Cereal Grains: Are They As Bad As the Paleo Movement Claims?

breadsLectins, gluten, protease inhibitors, phytic acid… If you’ve been reading about cereal grains on one or more of the many Paleo blogs that are out there, you’ve undoubtedly heard about these compounds, which are found in bread, breakfast cereals, and other grain-based food products, and the potential harmful effects they can have on human health. Moreover, you’ve probably read that you should stay away from grains, since they are low in many important vitamins and minerals, contain a lot of starch, and raise your insulin levels. Although there are some people in the ancestral health scene that paint a more positive picture of this food group, it’s safe to say that historically, bread, pasta, and oatmeal haven’t gotten a lot of positive press within this movement. Is this vilification of cereal grains justified?

Before we jump in I want to begin by making it clear that I’m a big proponent of pretty much everything that has to do with evolutionary health promotion, ancestral health, etc. (As you know if you’ve been reading this blog for some time). Moreover, I strongly believe that the conventional nutritional and medical community are in desperate need of some influx of evolutionary health wisdom. That being said, the goal has to be to find the “truth”, not to slavishly follow a strict set of rules or principles. I think it’s important to look at both sides of the evidence, try to objectively examine things and avoid letting personal biases come in the way when interpreting the data, and be open to adjusting one’s opinions in the light of new information.

Recently, I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about the pros and cons of eating cereal grains, and I’ve also been experimenting by making changes to my own diet. The result of this process is that I’m left with a more nuanced perspective on this topic than what I had previously. In this post I’ll briefly summarize the pros and cons of eating cereal grains, before I give you my current reflections and opinion on all of this.

The Bad: 8 arguments that speak against eating cereal grains

1. There has been inadequate time and selection pressure for the human genome to adapt to the rapid influx of large quantities of cereal grains (particularly refined types) into the human diet

Today, cereal grains such as wheat and barley are important staple foods all around the world, and a lot of people would probably say that a diet that is devoid of grains is a very strange or peculiar diet. However, as the readers of this blog know well, it hasn’t always been like this. Cereal grains didn’t make their way into the human diet in any significant quantities until the Agricultural Revolution started sweeping the globe about 10.000 years ago. This may seem like a long time ago, but from an evolutionary perspective, it’s merely a couple of ticks on the clock.

When compared to the tiny microorganisms that live all around us and in and on our bodies, humans evolve at an extremely slow pace. As I’ve repeatedly pointed out here on the blog, we’re still – to a significant extent – hunter-gathers from a genetic perspective. There has been inadequate time and selection pressure for the human body to adapt to many of the recent changes in the human diet. This includes, among other things, the dramatic increase in cereal grain consumption (in particular refined grains).

2. The transition from a Paleolithic diet to “Neolithic”, grain-based diet was accompanied by an increased incidence of many diet-related disorders

An increased incidence of a wide range of diet-related health problems, including iron deficiency anemia, tooth decay, and several bone mineral disorders, accompanied the Agricultural Revolution, either at first or gradually (1, 2, 3). Moreover, early farmers didn’t grow as tall as preagricultural humans (1, 2).

All of these unfavourable health effects came largely as a result of the transition from a Paleolithic diet to “Neolithic”, grain-based diet; a diet that in comparison was low in many vitamins and minerals and high in starch and antinutrients (1, 2, 3). This dietary transition undoubtedly resulted in changes to the human microbiome – especially oral and gut – and altered gene expression patterns. Suddenly we collided with a diet that natural selection had never adapted us for.

3. The scientific foundation underlying the recommendation to eat a lot of cereal grains is not rock solid

Cereal grains didn’t end up at the bottom of the food pyramid because there’s conclusive evidence to show that a grain-based diet is healthy for us. Rather, one of the key reasons they ended up there is that cereal grains are a cheap and accessible source of calories that have long been an essential part of the human diet all over the world. As Denise Minger explains in here book “Death by Food Pyramid”, the science underlying the food pyramid is far from rock solid.

The advice to eat more whole grains is in large part based on studies that have investigated the health effects of consuming whole grains vs. refined grains. Naturally, these studies conclude that whole grains are superior. However, the results of intervention studies that have compared the “healthfulness” of a diet that’s rich in whole grains with the healthfulness of a Paleo Diet, which is completely devoid of grains, indicate that the The Paleo Diet may be superior (4, 5, 6, 7, 8).

