of at least using “whole organisms.” And if that’s not enough, other research suggests that certain gut bugs are critical in dealing with gluten.

Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity may be all about the microbiome and begin at the very moment you’re born via cesarean section and worsen when you’re not breastfed – In a soon-to-be-published review in Nutrients Cenit et al. try to elucidate whether gluten intolerance and celiac disease are consequences or triggers of significant imbalances in the bacterial composition of the human microbiome and how one or the other may eventually come about.

As the authors point out, there are in fact studies which suggest that the early colonization of the infant’s gut in conjunction with environmental factors (e.g., breast-feeding, antibiotics, etc.) could influence the development of our kids’ oral tolerance to gluten.

So, along the lines of it simply not being in whole food form, here’s an email from Jane Karlsoon, PhD (Oxford) who has studied whole mineral interaction in whole foods for over 30 years.


One effect of gluten in the papers you’ve linked is to lower PPAR alpha, which is important because PPAR alpha upregulates expression of genes for fat burning and browning of white fat.  It’s also important in preventing oxidative stress.


In aged mice, the redox-regulated transcription factor nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) becomes constitutively active in many tissues, as well as in cells of the hematopoietic system. This oxidative stress-induced activity promotes the production of a number of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which can contribute to the pathology of many disease states associated with aging. The administration to aged mice of agents capable of activating the alpha isoform of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPARalpha) was found to restore the cellular redox balance, evidenced by a lowering of tissue lipid peroxidation, an elimination of constitutively active NF-kappaB, and a loss in spontaneous inflammatory cytokine production. Aged animals bearing a null mutation in PPARalpha failed to elicit these changes following treatment with PPARalpha activators, but remained responsive to vitamin E supplementation. Aged C57BL/6 mice were found to express reduced transcript levels of PPARalpha and the peroxisome-associated genes acyl-CoA oxidase and catalase. Supplementation of these aged mice with PPARalpha activators or with vitamin E caused elevations in these transcripts to levels seen in young animals. Our results suggest that PPARalpha and the genes under its control play a role in the evolution of oxidative stress excesses observed in aging.

So these effects can be prevented with vitamin E, which is very high in wheat germ.

The second paper you linked says this:

It has been previously demonstrated that gluten products may accumulate in the lysosomes of intestinal cells, leading to metabolic reactions that culminate in the proteosomal degradation of PPAR-γ [38]. This may represent another mechanism by which gluten exclusion attenuates inflammation and glucose homeostasis.

Reference 38 says this:

After 24 h of challenge p31-43 [gluten fragment]  but not palpha-2 or palpha-9, is still retained within LAMP1-positive perinuclear vesicles [lysosomes] and leads to increased levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that inhibit TG2 ubiquitination and lead to increases of TG2 protein levels and activation. TG2 induces cross-linking, ubiquitination and proteasome degradation of PPARgamma. Treatment with the antioxidant EUK-134 as well as TG2 gene silencing restored PPARgamma levels and reversed all monitored signs of innate activation, as indicated by the dramatic reduction of tyrosine and p42/p44 phosphorylation.

EUK-134 prevented all the bad stuff.  It’s a manganese drug and MnSOD mimic.  In other words, it looks like most or all of the bad things caused by gluten in these experiments can be prevented by vitamin E or manganese, the very things whole grains supply and isolated gluten does not.


This study does not represent the real world. For instance, the French, who have one of the highest levels of wheat consumption in the world (40% greater than the US according to FAOSTAT) also have one of the lowest obesity rates of any developed nation.

The idea that wheat or gluten causes obesity in healthy subjects is easily debunked by looking at the history of wheat, where both wheat and gluten were once considered to be health-promoting foods. And the 6th century Chinese added wheat gluten to their food as a meat replacement. There is no evidence in the historical record that this resulted in deleterious effects.

Isolated gluten is non-optimal, just as purified starch isn’t optimal. The isolated gluten came from a cereal laboratory, “granotec” in Brazil. And it’s not the first time that “granotec” gluten induced obesity from an overfeeding high fat diet. See this 2013 study:


Where it gets interesting is that the studies were done in Brazil/Argentina, which both happen to be fortified with… iron. So, could these researchers be paying attention to gluten free diets because they’re dealing with populations that may have gluten issues that arise in populations from fortification?

…Well, to bottom line it, the whole problem with both the grains and the gluten positions vis-a-vis a paleo Diet is that it’s a falsified hypothesis from the get-go, since there’s so any examples of populations thriving on both, without the reports of sensitivity and outright celiac that have become so common.

You need a new hypothesis that scores well with all the available data. Like this one. You generally find those with no problems…

  1. Eat grains in whole food form (including germ and bran).
  2. Don’t fortify.

But even in the case of refined grains like white flour, the French example suggests that it’s doable absent fortification but with attention given to other foods containing the minerals that grain refining strips away.

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  1. FrenchFry on October 16, 2015 at 02:06

    Good stuff Richard :)

    Re William Davis … I decided to (symbolically speaking) flush him in the nutrition toilet a while back (1-2 years ago). He painted himself into such a narrow corner, what else could he do now but keeping on surfing on the gluten-free trend as long as it lasts ?

    Yes, the guy looks and sounds sympathetic but really, you can’t continue hammering the same message over and over again when in fact, evidence is spreading that wheat per se is not a problem at all. So when your unique message is invalidated, what do you do ? Do you go on like Jimmy Moore for example ?

