Today’s wheat is not the same wheat that your grandmother ate when she was young. Not even close.
Today’s wheat is greatly genetically modified to grow faster and provide a higher yield of wheat per acre. More food to the starving poor was a blessing, but could there be disadvantages with the modern super wheat?
Could it be bad for our health? Could it, for example, lead to severe digestive issues for many people?
Cardiologist William Davis argued this in his best selling book Wheat Belly. Davis got criticized for exaggerating the scientific support for his theories – which he did. But a lack of good evidence doesn’t mean that a theory must be incorrect.
A new high quality study, published in British Journal of Nutrition, tests one of Dr. Davis’ speculations, with dramatic results.
In the study, twenty participants with common digestive issues (IBS) were put on two different diets for six weeks each:
- Modern wheat products (for example wheat bread)
- Identical products but made from an ancient variety of wheat, that hasn’t undergone modern plant breeding.
The participants didn’t know which one of the diets they were put on, and the order in which they were assigned to a diet was randomized. Not even the researchers themselves knew which person ate which diet during the period (a double-blind study). Thus, this is a high quality study, a randomized, double-blind crossover trial, where potential differences should be caused by wheat itself, and not be caused by imagination or expectations.
The difference was clear-cut. When participants with digestive issues consumed modern wheat they felt like they usually did, they suffered from their usual digestive issues. But when for six weeks they ate the ancient wheat their symptoms improved with significantly less abdominal pain, less abdominal bloating and an improved quality of life.
The improvements were so great that they could hardly be a coincidence. In addition, reduced levels of inflammatory substances in the blood were recorded in people who avoided modern wheat.
In conclusion Dr. Davis seems to be right at on least one point. Modern wheat seems to be pure poison for people with common digestive issues. It could also – perhaps – be a problem for people with inflammatory diseases (arthritis, asthma, eczema).
Have you noticed any difference from avoiding wheat?
Can you get ancient wheat today? No, at least not in grocery stores. If you know where to get some, please leave a comment.
Dr. Davis has also commented on the study: Should you eat kamut?