4. Cereal grains have a very high carbohydrate density

While the high carbohydrate content of cereal grains may not be a problem for a hard-training athlete, it can certainly be for a sedentary individual who wants to lose weight and/or are insulin resistant.For millions of years, our ancestors got most of their carbohydrates from fibrous fruits, nuts, seeds, and tubers and other vegetables. When compared with cereal grains, these foods have a very low carbohydrate density and elicit a low insulin response.

5. Cereal grains contain potentially harmful antinutrients

Cereal grains contain a wide range of proteins and antinutrients (e.g., lectins, phytic acid) that may impair nutrient absorption, disrupt normal gut physiology, and contribute to the manifestation of chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases by increasing intestinal permeability and initiating a pro-inflammatory immune response (1, 9, 10, 11).

6. Cereal grains have a relatively poor nutrient profile

When compared with fruits and vegetables, cereal grains are less nutrient dense (on a calorie-by-calorie basis) and lower in prebiotic fiber (1, 12). Moreover, cereal grains are deficient in one or more vitamins and essential amino acids (3), and none of the domesticated cereals have adequate iron, calcium, or zinc (3). In itself, this doesn’t say that cereal grains are unhealthy. However, it highlights one of the many problems of relying on cereal grains as a staple food.

7. Cereal grains (in particular refined varieties) may adversely affect the gut microbiota and/or intestinal barrier function

Cereal grains, in particular refined grains, may alter the gut microbiota in such a way that there is an increased  absorption of bacterial endotoxins from the small intestine (4)

8. Some grains may have addictive properties

Cereal grains such as wheat contain opioid peptides that bind to opioid receptors in the brain and may trigger addictive-like responses (13)

The good: 8 arguments that speak in favor of eating cereal grains

1. There may have been insufficient time and selection pressure for the human genome to adjust to the rapid influx of cereal grains into the human diet. However, we have to remember that the second genome in the human body, the human microbiome, is also important when it comes to adaptation to dietary changes

The gut microbiome can be thought of as a bridge between the human body and the external environment. The foods you eat all affect the gut microbiota in some way. Moreover, over the last couple of years it has become increasingly clear that the gut microbiome plays an important role in the context of diet adaptation. If we had to rely on mutations and selection within our human genome as our only means of adapting to new food groups, things wouldn’t have been easy, particularly for our ancestors, who didn’t have constant access to the “rapidly” digested sugars, starches, and fats that we have today.

One of the main reasons humans are able to thrive on very different diets is that the gut microbiome is able to adapt to new dietary practices – as long as the necessary microbes (i.e., bacteria that carry genes that code for enzymes that facilitate the breakdown of the foods in question) are present. This adaptive process is important to keep in mind when discussing the health effects of consuming cereal grains.

Recent studies have shown that certain species of bacteria collected from the gastrointestinal tract of humans can degrade many of the potentially “harmful” compounds found in grains, such as gluten (14, 15) and phytate (16). Moreover, over the last decade it has become increasingly clear that the rapidly increasing rates of celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders may be largely caused by changes to the human gut microbiome (think antibiotics, c-sections, and hygienic living conditions) (17, 18, 19, 20). In other words, it’s likely that one of the main reasons one person does well on a grain-based diet while another doesn’t, is that former harbours a gut microbiome that is better adapted to the diet in question. This may also work the other way around, in the sense that some people may not do so well on a diet that is devoid of grains.

Within the ancestral health community there is a lot of talk about how the mismatch between the human genome and the contemporary, Western diet affects human health – and rightly so; there’s little doubt that this discordance underlies many of the diseases that plague us in modern societies. That being said, I think it’s very important to remember that we also have a second genome within our body. Is it possible that the reason some people don’t do well on a Paleo Diet is that they harbour a gut microbiome that is better suited for a grain-based diet? In other words, that there may be a mismatch between the gut microbiome and the grain-depleted diet. I suspect so.