    No, I think W. Davis must either evolve or be forgotten.

    @Jane Karlsson: good findings!

    You made me curious about wheat germ and I did find some in some health stores. Problem is: it is sold in plastic wrapping like rice or couscous. Can’t be too good …

    • Rob2 on October 16, 2015 at 11:50

      FrenchFry, You are right to be concerned about the plastic wrapping. Due to its high Pufa content, wheat germ is prone to become rancid quite quickly, unless it is sold in vacuum sealed glass packaging then stored in the fridge and away from light after opening. Buying and consuming the whole grain may be a better proposition.

  2. doGnuts on October 16, 2015 at 23:49


  3. Bret on October 16, 2015 at 14:09

    “It’s isolated; not in while food form.”

    This ends the discussion in my book. The flaws inherent in such an approach are well documented to be so great and so numerous that anyone who wants to be (or at least ought to be) taken seriously will not use it.

    Whole foods in real humans…that is my own personal standard. And if that is too costly, prohibitive, or uninteresting to Big Science, then I will happily get my info from anecdotes off the street.

  4. hackberry on October 17, 2015 at 06:07

    “The idea that wheat or gluten causes obesity in healthy subjects is easily debunked by looking at the history of wheat, where both wheat and gluten were once considered to be health-promoting foods. And the 6th century Chinese added wheat gluten to their food as a meat replacement.” – is this what you’d call “unbridled deconstruction and reductionism”?

    I don’t care about these kind of studies, since they’re irrelevant to real life and real people and real food, but, equally, the statement about “wheat” as a stable category across time and space is pretty dubious, to say the least.

    Wheat eaten in, say, France (as you’ve noted elsewhere) is not the same as the wheat eaten in the US, and the wheat eaten a thousand years ago is not the same wheat as eaten today. So what exactly does history so easily debunk?

    • Duck Dodgers on October 17, 2015 at 16:08

      The French predominantly eat the same modern semi-dwarf hard red winter wheat that we eat in the States. There is nothing particularly special about their wheat and it is traded in large volumes on international commodities exchanges.

      France is the fourth largest producer of wheat in the world and the largest producer of wheat in Europe. They would not be able to achieve those yields without modern semi-dwarf varieties. Sure enough, in France, semi-dwarf wheat significantly increased yields starting in 1960.

      Therefore, we can surmise that the modern wheat varieties do not appear to be the issue. Yes, French milling standards are slightly different, but that has nothing to do with wheat species.

      Furthermore, seeds of certain ancient types of tetraploid wheat (e.g.; Graziella Ra, Khorasan wheat/Kamut) have even greater amounts of total gliadin than modern accessions.

      So, it is misleading for Wheat Belly proponents to claim that ancestral wheat is less reactive than modern wheat. They often use Einkhorn as the example of this. Einkorn is the least reactive wheat, but it was always a minor cereal, even from the beginning of the Neolithic—cultures overwhelmingly preferred more reactive wheats, particularly for bread making.

      Sure, all species of wheat are not the “same.” But neither are “modern potatoes” or “modern tomatoes.” Should we avoid broccoli because it’s a new species? If you think we should only be consuming ancestral species of foods, you might find yourself with very limited options.

    • JOhn on October 18, 2015 at 04:29

      Sounds as though someone has been taken in by “Paleo”TM and “Wheat Belly”TM rhetoric.

      • hackberry on October 18, 2015 at 07:45


        Jezzus, this “we are the only ones who can see thorugh things” attitude is so childish, especially when it is on repeat mode. Boring. If someone writes anything here that doesn’t express obedience to the received wisdom, they must be lost in the paleo business/industry chamber. Knee-jerking nonsense.

        For what it’s worth, I was making a conceptual point that neither of you obviously get.

      • JOhn on October 18, 2015 at 04:45

        My last comment was directed towards Hackberry.

      • Duck Dodgers on October 18, 2015 at 09:05

        hackberry said: “If someone writes anything here that doesn’t express obedience to the received wisdom, they must be lost in the paleo business/industry chamber”

        Well, to be fair, you are running a Paleo retreat. Like it or not, I think that makes it hard for you to claim that you are not “lost in the paleo business/industry chamber.” ;)

        hackberry said: “For what it’s worth, I was making a conceptual point that neither of you obviously get.”

        Your conceptual point seemed to be that you are dismissive, despite the fact that you’ve offered no tangible evidence that various forms of wheat are significantly different. So be it.

        I’m not sure how questioning Paleo™ or Wheat Belly™ wisdom is problematic, particularly when that logic cannot explain various paradoxes that can all be explained through fortification policies, mineral imbalances and other factors.

        Perhaps it’s only problematic when it affects your business model? That I can’t help you with.

      • Richard Nikoley on October 18, 2015 at 09:26

        For what it’s worth, I do still see value to a pure Paleo approach sometimes, including non-grain plant starch.

        1. As a sort of reset. Perhaps a retreat is an ideal setting for that.

        2. As a sort of intermittent “clease.” Combined with IF either before of after some days, might be very theraputic.

        3. Most importantly: when eating at any restarant.

        Re #3, I keep finding out the hard way. Even at fine restaurants, if I indulge in the bread, dessert, whatever else, I usually pay for it in various digestive upset. Yet I can easily eat whole grain breads at home from craft bakers with short ingredient lists and have no problem whatsoever and in fact feel quite good and satiated.

