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Book Reviews

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Wheat Belly

Book Review

Wheat Belly
By William Davis, MD
Rodale (2011)
Reviewed by Kristi King, MPH, RD, CNSC, LD


A provocative look at a familiar food and how eliminating wheat from your diet can help one to lose weight for good, shrink unsightly bulges, and reverse a broad spectrum of health problems.

Synopsis of the Diet Plan

There is one simple rule with this diet – eliminate wheat in all forms, otherwise eating wheat can cause the "muffin top." Also noted, substituting wheat-based products with things like rice flour and potato flour can be just as detrimental to your health as consuming wheat. The author provides an example of a one-week wheat-free menu, as well as examples of products in which wheat may be hiding, such as sauces and condiments. A handful of recipes are included which may be helpful for one trying to follow the 50-100 gram of carbohydrate per day rule which is only briefly mentioned in the last chapter.

Nutritional Pros and Cons

The concept behind Wheat Belly is quite thought provoking. The author explores the modification of the wheat crop from caveman day to modern day. He claims that the modifications and hybridization of wheat overtime, which were originally made to help yield more crop, are now taking a toll on our bodies, ranging from diabetes to neurological conditions. The patient case studies he shares provide a more humanistic view to the concept and could potentially influence one to try the diet. There are scientific studies that are cited throughout the chapters to help the author make his point, however, after further review some of the studies were in very small subject populations and/or had quite a few flaws.

The author is quick to state that vitamin and mineral supplements should not be needed by following this diet and "substituting with appropriate foods" and multiple time references the dietitian who may be completely against the elimination of a particular ingredient without medical reasoning to do so.

Though, it should be noted, that there is very little guidance as to what are appropriate substitutions during meals, therefore, one who does not review this diet with a registered dietitian could potentially set themselves up for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, such as B vitamins, calcium, and vitamin D just to name a few.

Wheat is targeted as the culprit throughout, but the author also mentions not substituting with things such as potato flour, rice flour or corn meal as "these too increase the metabolic insulin response." By completely eliminating these types of starches it would lead theoretically to weight loss as the total calories consumed are less. So this leads to the question of is it the elimination of wheat or the fact it is a lower-carbohydrate and calorie diet?

Bottom Line

Dr. Davis spends the first 12 chapters of the book trying to justify the reason why wheat should be eliminated from one's diet, and only one chapter and a few appendices explaining what is actually allowed on this diet. Overall, the plan might be a bit too restrictive for the average American. It would take a lot of will power and determination (and not to mention food creativity) to completely eliminate wheat products without replacing them with some other type of appropriate source.