Let me briefly explain my thought process… The gut microbiotas of our ancestors would have evolved as they transitioned over to more grain-based diets during the Agricultural Evolution and have continued to change ever since in response to alterations in diet and lifestyle habits (21, 22, 23). The first seeding of the microbiota occurs as bacteria are transferred from mum to offspring during birth, breastfeeding, and other types of contact, meaning that a familial microbiome may pass down through generations. In other words, if your mother and close family ate a iot of grains – and did well on such a diet – chances are you’ll do better on such a diet yourself. It may even be that you find that you don’t do so well on strict Paleo Diet, because your gut microbiome is poorly matched to that diet. While the microbiome can adapt rapidly to changes in diet, adequate adaptation is only possible if bacteria that are able to degrade the newly introduced foods are present.  

2. A strict contemporary Paleo Diet may provide less than optimal amounts of dietary fiber

The foods we have access to today differ in several respects to those that hunter-gatherers and non-westernized, traditional cultures consumed. For example; we obviously don’t have access to the extremely fibrous tubers that African hunter-gatherers (e.g., the Hadza) have been known to consume. A strict contemporary Paleo Diet may provide less than optimal amounts of dietary fiber. This is not a fault of the Paleo Diet per se, but rather a result of changes in how we produce and process our food.

Domesticated fruits and vegetables tend to be markedly less fibrous than their wild counterparts (12). Moreover, non-domesticated varieties typically contain much less insoluble, hard-to-chew roughage. A contemporary Paleo Diet – particularly one that contains a lot of meat, fat, and cooked plant foods – is extremely “soft” when compared to a true Paleolithic diet.

3. Recent studies suggest that cereal grains may have been a more important part of our Paleolithic ancestors’ diet than previously thought

As I’ve pointed out previously on the blog, several lines of evidence indicate that our Paleolithic ancestors did not consume large quantities of cereal grains. This actually goes without saying, as it takes a lot of work and effort to collect, process, and prepare wild cereal grains. Optimal foraging theory suggests that it simply wouldn’t have been feasible for the typical Paleolithic hunter-gatherer to consume large quantities of cereal grains. That being said, it’s been known for a long time that smaller amounts of cereal grains were consumed by Paleolithic hunter-gatherers in certain areas of the word, perhaps when other food resources were scarce. Recent studies (e.g., 24, 25, 26) have added additional support to this notion.

4. The harmful effects of grain-antinutrients may have been overblown

While it is true that wheat germ agglutinin, phytic acid, and many of the other antinutrients found in grains may disrupt normal gut physiology, impair mineral absorption, or have other adverse effects, it’s important to note that most of the studies that have looked into these compounds have been done in animals or in vitro. Moreover, the amounts that are used typically far exceed what you get from common foods. The processes that can be observed in a petri dish may not adequately reflect what goes on in the human gastrointestinal tract. This becomes particularly true when we consider the fact that each and every one of us harbor a unique and complex microbial ecosystem that interacts with the food we eat. While I definitely think some caution is warranted, I’m not overly concerned with the antinutrients found in grains.

5. Starch is not the evil nutrient that some people make it out to be

As I’ve pointed out many times here on the blog, there’s no reason to completely shun starchy food. This is particularly true for athletes. Many gym goers, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts these days follow a training program that has little in common with the physical activity pattern of a hunter-gatherer. A strict Paleolithic Diet may not be the best choice for these individuals, particularly if they perform a lot of anaerobic activities. Some people find that they perform well in a keto-adapted state, but this is obviously not a viable and effective strategy for everyone.

6. There is a lot of scientific research linking the consumption of whole grains with positive health outcomes

If you ask a dozen dietitians and nutritionists whether they think whole grains are healthy, chances are most, if not all, will say yes. This isn’t surprising, as virtually all nutrition students learn that whole grains are an essential part of a healthy diet – and that there’s solid scientific evidence underlying the recommendation to eat whole grains on a regular basis. As I mentioned in the list above, the problem is that a lot of the studies in this area have compared diets that contain whole grains with diets that contain refined grains. These studies only tell us whether whole grains are superior to refined varieties, not whether a grain-containing diet is superior to a diet that is completely devoid of grains. That being said, it’s important to acknowledge that the evidence in this area is not clear-cut either way.