        I imagine that the Whole 30 deal would be about the best to use on any or all of the above, since its pretty formula, removing guesswork.

  5. JOhn on October 17, 2015 at 04:24

    William Davis is one of the most charismatic hucksters on the web.
    Just pay a low-low price of $180 to sign up to his program. Unfortunately, if you’re a low carber, you won’t be getting positive reinforcements about how your high fat way of eating is a good idea.

    • Bret on October 17, 2015 at 06:23

      I hadn’t realized Davis was not on the high-fat bandwagon. Guess his association with the VLC folk is more out of economic convenience (necessity?) than philosophical agreement. :-)

      • JOhn on October 18, 2015 at 04:25

        Actually, he is on the high-fat bandwagon. Also the gluten-free, low-carb, anti-gliadin, Glycaemic index fad bandwagon, etc.

        I see low carb/ high fat dieters often recommend William Davis’s program as an alternative to the plant based diet’s that are generally recommended for heart disease patients.

        If only the low carbers that recommended his $180 start up programme were to realize that he recommends basic “CONVENTIONAL WISDOM” such as keeping your LDL at or below 70mg and avoiding saturated fats to reach that target.

  6. keirwatson on October 19, 2015 at 06:45

    “The idea that wheat or gluten causes obesity in healthy subjects is easily debunked by looking at the history of wheat, where both wheat and gluten were once considered to be health-promoting foods. And the 6th century Chinese added wheat gluten to their food as a meat replacement.”

    Yes, wheat is a ‘health promoting food’, if you live in an agricultural society where access to protein is the primary (its in the name) limiting factor. The disadvantages of gluten consumption only become an issue for wealthy countries once protein deficiency was no longer an issue.

    Also, it took until the middle of the 20th century before the link between coeliac and gluten was established, so earlier agricultural societies had no clue about gluten’s downsides.

    • keirwatson on October 19, 2015 at 07:19

      Similarly, IF wheat and/or extracted gluten does cause weight gain compared to an isocaloric gluten-free diet, for most of recorded history that would have conferred a survival advantage.

      It is only in the context of food surplus that it becomes an issue.

      • Duck Dodgers on October 19, 2015 at 11:02

        If your argument is that grain surpluses are only obesinogenic when meat is consumed, the French debunk this.

        As was mentioned in the article, above, the French consume 40% more wheat than Americans do, yet the French have one of the lowest obesity rates of any developed nation.

        The French eat a bit less meat than Americans, but they only consume 6% fewer calories than the average American according to nationwide food balance statistics. They are well known to consume higher amounts of (natural) fats too (cheese, etc).

        Wikipedia: List of countries by food energy intake

        Furthermore, the French do not go to gyms to sweat away pounds. Rather, they stay active from walking or occasional cultural activities.

        In America, our wheat causes us problems that is not seen in the French. Fortification is the main and largest difference between our grain supplies.

      • Duck Dodgers on October 19, 2015 at 10:54

        “It is only in the context of food surplus that it becomes an issue”

        This is a dubious statement, as it implies that no traditional meat-eating culture or community has ever managed to figure out a way to secure a long term surplus. Historians and archaeologists know full well that the Neolithic Revolution brought about grain surpluses.

        Wikipedia: Neolithic Revolution

        The Neolithic Revolution involved far more than the adoption of a limited set of food-producing techniques. During the next millennia it would transform the small and mobile groups of hunter-gatherers that had hitherto dominated human pre-history into sedentary (here meaning non-nomadic) societies based in built-up villages and towns. These societies radically modified their natural environment by means of specialized food-crop cultivation (e.g., irrigation and deforestation) which allowed extensive surplus food production.

        Ancient Rome and Egypt were well known for their grain surpluses. Ancient Egypt was the bread basket for Ancient Rome. The term “Bread and Circuses” was often represented by the annona.

        Roman male citizens could register for a state-supplied grain dole (annona) amounting to about 33 kg (72 Lbs) per month (or 2.4 pounds per day). This was supplied by 100,000 tonnes of wheat primarily from Sicily, Northern Africa, and Egypt.

        Obesity certainly existed during ancient times, but it was described as a disease, not a simple result of individual surpluses. Hippocrates wrote, “corpulence is not only a disease itself, but is the harbinger of others.”

  7. keirwatson on October 19, 2015 at 07:05

    I think there are some good points in the main article about the difficulties in doing nutritional science.

    I would like to see the mice study repeated with whole grain wheat to see if there was differential weight gain in that case.

    However, on the main issues with wheat, there is no evidence that whole grain or artizan breads prevent or ameliorate coeliac, NCGS, gluten ataxia, or dermititis herpetiformis. Indeed, the lectin wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) which is present in whole wheat and ‘healthy’ wheat germ, has been shown to disrupt enterocyte repair by a unique mechanism, leading to endothelial damage (Katsuya Miyake, 2007). Chiara Dalla Pellegrina (2009) state:

    “At nanomolar concentrations WGA stimulates the synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines and thus the biological activity of WGA should be reconsidered by taking into account the effects of WGA on the immune system at the gastrointestinal interface. These results shed new light onto the molecular mechanisms underlying the onset of gastrointestinal disorders observed in vivo upon dietary intake of wheat-based foods.”

    In my clinical experience wheat is the single food most likely to cause chronic pathology. No other food causes an autoimmune disease (coeliac) a skin disesae (dermatitis herpetiformis) and a nerological disease (gluten ataxia), as well as generalised gastrointestinal disturbances (NCGS).

