Wheat is now the preferred swallow meal for many Nigerian families particularly in the urban centres. Sadly too, some rural dwellers have hooked onto the fad that wheat is a “healthy” food. Early this year, a middle-aged man from Ekiti State came to my office for solution to his health challenges – diabetes and high blood pressure. Upon enquiry on his diet, he said wheat was his major meal daily. According to him, virtually all the civil servants working at the state and local governments in Ekiti State also eat wheat as their regular meal. In fact, he said those that are not eating wheat particularly in the state capital could not afford it, but not due to knowledge of its harm to health.
What an irony? Otherwise, how do we explain the preference of wheat to pounded yam, which the Ekiti people have been eating for good health and vitality centuries back?
The prevalent consumption of wheat across the country has clearly shown that in the absence of knowledge, people can accept poison as therapy. After all, wheat is the first choice food for diabetics on the strength of doctors’ advice. Nationwide, wheat has overshadowed yam flour and other starchy foods that are peculiar to our culinary culture in Nigeria. Unfortunately, this is one dietary change that may prove suicidal for many people given the inseparable linkage of diet to health or ill health. Though wheat, like other grains, is rich in fibre and some other nutrients, it is one food anybody that desires wellness and long life should be kept at arm’s length. Why? There are three inherent dangers in the chemistry of wheat that make it a classic destroyer of health. I call them the downsides of wheat.
Wheat contains gluten – a protein that causes inflammation, a systemic process that has harmful effects across all the organ systems in the body including the brain, heart, joints, eyes and digestive tract. As a matter of fact, inflammation does not only precede all degenerative diseases like diabetes, cancer, stroke, glaucoma, arthritis and Parkinson’s disease, but also fuels their insidious progression. A review paper in the New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 diseases that can be caused by eating gluten-containing foods. The diseases include osteoporosis, anemia, cancer, canker sores, fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. The paper also linked gluten to many psychiatric and neurological diseases including depression, schizophrenia, dementia, nerve damage, epilepsy and autism. The paper concluded that there are 120 or more diseases associated with eating foods that contain gluten. Dr. Joseph A. Murray, MD states that he is surprised how often gluten affects the brain. Another study by Dr .J. Robert Cade, MD of the University of Florida showed that people with autism and schizophrenia have high level of peptides in their urine. These peptides, according to Dr. Cade, come from casein (protein in milk and other dairy products) and gliadin and gluten in wheat, barley, oats and rye.
Another study of 30,000 patients analyzed from 1969 – 2008 reported in the journal of the American Medical Association found that people diagnosed with gluten-sensitivity had a higher risk of death from cancer and heart disease than the normal population.
Worse still, the bulk of wheat being consumed in the country is the American hybrid strain, which has much higher gluten content than the European wheat.
The second inherent danger in the chemistry of wheat is its high Glycemic Index GI. Glycemic Index is a scale that ranks carbohydrate rich foods by how much they raise blood sugar level compared to low glycemic foods. Wheat has GI of 71 compared to yam and sweet potato with GI of 49 and 54 respectively. Invariably, eating food with high GI like wheat regularly promotes weight gain and makes diabetes intractable. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, MD “wheat is a major contributor to obesity, diabetes, cancer, dementia, depression and many modern ills.” If one may ask, what is the science behind the recommendation of wheat as a meal to fight high blood sugar?
Also, many people do not know that wheat, which is being promoted as a “healthy” food, is one of the most acid-forming foods. What are the health implications of eating acid forming foods? Wheat and other acid-forming foods lower the body pH and deplete oxygen level in the cells and tissues, which is the primary cause of all diseases. In other words, if wheat causes low pH that triggers diseases, eating wheat and its products is akin to adding fuel to fire for people battling with one health challenge or the other. What are the physiological effects of low pH on the body organs? Eyes are the first victims of degenerating effects of low pH and its consequences include cataract, glaucoma and other forms of visual impairment. Also, low body pH makes the heart overwork by robbing the blood of proper oxygenation and causing irregular heart beat and systemic degeneration of the heart muscle and blood vessels, which can ultimately lead to heart attack and stroke.
The brain and nerves also malfunction when the body pH is low (acidic pH). Furthermore, acidic pH undermines the vital functions of the pancreas – production of insulin for glucose metabolism and digestive enzymes for synthesis of protein. Yet, the dysfunction of the pancreas triggers diabetes and cancer, with the former setting the stage for the latter. A joint report by the American Cancer Society and the American Diabetes Association noted that people with type 2 diabetes have high risk of developing cancers of the liver, pancreas, colon and bladder. Acidic pH causes clogging of the colon with acid wastes resulting in chronic constipation, which makes healing of any health challenge impossible.
Healthy alternatives to wheat
• Yam & yam flour
• Unpolished rice
• Sweet potato
SOURCE: HEALTH, WEALTH & BEAUTY