7. Several non-westernized populations have low rates of chronic diseases of civilization “despite” eating diets high in cereal grains

We don’t have to look far and wide to find examples of people who are lean, healthy, and long-lived “despite” eating grain-based diets. For example; Okinawa Island in Japan is famous for the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world. The traditional diet on this island is high in rice and carbohydrates. Also, as I’ve pointed out on the blog before, some of the healthy, traditional cultures Dr. Weston A. Price examined on his trips around the world in the early parts of the 20th century ate grain-heavy diets.
That being said, it’s very important to point out that these observational studies don’t by any means provide evidence that we should all be eating a lot of cereal grains, as there are certainly many other confounding factors that could help explain the good health of these peoples. Moreover, we can’t exclude the possibility that they would be even healthier if they replaced some of the grains they were eating with meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, etc.

8. Changes in AMY1 copy number reflect adaptation to increased starch consumption

There has probably been some selection for greater copy numbers of the salivary amylase gene (AMY1) in cultures that eat diets high in starchy plants. In other words, your ability to tolerate a high intake of starch may in part depend on your ancestry. Here’s what a recent review paper had to say about starch consumption and changes in AMY1 copy numbers during human evolution:

Starch consumption is a prominent characteristic of agricultural societies and hunter-gatherers in arid environments. In contrast, rainforest and circum-arctic hunter-gatherers and some pastoralists consume much less starch13. This behavioral variation raises the possibility that different selective pressures have acted on amylase, the enzyme responsible for starch hydrolysis4. We found that salivary amylase gene (AMY1) copy number is correlated positively with salivary amylase protein levels, and that individuals from populations with high-starch diets have on average more AMY1 copies than those with traditionally low-starch diets. Comparisons with other loci in a subset of these populations suggest that the level of AMY1 copy number differentiation is unusual. This example of positive selection on a copy number variable gene is one of the first in the human genome. Higher AMY1 copy numbers and protein levels likely improve the digestion of starchy foods, and may buffer against the fitness-reducing effects of intestinal disease. (27).

What does this mean for you?

While I’ve never outright demonized cereal grains on this blog, I’ve made the case several times that most people would benefit from reducing their intake of this food group. This is a statement I stand by. The average Joe eats way too much bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, pastries, and other grain-based foods and would probably benefit greatly from replacing some of these foods (in particular the ones that primarily contain refined grains) with more nutrient dense foods such as grass-fed meat, eggs, fish, and vegetables. That being said, I don’t think completely eliminating cereal grains from the diet is necessarily the way to go for everyone.

While we can learn a lot about how we should eat to achieve good health by studying the dietary practices of our ancestors, we should be cautious not to oversimplify things by thinking that we’re best off emulating every aspect of our hunter-gatherer ancestors’ diet. We have to keep in mind that most people these days have a lifestyle that is very different from that of a Paleolithic hunter-gatherer. While sedentary individuals often do well on a low-carbohydrate diet, many gym goers, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts find that they require some dense sources of starch in their diet to perform optimally.

Perhaps the most compelling argument for eating some whole grains and/or legumes is that the amount of fermentable fiber you get through a strict, contemporary Paleo Diet could be lower than optimal – even if you consciously seek out the most fiber-rich fruits and vegetables you can find. While some people may find that they manage to achieve great gut health on a strict Paleo Diet, others don’t. This isn’t surprising, as most of the fruits and vegetables that are available at the supermarket don’t contain that much fiber. Eating some whole grains and/or legumes can help give the fiber content of the diet a marked boost.

Finally, I want to make it clear that when it comes to diet, there is no one size fits all. While there is a set of general dietary principles that everyone who’s looking to achieve good health should adhere to, there is no such thing as a strict set of rules that works for all people. Some find that they do better on a diet that is relatively high in carbohydrates, while others do better on a more low-carb approach.

Whether you do well with including cereal grains in your diet or not depends on several factors, such as your activity levels, gut microbiota composition, AMY1 gene copy number, gluten sensitivity, and gut permeability. Perhaps needless to say, not all grains are equally healthy. If you’re going to eat grains, it’s important to consider which types you’re going to eat, as well as how you process and prepare them – but that’s a topic for another day…

Personally, I’ve never completely shunned grain-based foods, but cereal grains haven’t been a major part of my diet these last several years. However, recently I added some whole grains to my diet, both as a way to boost my fiber intake and help me fuel my current workout routine.

Now I want to hear from you: What are your thoughts on all of this? Do you eat grains on a regular basis?

Picture: Creative Commons picture by Chiot’s Run. Some rights reserved.