    Whilst you might be fine eating it, for now, you are playing Russian roulette, as there is currently no test that can rule out coeliac disease for you, your loved ones or your readers in the future. Only adherence to a strict gluten-free diet can do that. To advise anyone otherwise is irresponsible.

    • Duck Dodgers on October 19, 2015 at 11:09

      WGA is inactivated by heat. A recent review of WGA shows that those negative effects you mention are not observed in cooked or baked foods.

      Health effects of wheat lectins: A review (2014)

      Here’s Mat Lalonde, PhD on Chris Kresser’s podcast, covering wheat germ agglutinin:

      Mat Lalonde: “It turns out that most lectins, especially the most well-studied ones like wheat germ agglutinin, PHA, which is in legumes, which is phytohaemagglutinin, they are deactivated by heat. These proteins are very sensitive to heat, and they’re destroyed. So people waving their hands in the air like, ‘Oh my God, these things are really toxic!’ and whatnot. And it’s true. They are very toxic. We have the research to show that they are toxic in animals in vitro when they’re fed to animals, but it turns out that they’re feeding raw legumes or pure isolated proteins to these things, not cooked food.”

      Keir, do you have an explanation as to why NCGS is rare in France? There seems to be a correlation between countries that enrich grains and NCGS.

      • keirwatson on October 19, 2015 at 14:06

        I’m not aware of any NCGS prevalence data for France. NCGS is a very new medical entity, and research interest is in its infancy, so the next few years should be interesting!

        The prevalence of Marsh II criteria IBS is 4.7% in both France and the USA. A subset of these will be NCGS. I know of no data to suggest the rates will turn out to be different in either country.

        What aspect of fortification do you blame for NCGS? It seems unlikely to be fortification seeing as some of the blinded NCGS trials used a purified gluten challenge but still found an effect.

      • keirwatson on October 19, 2015 at 15:30

        The paper you quote counters the lectin theory on two main basis (1) that there have not been trials with cooked wheat products and (2) that observational studies ‘associate’ whole grain consumption with various positive outcomes. This is only an association. The first point is not evidence of an absence but absence of evidence. Neither is the nail in the coffin you/they make out.

        The fact that WGA antibodies show up in blood of coeliac, IBD and some non-coeliacs indicates that WGA is not entirely denatured by cooking and reaches the intestines/blood interface intact.

        Also, the paper seems to be an industry mouthpiece, which doesn’t make it wrong, but might give pause for thought. It doesn’t even reference the 2007 Katsuya paper which is a great piece of work IMO.

        When I was a naive vegan I sprinkled raw wheat germ on my breakfast bacause it was sold in the Health Food Shop!

      • Richard Nikoley on October 19, 2015 at 16:21

        “(2) that observational studies ‘associate’ whole grain consumption with various positive outcomes. This is only an association.”

        This is just silly. Any food people eat commonly would be “associated” with both positive and negative outcomes in different individuals and populations. In other words, it says absolutely nothing that can mean anything to any particular individual. It would be difficult to find any food on the planet that delivered only negative outcomes, since such things (like poison) were identified as such long ago.

      • Duck Dodgers on October 19, 2015 at 16:25

        “I’m not aware of any NCGS prevalence data for France”

        Yes, because NCGS hardly seems to exist there. The French have one of the largest intakes of wheat in the developed world, with patisseries and boulangeries being extremely popular—yet it’s extremely difficult to find gluten free options while in France. Good luck finding a gluten free bakery while in Paris—there are very few and they are not popular. Nor are gluten free options on a restaurant menu easy to find. Yet, gluten free is $10 billion dollar business here in the US.

        “What aspect of fortification do you blame for NCGS?”

        When iron is added to food, they have to add a significant amount because only a fraction of fortification iron is absorbed and most of the given dose passes into the lower small intestine and colon. Iron negatively affect crypts in the colon, increases free radical production in fecal material, and increases lipid peroxidation in the mucosa of the large intestine.

        Iron fortificants have been shown to promote significant gastric distress, even at low doses and pathogenic gut profiles in developing countries.

        Therefore, it seems plausible that iron fortification is making it difficult for people to digest gluten, which is ordinarily a function of the microbiome. This disruption would explain why NCGS was extremely rare prior to fortification adoption.

        “When I was a naive vegan I sprinkled raw wheat germ on my breakfast bacause it was sold in the Health Food Shop”

        Well, that was silly. Even the Ancient Greeks knew that eating raw wheat is a terrible idea.

      • Richard Nikoley on October 19, 2015 at 17:18

        If you haven’t read it, our case against iron is laid out in the 6,000 word post:


    • Duck Dodgers on October 20, 2015 at 21:29

      Keir said: “The fact that WGA antibodies show up in blood of coeliac, IBD and some non-coeliacs indicates that WGA is not entirely denatured by cooking and reaches the intestines/blood interface intact.”

      There isn’t any good evidence that healthy individuals need to worry about WGA. So, I don’t understand why you are trying to scare people about it.

      As was mentioned in the review paper, WGA was not detected in venous plasma samples following consumption of 50 g of wheat germ in healthy subjects. Since wheat germ is only 3% of the total whole-grain kernel weight, 50 g of wheat germ would represent an actual consumption of 1,666 g of wheat or +80 slices of bread.

      Keir said: “It doesn’t even reference the 2007 Katsuya paper”

      Actually it does. Three times, in fact. It’s referenced under “Miyake 2007.” Katsuya is Miyake’s first name.

