Sunday, January 6, 2019

Wheat belly: Why is wheat the culprit?

More than 37% of Indians have belly obesity, which is defined as abdominal circumference > 80 cm in women and > 90 cm in men.

The reason for this is the every day consumption of wheat in diet. Wheat is a part of staple diet, particularly in North India. Traditionally Indians have been asked to do one wheat fast a week, extra wheat fast on the day of Ekadashi and nine-day wheat fast every three months during Navratras.

Why is wheat the culprit? Wheat contains amylopectin A, gliadin and gluten.

Amylopectin A is a chemical unique to wheat. It is a trigger of small LDL particles. When wheat is removed from the diet, these small LDL levels reduce by 90%.

Gliadin is a protein, which stimulates appetite. Eating wheat increases the average person’s calorie intake by 400 calories a day. Gliadin also has opiate-like properties, which make it “addictive”.

Gluten is inflammatory to the gut.

But wheat was a part of diet earlier also. Wheat eating patterns changed in the 70s and 80s, when newer techniques came to be used to increase yield, including hybridization. It was bred to be shorter and sturdier and also to have more gliadin. The wheat that is available today and what we eat today is not the wheat that was eaten many, many years ago.

Corn starch, rice starch, tapioca starch or potato starch are the four basic ingredients of gluten-free products. These dried, powdered starches increase the blood sugar even higher.

According to Dr Tom O’Bryan, an international expert on wheat and wheat-related disorders, for every one person who has intestinal manifestations of wheat sensitivity, there are 8 who don’t have any GI symptoms. No human has the capability to breakdown wheat. But, whether wheat causes a problem for them depends on whether they have crossed the line of tolerance. The inflammatory mechanisms begin once all tolerance is lost, which trigger the immune system resulting in an autoimmune disease. Females are three times more likely to develop autoimmune celiac disease than males.

Earlier, the term gluten sensitivity was used, but now wheat sensitivity is used as wheat has several components other than gluten, which may be a problem.

All people are wheat sensitive to some degree, so wheat can be called an inflammatory diet.

The defense mechanisms vary between individuals; while some may react to it, some may overcome it, until they cross the line of tolerance.

If after eating wheat, you get discomfort, you should get yourself tested or try a wheat elimination diet.

About 50% of wheat-sensitive people also cross react with corn and dairy. Hence, a wheat elimination diet has no wheat of any type, no sugar, no corns/grains and no dairy products. Eliminate these from your diet for three weeks and observe the change. Then eat a pizza on day 22. If you notice any worsening effect, then you are wheat sensitive.

If you are sensitive, omit wheat in the diet.

So, is rice safe? Rice does not increase the blood sugar levels to the extent that wheat does; rice also does not contain amylopectin A or gliadin.

To know more about this, attend the International Symposium on Wheat Related Disorders at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi from January 12-13, 2019.

Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee
President Elect Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania   (CMAAO)
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Past National President IMA

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