What about Wheat Belly?
Another concern is something called ‘wheat belly’. This is a concept that was popularized by a writer called William Davis with his book, also called Wheat Belly. In that book, he claimed that genetically modified proteins in bread (called gliadin) could act as an appetite stimulant through opioid channels. Davis claimed that gliadin was responsible for us eating up to 440 additional calories a day (suspiciously precise!).
He also said that starch’s unique structure gave it an incredible high GI (glycemic index). This would cause bread to release its calories into the body much more quickly, resulting in a sugar high and subsequent lipogenesis (the creation of fat cells) and lethargy.
In other words, he describes bread as being the simplest of simple carbs and reacting in the body a little like pure sugar.
But here’s the good news: all of this is wrong…
The starch in bread is exactly the same as in anything else. Starch only comes in two forms from plant tissues (amylose and amylopectin) and bread actually has a lower GI than potatoes or rice.
The stuff about gliadin is also nonsense. Gliadin only acts like an opiate in extreme high doses – higher than a human would ever eat. And research suggests that the human intestine may not absorb gliadorphin anyway.
And importantly: bread is very convenient for making sandwiches and very nutritious. This is an excellent source of fiber that can improve your blood pressure and circulation and it also contains a lot of minerals thanks to the added seeds.
Eat whole grain bread (not the same thing as whole wheat) and you’ll get the germ, endosperm and bran from the bread. This is very healthy!
Sure, bread is still a relatively high GI carb. And if you eat too much of it, then you can gain weight quite easily. But there’s no need to completely cut sandwiches out of your diet. It’s far too complicated and far too hard to stick to. And there are no benefits.
This is a perfect example of the flaw in a lot of Paleo thinking. Just because bread wasn’t around for cavemen, that doesn’t mean we can’t eat it. It is healthy, it is convenient and it is tasty!
So that’s the scoop on bread and that’s why you don’t need to go that extreme with your primal living. How about milk? Just like bread, milk is currently coming under a lot of flak from people who believe it’s another modern food that is causing us more harm than good.
The argument goes that milk makes you feel bad and that 60% of adults can’t digest milk properly. This number is even lower for Asians and African Americans, where the percentage is said to be 5% and 25% respectively. Circumstantial evidence for milk being bad for us comes from the fact that no animal other than humans continues to consume milk post-childhood. In fact, other animals stop being able to digest milk at this age.
It’s thought that this lack of digestion leads to milk not being digested. The lactose sugars then get stored in the colon where they ferment and produce cramps, bloating and nausea.
Oh dear, we should probably stop drinking milk then right?
Because what we’ve just described is lactose intolerance. Yes, a percentage of people are lactose intolerant just as a percentage of people are Celiacs. If you really have lactose intolerance, then yes milk will give you diarrhoea and you’ll learn that pretty early on. That’s because, at the age of 2-5, your body will stop producing lactase which is the enzyme we use to break down lactose.
BUT the rest of us won’t stop producing that enzyme.
60% of adults can’t digest milk right? Sounds like a lot! But then if you recognize that this includes 95% of Asians and 75% of African Americans, then you realize that most Caucasians can drink milk perfectly fine. The statistic that a lot of people don’t seem to be promoting is that 90% of American adults can drink milk.
If you are of Asian or African decent and you’re reading this, then there’s a higher chance you’re lactose intolerant. However, it’s also highly likely that you already know that because you get frequent diarrhoea.
Another concern regarding milk is that it may drain the bones of calcium. Despite containing a lot of calcium itself, it’s thought that we can’t digest much of that 300mg per cup. Rather, milk acidifies the body pH and triggers a reaction. Calcium is then used to neutralize that pH and is expelled in the urine.
But here’s the thing: that’s probably wrong too.
This theory is largely the result of some studies including one that stated:
“Consumption of dairy products, particularly at age 20 years, was associated with an increased risk of hip fracture in old age. (“Case-Control Study of Risk Factors for Hip Fractures in the Elderly”. American Journal of Epidemiology. Vol. 139, No. 5, 1994).
But let’s be real for a moment here – it would be impossible to avoid confounding variables over such a long study. These results would have been self-reported and correlation does not establish causality. There were only 209 individuals in the experimental group and they were recruited from hospitals.
What’s more is that all animal protein changes the blood pH in the same way that milk does. Therefore, it should all have the same effect on calcium. The only difference? Milk contains lots of calcium which counteracts this effect.
Also: milk doesn’t only provide calcium. It also provides saturated fat, protein and carbs in equal portions and is designed to spur growth. From an evolutionary perspective, why would something we use to grow our bones, drain those same bones of calcium?
Also, also: milk is delicious. It’s necessary on cereal (try it with water and see what I mean) and it’s also in chocolate, tea, coffee and cheese. These are all wonderful things.
Even Mark’s Daily Apple, one of the most influential blogs regarding the Paleo diet and primal living, suggests that milk is healthy and good for us overall.
Look: if you want to be 100% completely strict regarding your Paleo diet then you can be. Avoiding milk and bread won’t hurt your body and the former will actually help you to eat fewer simple carbs.
But forget the idea that these things are bad for you, because there’s just no evidence to support that. And I can’t say that I envy you – because avoiding these foods is going to be a ton of hard work with very little reward.
Or put it another way: most of the world’s top athletes and thinkers consumed both bread and milk. Somehow, neither Linford Christie nor Albert Einstein experienced the ‘brain fog’ or ‘low energy’ that naysayers are so sure they should have.
Just apply a little common sense!
Fun fact: The reason that Americans, Europeans and East Africans can drink milk is related to changes in the DNA that can be traced back several thousand years. Some suggest that the ability comes from farming in Ancient Egypt and it has even been described as one of the most modern examples of evolution in action.
If you’re not lactose intolerant, then you have evolved to drink milk. So drink it!
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