Comments

  1. Robin Fornwalt says:

    Thank you for writing up these helpful pros and cons. And I agree that it’s a challenge identifying the high fiber, low carb vegetables, but they do exist and most of them are bitter leafy greens and the stalk veggies: lettuce, collards, beet greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. Being bitter, most people don’t eat them. Therefore, they are missing an opportunity to fill the need for fiber. So for those of us that require low carb to control blood sugar and insulin levels, know that grains are not required. The problem I have with grains is that the whole grain is required to get the fiber from the endosperm. And whole grains are difficult for most to digest. All that’s left in refined grains, devoid of the endosperm and germ, is pure starch, which enters quickly into the blood stream unless there is fiber from elsewhere (low carb, high fiber veggies) to slow it down. So be mindful of what you eat! I’ve found I have to really look at the carbohydrate composition of the vegetables that I do eat. And refined grains are missing the fiber that most assume to exist in them. The Atkins Diet is very helpful in classifying carbohydrates this regard.

    • Robin Fornwalt says:

      Ok. I made a mistake in my labels; wish I could edit my comment directly. Refined grains are missing the bran and germ and usually consist entirely of endosperm. The fiber is in the brain! The vitamins, minerals and fat are in the germ. Endosperm is starch (i.e. long chains of glucose sugar) and protein. So do realize that you aren’t getting significant fiber without getting the bran.

  2. Hi Eirik. Thanks for another thoughtful article. Like you, I limit my grain consumption since I switched to a mostly Paleo diet a few years ago. I’ve never liked breakfast cereals, but I do like really excellent bakery or homemade breads. I keep them to a minimum because I find that they cause weight gain for me if I’m not careful. For people who aren’t gluten-sensitive and don’t get an addictive response, I see no reason to slavishly eliminate all grain products. Problems arise when grains are allowed to replace more nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables. There’s no doubt in my mind that the old, infamous food pyramid has greatly contributed to obesity and poor health. .

    • Shary, you are right, but the main problem is that it’s hard to know at what extent gluten may be harmful for us. While celiac disease may be a bit easier to recognize (not always though), gluten sensitivity is far more different and even an accurate array like the one from Cyrex lab may fail. And low level endotoxemia provoked by leaky gut triggered by the overexpression of zonuline it’s the hardest to recognize and understand. LPS and other bad stuff wreak a slow havoc upon our body. It may take years or even decades. Said that, if you are not celiac, diagnostized NGGS, autoimmune conditions, I think the 80-20 rule may be quite safe. If you train hard with a lactacid work, you need to replace the lost glycogen, and probably some rice postworkout may be good. There are also yams anyway if you want to keep safe. I don’t know about the microbiome mismatch, it may be true. Another cause of a maladaptation on strict paleo diet is the need to personalize it. If one is a crossfitter or other lactacid sports, very low carb is not good, and then it comes to blame the paleo diet itself instead of the need of adjust macronutrients ratio. We are not hunter gatherers anymore and some adjustment are needed, far from being enough to dismantle the theory. If you are a powerlifter being always in alactacid system, you likely need less carbs.