      • Duck Dodgers on October 20, 2015 at 21:44

        I’ll also point you to this post on lectins, by Dr. Ayers

        Do note the comments at the bottom where WGA is discussed.

        Prof Ayers wrote:

        “I don’t think that there is any evidence that dietary lectins leave the gut. If the gut is made leaky by inflammation, that is another story. But even then, lectins would just stick to the extracellular matrix and would eventually be endocytosed and hydrolyzed. The would never enter the cytoplasm and if they did, there would be no target glycosylated proteins in the cytoplasm for binding…Please point to the web sites that provide documentation for any negative impact of cooked lectins. I am as unconvinced of damaging lectins as I am of the damage of phytate, but I can be easily persuaded by data.”

  8. Mitsuko on October 19, 2015 at 08:07

    Interesting blog, just stumbled upon it.

    Anyways the research cited here is flawed indeed. I doubt the researchers were confident in the internal validity of this study. But I am not surprised at this level of simplified overreaching in stating causative effect when there is none. This research typifies some of the clearly biased and flawed ones done with isolated soy protein, in which false conclusions are drawn by researchers before mistakenly twisted further by anti-soy Paleo or Weston Price bloggers. They never mention that most research (there are a lot) on soy shows positive health effects or are neutral.

    Having moved from soy and legumes in general, they are now attempting same tactic on wheat by using isolated gluten to represent the whole grain. Gluten and soy cause cancer and a myriad of diseases? Ok why in the countries where people eat the most of these foods have lower rates of some of these same diseases?

  9. mucky on October 19, 2015 at 08:18

    As for the French, they are not to be confused with the healthy: i have plenty of family and friends there with history of cancer, alzheimers, etc. Skinny does not always mean healthy.
    And I definately have multiple physical reactions to wheat consumption, as do many of Dr. Davis’s patients. Perhaps it is related to iron additives, but that is what is available. Just way simpler to avoid wheat altogether, as it is certainly not a nutritional requirement.

    • Duck Dodgers on October 19, 2015 at 12:14

      Well, we are not using the French as a model of pristine health. Rather we are using them to point out that they can consume significantly more wheat than we do, without the epidemic problems that many in the US attribute to wheat. They just happen to be an example of a high-wheat developed country eating modern semi-dwarf wheat and they do pretty well for a developed country. If the US did that well, we wouldn’t need all of these fad diets that have cropped up since fortification was introduced and increased.

  10. Richard Nikoley on October 19, 2015 at 09:58

    “Whilst you might be fine eating it, for now, you are playing Russian roulette, as there is currently no test that can rule out coeliac disease for you, your loved ones or your readers in the future. Only adherence to a strict gluten-free diet can do that. To advise anyone otherwise is irresponsible.”

    Nonsense. Human civilization is LITERALLY built on wheat any way you care to measure it (total weight, bulk, calories, etc.).

    To state that it’s irresponsible to do anything but advise everyone to follow a strict gluten free diet based on what they can’t know rather than what they do know is so ludricrous as to smack of religious-like dogma.

  11. Kate on October 19, 2015 at 13:45

    I’ve been following the nutritional/health aspects of this blog for several years now and have personally benefited from much of it especially resistant starch and the probiotic recommendations. And I am absolutely fascinated by the iron hypothesis. However, I personally am not ready to embrace wheat. I say this because prior to giving up wheat maybe 9 years ago, I had been the poster child for whole grains for about a decade, and had favored whole grains even before that. Here I was eating whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread, brown rice, oatmeal, legumes, modest amounts of meat, fish, and olive oil, lots of veggies, and I felt awful. Late forties, with pretty serious joint pain, migraines, acid stomach, and severe insomnia. That’s when I decided to do a 180 and ditch the grain. Such a dramatic change for the better, that I will never forget it. My insomnia was literally gone in a couple days and has never come back. Ditto stomach problems. Joint pain took longer, but I’m now 57 and have very little of it anymore. I never want that insomnia back, and while I think it quite possible that my gut was too messed up to handle the grain back then, I’m not yet ready to see if my gut is up to wheat processing.

    • Richard Nikoley on October 19, 2015 at 17:42

      Hey Kate:

      Yea, sounds like you were in the grain fanatic, as a staple category. For me, it’s pretty modest. I’d say I average 2-3 slices of whole grain per day (some days none, some days more. Also, I’ll typically have a 2-3 bowls of Kashi whole multi-grain cereal with whole raw milk per week. Muesli or oatmeal sometimes, but not often. I prefer the multi-grains, with seeds or whole grain sourdough. So far so good and sure opens up the eating options, variety, enjoyment.

      Otherwise, starch from potatoes and beans.

      So yea, should you try, you’re going to want to start slow. I’d go for an artisanal whole grain sourdough. And even if it works for you, don’t go hog wild. Remember, ‘dose makes the poison.’ Nobody knows what the dose is, and it’s probably different per individual who’s not celiac.

      • Kate on October 20, 2015 at 05:06

        Beans have been back on the menu for sometime now, thanks to you. And I’m eating some oatmeal here and there with no problem. I’m heading to Germany next month to visit my daughter, maybe I’ll try a little sour rye bread. I’ve lived in Germany off and on for several years in the past. This visit I’m going to observe how people look in light of the iron hypothesis :). They certainly eat a lot of bakery stuff, for breakfast, afternoon coffee, and abendbrot.

