one ‘Wheat Belly’ was a diet book written by Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist from the United States in 2011 about how to lose the extra weight and become healthy. It basically supports the fact that wheat causes obesity and increase in its prevalence. The diet suggested in this book has multiple restrictions and is more like a quick fix to lose weight which may not be feasible to sustain and follow in the long run.
The idea of this came to Dr. Davis while he was away on a family vacation. He realized that he requires to make a shift in his lifestyle after noticing his huge belly. He reflected on his diet and noticed that many of the carbohydrate rich meals made him feel sloppy and lazy. That is when he decided to give up wheat from his diet. Dr. Davis felt that in recent times, wheat is like a ‘slow poison’ that is the primary cause of obesity and metabolic diseases like diabetes, due to the over processing it undergoes and influence on genes.
Dr. Davis believes that the wheat which we eat today is genetically modified. It contains a compound called “gliadin” that is detrimental to our health. Along with “gliadin” wheat also contains glutenin which makes the wheat soft and flexible. Though “gliadin” is a naturally available compound in wheat, there isn’t enough evidence to support that wheat is harmful to our health.
Wheat Belly Diet is an eliminating diet, which eliminates the consumption of wheat and wheat products along with other foods like high fructose corn syrup, which is found in many packaged and processed foods in the United States, and now all over the world. It also suggests to exclude potatoes, legumes and fried foods.
Results from Wheat Belly Diet
A lot of people have experienced promising results after following this diet, although some experts in the field feel that there is lack of enough evidence to follow this diet
Gluten free diet has been the way forward for people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity or some kind of wheat allergy. It has shown alleviation of symptoms.
It is now believed that consuming excess wheat, refined wheat flour products, bakery products made out of wheat, puffs, pastries have led to weight gain and other chronic diseases. This is due to the fact that excess of gluten in the wheat is pro-inflammatory and triggers a cascade of inflammatory cytokines and chain reactions that increase oxidative stress in the body, causing symptoms like bloating, stomach discomfort, acidity and acid reflux.
It also increases the risk for metabolic syndrome and heart disease risk factors like high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, causes alterations in the body pH levels and accelerates the process of aging. It is also known to worsen the symptoms of certain auto-immune and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, osteoarthritis and acne
Wheat Belly Diet – the how and what
What Dr. Davis mention in his book is that – ‘lose the wheat, lose the weight and find your path back to health’. Dr Davis believes wheat to be the reason from ‘central obesity’- visceral fat deposition in the abdomen, leading to increase in insulin resistance.
So the basic principle of this diet is to exclude all foods that contain wheat or rather gluten, processed and packaged foods, and switching to a more wholesome, raw and natural foods in the diet. It mirrors Atkin’s diet to a great extent. Although the wheat belly diet states to avoid gluten, Dr. Davis also advocates to not use gluten-free options like starch containing fruits like potatoes, tapioca, corn and rice.
The main notion behind creating this diet was to treat and prevent many chronic non-communicable diseases, but most people go in for this diet in order to lose weight.
The diet majorly supports consuming whole and unprocessed foods, basically ‘un-westernizing’ the diet that is loaded with sugar, high salt and trans-fat.
The foods in this diet are meat, poultry, fish at the base of a Wheat Belly Food Pyramid. Additionally, it also includes non-starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruits. It focuses on paying heed to the body’s cues of hunger and satiety, instead of calorie counting. The foods that are allowed in this diet include :
Meat, poultry and fish
Organic grass or fodder fed beef, lamb, pork, poultry like chicken, duck, turkey and fish and shellfish, catfish, calms, crab, lobster, salmon, tuna, cod
non-grain based flour like almond, chickpea, coconut, peanut, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seed flours. The diet also allows some non-wheat based flours like quinoa, rice and amaranth, but Dr. Davis believes it is best to completely avoid all types of grains from the diet
Either egg whites or whole eggs
Non-starchy vegetables that are low in calories and contain more fiber like broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, celery, cucumbers, eggplants, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, radish, spinach, sprouts, tomatoes, zucchini
Fruits that are less energy dense and more nutrient dense like berries – blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, cherries, avocados, citrus fruits like lemon, oranges
Herbs and spices
All types of spices like basil, cardamom, chilies, pepper, cinnamon, cumin, fenugreek, garlic, mustard, oregano, paprika, rosemary, thyme, salt, saffron, star anise
Dairy products like cheese, cottage cheese, small amounts of milk and yoghurt
Fermented soya products like tempeh, tofu and miso
Sweeteners include stevia, xylitol and erythritol
Fats and oils
Using more plant based oils like avocado oil, coconut oil, and olive oil
These include tea, coffee, water, sugar free milk alternatives like almond or coconut milk
Nuts and seeds
Including healthy nuts like almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashew nuts, macadamia, pecan nuts and pistachios. Seed options include chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds
Not more than two squares and more than 70% cocoa to be included
Foods to be excluded
This diet mainly focuses on omitting wheat and wheat products. There are some other products that also have to be restricted. They include
Wheat and wheat products
Bread, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cookies, cakes, pastries, puffs, wraps, doughnuts, noodles, pancakes, pasta, pizza, sandwiches. This is a very restrictive diet and thus eliminates a lot of food items, thus leading to weight loss
As per the Wheat Belly diet, people who follow this diet should avoid flours that have starch in them like amaranth, millets, quinoa, corn, potato, rice and tapioca and other non-grain options should be selected
Lentils, peas, and all types of beans should be avoided
All processed and packaged foods like frozen foods, potato chips, cured meat, ready-to-cook meals should be avoided. Include only wholesome, fresh foods.
Alcohol and other beverages
Sugar sweetened beverages, energy drinks, fruit juices, alcoholic beverages like wheat beer and cocktails have to be avoided
Fats and oils
People who follow this diet should also avoid Margarine, foods that contain trans fats, hydrogenated oils and polyunsaturated oils like sunflower oil.
High fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, sugar alcohols like mannitol and sorbitol have to be omitted
It is important to weigh the pros and cons of this diet before advising it to anyone or following it.
See below :
- Wholesome and natural
- Does not require to count calories
- Does not allow consumption of processed foods with sugar, salt and trans fat
- Anti-inflammatory in nature
- Lacks enough evidence
- Extremely restrictive
- Denounces Carbohydrates
- Can result in nutrient deficiencies
- Difficult to follow in the long run
Research on this type of diet showed that since it omits a lot of processed and packaged food and also reduces the amount of food we take. It will automatically improve the lifestyle and the weight loss will occur naturally. Another study on grains and pulses diet also revealed the same conclusion. But Dr. Davis also suggests avoiding whole grains and pulses in his diet. The results showed low BMI and reduced risk of weight gain, questioning the Wheat Belly diet. In fact, whole grains and pulses are a good source of dietary fiber, B complex vitamins and minerals.
To summarize, although a lot of people that have followed Dr. Davis’ diet experienced significant weight loss, it could be attributable to reduced intake of processed and refined foods and including healthier food choices, consuming more raw foods, fruits and vegetables; rather than avoiding wheat altogether. In order to improve and maintain good health one must follow a less restrictive and more feasible diet.