  3. Hi, here’s what I think. There are two extremes:”nobody should eat any grain, never” and “we are well adapted to eat grains”. However, while I heard the latter from morons like some evolutionary biologists, who want to desperately defend the heavy wheat and corn world, the former is more a strawman created ad hoc to enlight how taleban the Paleo world is.
    Let’s talk about grains: first of all, if we look at nature, animals that thrive on grains (granivores like birds), have a completely different digestive tract (goiter, gizzard, different gut etc..) and an enzymatic wealth that breakdown gliadin and phytates.
    They are the only animal that actually THRIVE on grains, and their features have been selected through hundreds of millions years under a strong selective pressure. No chance for us to achieve such complex features, also because we should change mithocondria and all the basical architecture as well, and remains the fact that they are poorly nutritional, and we need nourishment to sustain our big brains. Thus, for me it’s unlikely that grains can be a major part of our diet.
    Said that, it has to be established what percentage of our diet they can have.
    And now it’s time to talk about tolerance: the word itself says a lot, saying that you thrive with your girlfriend and you tolerate her is different.
    For me the meaning of “healthy is not black and white but as usual there are many shades of gray.
    Let’s play for a moment: we may play to take a ranking: first places: paleo ancestors (tall, very strong and free of chronic disease) 2nd: “modern” h-g: Hadza, Ache, etc..(not as strong as our ancestors but relatively healthy), 3rd:”border line” populations like some from Weston Price reported and Okinawas and Sardinians. “Relatively free of disease much less strong and fit than “true” h-g.
    Let’s see what they ate:”some fish or meat, grassfed full fat dairy and some well prepared grain” from ancient time wise populations know that sprouting and soaking grains reduce the phytate content and make them safer. And, as far as I know they ate less problematic grains, like rice, oat, barley and rye. And it’s far different from high gliadin modern dwarf wheat highly refined. Thus, I think we can say that “some” people can tolerate at a certain degree safely prepared “safer” grains.
    As for the microbiome, someone stated that may account up to 10% of our methabolism, thus, again, an isolated population that had some pressure and a good lifestyle with a good microbiome, given that they eat nutritious stuff as well, may tolerate some amount of the aforementioned grains.
    I’m a bit uncomfortable with the studies about gluten and phytates degradator bugs, first because in vitro studies alone may cheat because they don’t use the real concentration and other variables inside our body, and second because they are the starters of a probiotic line that will magically help everyone to eat all the pasta they want. For the AMY1 copy, I like the post on the paleostyle website by Miki-Ben Dor. Some of us can tolerate better carbs, but processing 400-500 gr a day of refined grains is tough for most, as evidence of obesity, diabetes etc.. tells us.
    And the main problem with refined stuff is the acellularity of carbs that promotes bacterial overgrowth. Gluten provokes leaky gut in everyone, and it’s not a good stuff, you need a very friendly and efficient immune system to handle bad stuff that enter in your body. Aside from starch alone, prolamines are the main problems.
    Let’s talk about fibers, you are perfectly right with saying that many paleo dieters should include more veggies and soluble fiber, however it’s at least controversial the benefit of “hard tearing” fiber of whole grains. Of course studies suggest that they are still beneficial compared to pasta, pizza and donuts.
    Antinutrients have probably been overstated as shown by Lalonde a while back.
    Said that, I think that some quantity of white rice after workout is safe and may work well for many people.
    The Paleo template is a safety template, while I bet that I’m well adapted to eat meat, fish and veggies, I don’t know how I can actually handle grains, and if I don’t need them logic says that it’s better not to eat them aside from an occasional threat as for 80-20 or 85-15 rule.
    Summarizing, I don’t believe that in the paleolithic our ancestors ate grains, I think this is a desperate attempt to defend them, but I agree that maybe something is overstated especially about white rice.
    Wheat is a true villain and it wreaks a huge havoc around, and together with corn, they are not sustainable and devastating the planet. Thus, you can make a case against dwarf wheat, but I don’t wanna be a taleban about small amount of safe grains in a context of a nutritious diet proper for our species.

  4. Upon reading the title of this post, I must say that I had preconceived notions of its content. I am pleased to say that I was dead wrong. I praise you for your open mind and ongoing research, and your acceptance to have your thoughts challenged. Your links to the research are very helpful.
    I first started to reconsider the starch component of diet in 2012, after watching Chris MasterJohn’s presentation, the first part of which deals with amylase gene copies –
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDJjqY4H3Cc

    I’ve eaten oat groats and oat bran daily for a year now, with improved GI function, I am sure related to an improvement in the microbiota – I’m feeding them what they like. I would still avoid any refined grains.
    I plan to switch to only oat bran, since the majority of the nutrients and the beta-glucans are present in that part. Robin Fornwalt (earlier comment) is correct, the endosperm of the groat is mostly just starch.
    This departure from strict Paleo is in line with the health of foods such as kefir, which I also make at home and ingest daily.

    I thank you for a very well presented post, arguments on both sides.