  12. keirwatson on October 19, 2015 at 13:48

    Religious dogma? No, logic. There is a 1 in 100 chance that anyone will get coeliac disease in their lifetime. That applies to everyone – you, your best friend, your daughter… Everyone, that is, who still eats wheat. Don’t bury your head in the sand.

    You might like to theorise that whole grains protect you from this risk, but that’s wishful thinking. There is no evidence that any dietary strategy puts you in the 0% risk category but being gluten free. Certainly no evidence that coeliac disease can be avoided by avoiding fortified flour (seriously, you are not going to argue otherwise are you?)

    Around the world 70 million people are suffering with coeliac disease, 80% of them undiagnosed. If they buy into your laise-fair attitude they will become sicker. Then there are the thousands of mothers and fathers who will be told tomorrow that their son/daughter has coeliac, or their mother or father has gluten ataxia or dermatitis herpetiformis.

    Some of those might be your readers.

    There is nothing wrong with your personal position as I am sure you won’t complain if it happens to you. But before you give advice to others appraise them of the risks, please. At our clinic we have to help people who didn’t know the risks until they were already damaged.

    The fact that civilisation is built on wheat is nothing to brag about. The diseases that nutrition bloggers debate are pretty well all classified as “diseases of civilisation”. The Pharos pretty much all suffered from heart disease. And until the early 20th century morbidity and mortality throughout the civilised world was so high that the kinds of nutritional damage associated with wheat were (a) trivial and (b) invisible.

    The Black Death took out 1/3 of the population of the civilisation at the time, and there is a strong case linking it to fungi on cereal grains weakening the immune system during repeated wet summers at the time. So civilisation is indeed built on grains and the collateral that went with them.

    • Duck Dodgers on October 19, 2015 at 16:36

      “And until the early 20th century morbidity and mortality throughout the civilised world was so high that the kinds of nutritional damage associated with wheat were (a) trivial and (b) invisible”

      You’re peddling scare tactics based on circumstantial evidence. And furthermore, both Dr. Weston Price and Sir Robert McCarrison documented cultures eating whole wheat and whole rye without any detectible diseases of civilization.

      Telling us that pharaohs had heart disease doesn’t condemn any particular variable. For all we know, the grit in their flour promoted abscesses, which promoted bacterial infections that promoted heart disease. Nobody knows.

      Seriously, Kier. Do you tell all your patients to worry about 1% problems?? That seems like you’re promoting orthorexia. Not exactly a healthy way to approach life. Celiac is mainly a genetic disease that can be detected through various forms of testing and observation. Obviously nobody is advocating wheat consumption for celiacs. Nor should anyone eat any food if they react negatively to it.

      • FrenchFry on October 20, 2015 at 01:14

        The paleo / primal / low carb / neo-Atkins / etc, have been very good at generalizing their “DO-NOTs” to every one. Read every one of their blogs and forums, and you will see how eating disorders can be infused in people. So when we have this blog here evolving its stance on nutrition, saying in clear words that there is no black and white, and life is more than just a list of DOs and DO-NOTs, the paleo / low-carb / primal / wheat-belliers / pick your own no grain fad / zealots are lifting their shields. You guys should get a life and leave people to their own choices. If they seek help and can get it from a well monitored and contextual food restriction, don’t abuse their trust by infusing them some eating disorder. If you can’t help, please stop advising people.

      • Richard Nikoley on October 20, 2015 at 12:36

        …It used to be so easy to have all the easy answers.

        Unfortunately, I have a comment section and am plagued with the curse of having to read each and every one and pay attention to what’s being reported by real people out in the field.

        I need to get one of those really flashy blogs, where you almost never see the blog author in the comments.

    • Richard Nikoley on October 19, 2015 at 16:07

      “But before you give advice to others appraise them of the risks, please.”

      Actually, some of our posts have done that.

      Tell you what, you advise folks of the 1% risk, I’ll advise folks against irrational concern and that there’s a 99% chance they won’t get celiac.

      You’re really barking up the wrong tree with that Precautionary Principle stuff with me. I’m the guy who likes to tell people that if they choose to smoke, chances are they’ll still live long and that they won’t die of a clearly smoking related disease.

      Besides all that, I have not once advised people to eat grains. I’ve said that I’m experimenting with it, and how. I’ve said that if they choose to try it too, they should stick to whole grains and completely avoid refined, bleached, and/or fortified in any form.

      Interestingly enough, I find it way easier to completely avoid those now, since why would I want to when I can have a sandwich on nice whole grain and seed bread?

  13. Richard Nikoley on October 20, 2015 at 17:10


    Call your office.


    If you wish to be an honest practitioner, you’re going to have to drop the dogma, dismiss the narrative, and look deeper.

    It’s way too simple to just say “humans aren’t adapted to grains,” and write an invoice.

  14. Chris D on October 20, 2015 at 23:06

    On the William Davis theme, I have noticed that most of the criticism is from people who have not actually read his books. He dose not advocate eating gluten free, he treats saturated fats as benign at worst, and he discredits the lipid hypotheses of heart disease. However, he dose overstate much of the science in his books. He makes many claims against semi-dwarf wheat yet dose not provide any analytical evidence what so ever that it is indeed different in any way; he extrapolates in vitro studies on the opiate receptor response to wheat to include all humans eating wheat (much like T Colin Campbell does with casein protein); and he downplays sugar which in fact has the most potential to cause dislipodemia (when over consumed). In short he dose have interesting ideas but not much substance. His diet is mostly a rehash of Atkins, is it wheat removal or just faux food removal that is the underlying cause of his results? BTW he dose have a few good recipes, try the green bean casserole.

