Wheat-free and weight loss

With a heart scan score of 1222, Leslie could be in deep trouble in short order.

At 64 years old, Leslie had gained nearly 40 lbs since she'd given up a lot of her activities caring for a husband who'd developed psychological difficulties and stopped contributing to the household duties. A tall woman at 5 ft 9 inches, she held her 202 lbs well, but her lipoprotein patterns were a disaster:

--LDL particle number 2482 nmol/l--an equivalent LDL cholesterol of 248 mg/dl (drop the last digit)
--HDL 38 mg/dl
--Triglycerides 241 mg/dl
--90% of LDL particles were small
--Lipoprotein(a) 240 nmol/l

Blood sugar was in the pre-diabetic range at 112 mg/dl, C-reactive protein was high at 3.0 mg/l, blood pressure was somewhat high at 140/84.

Now, with the exception of lipoprotein(a), these patterns are exquisitely weight-sensitive. A reduction in weight would yield effects superior to any medication I could give her.

Processed wheat products were a big problem for Leslie: whole wheat bread, pretzels for snacks, whole wheat pasta. Yes, they sound healthy, even endorsed by the American Heart Association, often bearing "heart healthy" labels on the packages. Don't you believe it.

In particular, Leslie had the number one cause for heart disease in America: small LDL particles, a pattern that is magnified 30-70% by wheat products. Endorsed by the Heart Association? (As I often tell people, if you want heart disease, follow the diet advocated by the American Heart Association.)

Leslie was skeptical, worried that she would be hungry all the time and would have virtually nothing left to eat. Instead, when she returned to the office three months later, she reported that eating was easy, finding healthy foods not containing wheat was easier than she thought, she felt great, finding more energy than she'd had in years.

She'd also shed 30 lbs.

Leslie's lipoprotein patterns also reflected the weight loss. She achieved her 60:60:60 Track Your Plaque lipid targets, small LDL shrunk dramatically, blood sugar and blood pressure were back in normal ranges.

I see results like Leslie's several times every week. For those of us with patterns like Leslie's, or just obesity that accumulates in the abdomen, going wheat-free is among the most powerful single strategies I know of.

If you need convincing, try an experiment. Eliminate--not reduce, but eliminate wheat products from your diet, whether or not the fancy label on the package says it's healthy, high in fiber, a "healthy low-fat snack", etc. This means no bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, breads, chips, pancakes, waffles, breading on chicken, rolls, bagels, cakes, breakfast cereal. I find elimination of wheat easier than just cutting back. I believe this is because wheat is powerfully addictive. It's very similar to telling an alcoholic that a drink now and then is okay--it just doesn't work. They need to be alcohol-free. Most of us need to be wheat-free, not just cut back.

You won't be hungry if you replace the lost calories with plenty of raw almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower and pumpkin seeds; more liberal use of healthy olive oil, canola oil and flaxseed oil; adding ground flaxseed and oat bran to yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.; and more lean proteins like lean beef, chicken, turkey, fish, and eggs.

The majority of people who go wheat-free lose weight, sometimes dramatically. Most people also feel better: more energy, more alert, better sleep, less mood swings. Time and again, people who try this will tell me that the daytime grogginess they've suffered and lived with for years, and would treat with loads of caffeine, is suddenly gone. They cruise through their day with extra energy.

Even without weight loss, going wheat-free usually raises HDL, reduces the dreaded small LDL dramtically. It also reduces triglycerides, blood sugar, C-reactive protein, blood pressure. Blood sugar control in diabetics is far easier, with less fluctuations and sharp rises in blood sugar.

Success at this also yields great advantage for your heart scan score control and reversal efforts.

Comments (14) -

  • Anne

    10/13/2007 3:49:00 PM |

    I was overweight by only about 15lbs and I was having pitting edema in my legs and shortness of breath. My cardiologist and I were discussing the possible need of an angiogram. I was three years out from heart bypass surgery.

    Before we could schedule the procedure, I tested positive for gluten sensitivity through www.enterolab.com. I eliminated not only wheat but also barley and rye and oats(very contaminated with wheat) from my diet. Within a few weeks my edema was gone, my energy was up and I was no longer short of breath. I lost about 10 lbs. The main reason I gave up gluten was to see if I could stop the progression of my peripheral neuropathy. Getting off wheat and other gluten grains has given me back my life. I have been gluten free for 4 years and feel younger than I have in many years.

    There are many gluten free processed foods, but I have found I feel my best when I stick with whole foods.

  • wccaguy

    10/13/2007 4:13:00 PM |

    Hey Doc,

    How is it that you're always making posts about subjects I've got questions about?