  5. I think I understand enough of the currently available science behind gluten, but I love whole grains so much and even reading this excellent post I find difficult to decide what’s best for me…after all gluten (grains) free diet is not the “cure” for all the suffering of this world…having a family doctor who refuses to test me (despite chronic fatigue, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, chronic pain and many other extra gut symptoms, I have no choice but to cut it for a few weeks and see if a “miracle” happens…perhaps I’m happy to find I can eat my oatmeal – or loose my grains and regain the quality of life I lost a long time ago…a subset of fibromyalgia patients with NO celiac disease reverted their symptoms following a gluten free diet…as Prof Alessio Fasano has said (youtube video) – not everybody needs to go gluten free but…gluten is toxic for everybody 😛

    • Cristina, probably gluten is one of the worst things in grains and aside from the well done research, another proof comes from the evidence that the healthier cultures described around the world eat no grains or at least well prepared gluten poor grains, while those who rely on modern gliaden laden dwarf wheat are the worst. Nevertheless, as soon as autoimmune conditions are set off, a cautionary autoimmune protocol strict paleo diet would be advised, since there are several other compounds in grains and even vegetables that may enworse the autoimmune reaction. Trevor Connor, a very brilliant guy member of Cordain’s team is doing great research about it.

  6. I have to take exception to the idea that gluten grains are toxic for everybody. I’ve known healthy, long-lived persons (and I do mean “long”, into late 90’s) who regularly ate bread, pasta, and cereals without any problem. What possibly set them apart is that everything they ate was in moderation, they were of normal weight, and they got sufficient exercise. What they ate was also mostly homemade, including bread products, and therefore lacking the usual cocktail of additives and preservatives found in commercial products. Gluten has become the latest dietary whipping boy. We’ve been through the same song and dance with eggs, red meal, and saturated fat, but the “proof” has been insufficient in all cases to say positively that everyone is adversely affected by those foods.

    Certainly there are people who are gluten sensitive or have full-blown celiac disease, but to conclude that everybody is gluten sensitive because a relatively small percentage are gluten sensitive is using a shotgun approach. People aren’t lab mice and they aren’t petri dishes. Moreover, we aren’t exact copies of each other. Research still has no way to account for human differences other than through trial programs that are usually so skewed or fraught with errors as to be laughable.

  7. Shary, the fact is that Fasano demonstrated that gliadin triggers leaky gut even in “healthy” people without celiac disease or NCGS, though the latters show a more severe permeability. Thus, we can say that gluten is toxic not only for humans, but for the other nammals as well, that not equipped to breakdown the strong binding between proline and glutamine. In my opinion, the better or worse tolerance depends on how your immune system handle that stuff. When you eat pasta, your gut becomes permeable, let’s suppose it takes 1 hour to fix it. Your immune system is handling LPS and other bacteria and undigested stuff like it was a common infection. After 1 hour you have some buiscuits, and you have the same thing…after two hours you eat bread, etc…our body is so resistant that probably it takes 40-50-60 or more years to pay your dues. I think that people whi reach their 90s on such diet, may have a forgiving immune system. Said that, here’s my thought that may be wrong due to the shortcomings that arise from an observation: you can read article and studies about hunter gatherers and even see documentaries on youtube…what is strikingly different is the aging process and the fitness level. Our average elder man is sarcopenic, weak and he follows a slow decline to death. For us is normal because everyone ages following this model here. However, if you take a hunter gatherers with the same age, he seems in his 30s, fast, fit, strong and with his 6 pack climbing a 20 mt tree, challenging thousands of bees to pick up honey. There’s no way that somebody here has got that fitness level. In nature Sapiens age like wild animals, the decline starts just one week before death. No cognitive decline, no sarcopeny, no ostheoporosis, no pills, no diapers, no false teeth. Things that are normal only because we observe them as normality. Thus, I think we can distinguish between surviving and thriving. The cumulative effects of low level chronic inflammation make us age very bad. Look at Art De Vany, he’s in his 76 and been foolowing a paleo diet for years. He has got testosterone levels of an 18 years old and he’s muscolar and fit like a 25 years old athlete. Another researcher, from Italy,that patented his evolutionary diet, Giovanni Cianti, is reaching his 70s benching more than 100 kg. Of course one may argue that they may not be a sufficient sample, but many clues make a proof. Of course gluten is not the only cause, it has to be tied with all the other habits of our society, it’s a multivariate complex system, but gliadin, though not the cause of all the evils, is a bad villain. We also lost the protective effect of a rich microbiome.

  8. Sorry, I forgot one thing: given that there are people that have a strong resistance, they surely are a minority, given the low selective pressure. It’s very unlikely that the genetic “protective” features are going to spread in a reasonable time among all the population. We are not a small isolated group that have to adapt or die. We are a huge group that goes on with pills and reproductive success is not threatened to select “succesful” genes.

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