    • Duck Dodgers on October 21, 2015 at 09:41

      Chris D,

      Well put, Chris D. Though, as Tim Steels has recently pointed out, low carb advocates, including Davis, have inadvertently removed the greatest source of Microbiota accessible carbohydrates (MACs) from Western diets, and mainly replaced those foods with fat, meat and some cellulose (which are not MACs for most people).

      So, Davis, et al. have had to rethink their recommendations as they figure out ways to get more fiber into people. And now the problem we’re beginning to uncover here is that these low carb diets appear to have the potential to leave people with micronutrient deficiencies and imbalances, since meat and fat are poor sources of the very minerals that keep our iron and glucose metabolism in check (Cu, and Mn)—the very minerals found balanced in whole grains and whole carbohydrates.

      I think the LC practitioners, like Keir, believe they’ve stumbled into a wonderful concept when they look at the surface of grain avoidance. Unfortunately, prime muscle meat and fat are not whole foods—they are refinements of an entire carcass. And those refinements just happens to lack copper, manganese and various phytochemicals, all which help us manage and maintain our iron homeostasis and carbohydrate tolerance.

      Therefore, I don’t think practitioners like Davis (and Keir) are not seeing the big picture. Their orthorexic recommendations appear to be inadvertently promoting fiber and micronutrient deficiencies and imbalances. The reason we are investigating those issues is because we already fell victim to them.

      • Duck Dodgers on October 21, 2015 at 09:46

        …and I might add that enriched grains are the antithesis of whole grains. Enriched grains are very high iron, but have very little copper or manganese (or phytonutrients), as visualized in this excellent graphic.

        How anyone can think that they are similar is beyond comprehension after seeing that graphic.

      • Chris D on October 27, 2015 at 23:05

        Interesting to say the least and I am contemplating the mechanics behind it. I know that eating enriched grains causes many problems that I see are avoided eating non enriched grains or whole grains. If I eat a pizza, I can eat a whole 16″ pizza and not feel full. Meanwhile if I make my own pizza with organic non enriched flour (even if it is white) I’m full after a few slices. Is it the iron, the bleaching, the B vitamins added, or all 3? I think the iron is a real problem, but perhaps the added B vitamins also contribute through bloating. Is it possible that the artificial B vitamins cause weight gain by bloating? {permanent since the eater keeps on eating these foods that cause bloating, thus they are always bloated and look fatter than they actually are?} The iron story makes sense, I have too much iron, which is stored in fat cells that refuse to go away no matter how much I exercise or cut calories. Could excess B vitamins cause other problems like temporary bloat releaved by a low carb diet? thanks.

      • Duck Dodgers on October 28, 2015 at 11:51

        “Is it possible that the artificial B vitamins cause weight gain…”

        Actually, some researchers believe that excess (unmetabolized) B vitamins may be promoting weight gain and increasing appetite. The group of scientists (led by Dr. Zhou) that first noticed the correlations between fortification and obesity/diabetes believe that it’s the added B vitamins causing the problem.

        Excess vitamin intake: An unrecognized risk factor for obesity (2014)

        I’m not the expert here (more like the layman’s translator) and the sources we’ve been in touch with to sort out the science of all this were doubtful that excess niacin is to blame. But, hey, I wouldn’t rule it out.

        Whether or not B vitamins play a role or not, I’m not sure how we can also ignore the factors of iron homeostasis when disruptions in iron homeostasis are a fact of obesity.

        So, it may be that the entire fortification cocktail is just awful for metabolisms and appetite.

  15. Ann on October 21, 2015 at 16:29

    I’m so intrigued by this whole discussion. I do have gluten problems, but hope to re-introduce at some point. At this writing, I can eat gluten about once per week, but do notice inflammatory symptoms – bloating, muscle and joint pain, congestion and ear-plugging, and asthma-type symptoms. I recently started taking bovine colostrum, and will soon be doing a course of Elixa with hopes of helping both my casein and gluten sensitivities.

    My question is with regard to wheat’s effect on zonulin. Does wheat, or does wheat not, raise levels of zonulin?

    And if it does raise zonulin, does that in fact contribute to leaky gut and autoimmunity?

    I’m willing and ready to change my thinking, but it just seems like we ALL are struggling with leaky gut to one degree or another these days, and it only seems wise to eliminate something that would worsen an already bad situation.


    • Duck Dodgers on October 21, 2015 at 17:48

      Alessio Fasano, M.D., the director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment was interviewed on Chris Kresser’s podcast, and he discusses zonulin. It’s easy to come away from that episode feeling very suspicious about zonulin until you read this article where Fasano says, “the vast majority of individuals on gluten-free diets have no business being gluten-free, because, for them, there is no medical necessity.”

      Where you start to see the cracks in the zonulin narrative is that the Paleo™ gurus told us that the reason to avoid wheat is the zonulin that supposedly incorrectly signals the gut to become ‘leaky’. Unfortunately Lauric Acid does the same thing…and it’s found concentrated in coconut oil.

      I had asked Jane Karlsson, PhD for her opinion on the matter, and she wrote this interesting comment.