    About wheat...  I've got weight to lose and I've been doing a low carb thing and have lost 12 pounds in 5 weeks (including a week where I cheated for an event and got thrown off for a few days).  By the way, thanks for turning me on to Jimmy Moore.

    There are some low-carb breads out there.  I picked up a loaf ("Rudy's") last night at the local Whole Foods.  It has 5 net carbs per slice.  Not bad for a twice a week binge.  But now I'm wondering if, despite the low carbs, the wheat content in the bread will be out to get me.


    Thanks again as always!!!

  • Anonymous

    10/14/2007 12:37:00 AM |

    Dr. Davis:  Do you concentrate on wheat because it is the most prevalent grain, or should we get all grains out of our lives?  

    I have lost weight since I got most wheat out of my life, but I could still stand to shed a few more pounds.  I am still eating steel cut oats for breakfast on occasion, as well as teff (an Ethiopian grain) with spiced lentils.  Should I get every grain out of my life?

    And what about carbs from fruit - are they just as bad as grains? I'm eating 3-4 fruits a day -- not the high glycemic stuff -- but carbs nevertheless (apples, plums, berries, grapefruit).

  • Dr. Davis

    10/14/2007 2:07:00 AM |

    I believe that the intensity of your efforts depends on how far you've got to go in weight loss. For full effect, I've found--time and again--that full elimination is most effective.

  • Dr. Davis

    10/14/2007 2:11:00 AM |

    The low-carb strategy is a tool for weight loss, not necessarily for health beyond weight loss effects.

    Fruits are part of a healthy diet that, I believe, should only be eliminated if you are employing a low-carb strategy for weight loss.  

    I'm undecided how far we need to go with the entire grain world. I have had good experiences with oats and flax. Unfortunately, I have no experience with teff. Wheat is th ebiggest problem by a enormous margin.

  • Anonymous

    10/15/2007 2:47:00 AM |

    hello again- can you talk about calcium - vit. D and men.
    I am a 51 year old man and have heard that calcium/vit D are good for weight loss and health. But also have read that calcium/dairy is associated with a prostate cancer. How much is too much?

  • Dr. Davis

    10/15/2007 12:40:00 PM |

    Sorry, I have never heard of any association with calcium and prostate cancer. However, this Blog and the accompanying website focus on heart disease, for which vitamin D is fabulously effective, in my view.

    For more discussion, see both the multiple blog posts on vitamin D, along with extensive reports on the www.trackyourplaque.com websites.

  • G

    11/15/2007 4:33:00 AM |

    Low carb is associated with slowing prostate cancer growth... *hot off the press!*


  • Anonymous

    7/3/2009 8:30:12 AM |

    This blog have helpful content and information. Is there any formula to control diet and keep muscle tone with fitness? For more log on
    Personal Trainer- www.just4ufit.com

  • health

    7/21/2009 11:51:09 AM |

    Hello Dr,

    wow some really good solid inforamtion there, i hope you don't mind I took severalnotes to share with my family over dinner.. I might add if i may that coconut oil is a good health resource, it consists of short and medium chain fatty acids and be re-used a couple of times

  • Weight Loss News

    7/25/2009 9:53:11 AM |

    Hi Dr,

    wow thanks for sharing this powerful info with people, I thought the some of the foods stuffs you mentioned with wheat in them were actually good for you... perhaps in moderation or.... should it be cut out all together?

  • Jennifer

    2/27/2010 5:10:27 PM |

    I've tried various low-carb, low-calorie, and low-fat diets for the past couple of years. Although the Atkins diet is very popular, it made me feel somewhat unhealthy.
    The diet plan I'm on right now is the Medifast Diet. The caloric intake is roughly 800-1000 calories. However, it doesn't make my body feel weak. It is a bit of a pricey diet, but there are plenty of coupons available on the internet (i.e. http://www.swoopup.com/stores/deals/Medifast-Diet). You should never pay full price.
    My advice is just choose a diet plan which your body reacts positively to. No one knows your body better than you do!

  • buy jeans

    11/3/2010 6:59:31 PM |

    Processed wheat products were a big problem for Leslie: whole wheat bread, pretzels for snacks, whole wheat pasta. Yes, they sound healthy, even endorsed by the American Heart Association, often bearing "heart healthy" labels on the packages. Don't you believe it.

  • weight loss

    1/15/2011 1:18:36 AM |

    Wheat free diet is one of the most effective ways to lose weight. I am using that kind of method for over a year now and it gives me an amazing result.