      For what it’s worth, it took me 3 to 4 weeks to slowly reintroduce wheat after a 2 year absence. I had some aches, pains and fogginess during that time, but eventually I adjusted and feel great now. I not sure that eating it once a week would get you over the hump.

      Note: This is not medical advice. Your mileage may vary. Some people do not do well on wheat for various reasons, some of which were explained in Karlsson’s comment.

      • Ann on October 22, 2015 at 11:58

        Thanks Duck. I will follow this with interest. Like I said, I can eat wheat once, maybe twice per week without incident, but if I start eating it every day I’ll start having the symptoms. It’s just not for me I guess.

        Thanks again for your thoughtful reply-


    • Jane Karlsson on October 23, 2015 at 07:19

      Ann said: “My question is with regard to wheat’s effect on zonulin. Does wheat, or does wheat not, raise levels of zonulin?
      And if it does raise zonulin, does that in fact contribute to leaky gut and autoimmunity?”

      Chris Masterjohn has very interesting things to say about zonulin.

      “…Remarkably, they found that celiacs produce 30 times as much zonulin as non-celiacs, even though the non-celiacs were not eating gluten-free diets while the celiacs had been off gluten for over two years!

      ….This is remarkable because even though the point of the study was to show that gluten increases zonulin production, the controls were eating gluten yet had infinitesimal levels of zonulin production, while the celiacs had not eaten gluten for at least two years yet still had very high levels of zonulin production. This suggests that something besides gluten may be causing zonulin production in celiacs. …”

  16. Joseph Freund on October 21, 2015 at 19:08

    Duck out of curiousity i checked the labels of organic non enriched flours, Regular white Wheat and Whole Wheat, and the Whole Wheat has roughly the same amount of Iron as the enriched on the label, what was even more interesting was that White Wheat IE not whole wheat, had less iron… all not enriched…

    what would be the difference?
    is it just the unnatural enrichment that makes it unhealthy? or its the amount? but enriched has only slightly more…

    • Duck Dodgers on October 21, 2015 at 20:04

      Not sure if you mean White Whole Wheat (albino whole wheat) or pure white flour.

      Either way, the natural iron in wheat is impeded by phytates which are most often found in the bran, so you are unlikely to absorb much iron from whole wheat unless you eat it with absorption enhancers (HFCS, Vitamin C, PUFA(?), etc.).

      The fake fortified iron is sometimes engineered to bypass phytates, and nobody really knows how well or poorly the fortified iron is accepted by various cells.

      But you can forget all that if you like so long as you understand one thing… Whole plants come with a balance of minerals. This natural balance was required by the plant’s metabolic cycles to create the plant and its seeds. All metabolic cycles are very similar across species, so what is good for the plant is good for you (this is a concept from William Albrecht, the father of soil science). This means that the plant and/or seed have a balance of iron, copper, manganese, zinc, etc. (Manganese is required for carb tolerance and keeping inflammation in check. Copper is required for keeping inflammation in check and managing iron homeostasis).

      When you eat white flour the mineral balance you need is removed. This may be OK if you replace those lost minerals/phytonutrients with other natural sources of minerals (some cacao/chocolate, hemp, sesame seeds, or seaweed, etc).

      However, when you eat fortified flour, they put enormous amounts of iron in the flour since it’s so poorly absorbed. Most of this iron probably disrupts the gut flora. Whatever is absorbed is absorbed without the other complimentary minerals (Cu, Mn, etc). This would never happen in nature with the exception of eating muscle meat (high iron, low Cu/Mn).

      The easiest way to visualize this difference is by looking at this chart. Hope that clears things up.

      • Duck Dodgers on October 21, 2015 at 20:17

        They also put high amounts of folic acid in flour these days, which is another story.

        Keep in mind that enrichment in industrialized countries isn’t really about curing diseases or deficiencies. After all, those issues are quite rare in unfortified industrial countries, and it would be more cost effective to treat those issues on an individual basis.

        Nor does the flour milling industry do it out of charity or for public service, and it’s not federally mandated in the US (though it is mandated in the UK and Canada and at least was mandated in some states). Rather, fortification is about making white flour appear to be adequate enough inclusion in government dietary recommendations, so they can sell more white flour products which are more palatable than whole grain products.

  17. Joseph Freund on October 21, 2015 at 20:48

    Right i understand what your saying that pure white flour which is what i meant when i said white, has good stuff removed but it wouldnt be so bad without added fortification it makes sense,
    but im not sure about the enormous amounts of iron, ye i see from the chart its more then whole wheat, but refined flour has lots of iron gone as well, and whole wheat fortified whic is common why wont the other minerals which were not removed ballance out the fortification?
    i guess the answer is it just does not balance as ur data shows but the whys can still get better understood all the interplay’s
    just my personal anecdote going wheat free for other reasons i do eat spelt not always whole but always not enriched has made a huge difference daily and morning aches are gone it took 6 months

    • Duck Dodgers on October 22, 2015 at 07:57

      Joseph, it’s just about ratios. The more iron you eat, the more copper you need. Plants and animals already figure this out when they are raised well.

      High iron intakes block the absorption of copper, promoting copper deficiency. While chelation of iron reverses copper deficiency.

      For those with true iron deficiencies, it’s been known since at least the 1930s that iron deficiency anemia can be cured by increasing copper intakes.

      We need copper to get iron in and out of cells. Additionally copper and manganese is required for our most important and most powerful endogenous antioxidants (SOD). Throw of the balance and you can see how things could get out of whack.

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