What increases blood sugar more than wheat?

Take a look at these glycemic indexes (GI):

White bread 69
Whole wheat bread 72
Sucrose 59
Mars bar 68
White rice 72
Brown rice 66

I've made issue in past of whole wheat's high GI--higher than white bread. Roughly in the same glycemic league as bread are shredded wheat cereal, brown rice, and a Mars candy bar.

With few exceptions, wheat products have among the highest GIs compared to the majority of other foods. For instance:

Kidney beans 29
Chick peas 36
Apple 39
Ice cream 36
Snickers Bar 40

Yes, by the crazy logic of glycemic index, Snickers is a low-glycemic index food.

While I do not believe that low GI makes a food good or desirable, since low GI foods still provoke high blood sugars, small LDL particles, trigger glycation, and other abnormal phenomena, they are clearly less obnoxious than the items in the first list.

Take a look at this list:

Cornflakes 80
Rice cakes 80
Rice Krispies 82
Rice pasta, 92
Instant potatoes 83
Tapioca 81

Starches that are dried and/or pulverized, such as cornstarch, potato starch, rice starch, and tapioca starch (cassava root) will increase blood sugar even more than wheat. Foods with these starches have GI's of 80-100.

Cornstarch, potato starch, rice starch, and tapioca starch: Sound familiar? These are the main starches used in "gluten-free" foods. A hint of the high GI behavior of these dried starches is seen in the GI for cornflakes of 80.

So remember: Wheat-free is not the same as gluten-free. Gluten-free identifies junk carbohydrates masquerading as healthy because they don't contain one unhealthy ingredient, i.e. wheat.

Comments (38) -

  • Anonymous

    7/15/2010 3:20:49 PM |

    These are the reasons to go grain-free, except for flaxseed.

  • Suzan

    7/15/2010 3:46:32 PM |

    As a gluten intolerant person, I can say that those gluten-free foods make me ill. I favor a grain-free Primal diet.

  • Anonymous

    7/15/2010 3:48:19 PM |

    Is it also accurate to say that high glycemic index only applies to wheat, and not unrefined WHOLE wheat, or wheat KERNELS?

    Aaccording to this, wheat kernels's GI is less than 50:

    Also, eating whole wheat makes you feel fuller longer, which is a benefit, no?

  • Peter

    7/15/2010 3:48:30 PM |

    I wonder why many traditional diets in Africa are mainly composed of starch, yet don't seem to lead to heart disease.  I 'm assuming manioc and other starches also raise their blood sugar, yet that doesn't translate into heart disease and diabetes.  anyone have a theory?

  • DrStrange

    7/15/2010 4:01:44 PM |

    "I wonder why many traditional diets in Africa are mainly composed of starch, yet don't seem to lead to heart disease. I 'm assuming manioc and other starches also raise their blood sugar, yet that doesn't translate into heart disease and diabetes. anyone have a theory?"

    There seems a stubborn tendency on this site to confound refined carbs ie flour products w/ intact, whole grain carbs.  They do behave differently in the body. Also, significant differences in some people's physiologies, individual, personal, differences that must be accounted for.  And probably most importantly, for the Africa etc question, total calorie intake is a huge factor.  If you eat more than your body needs, calories become excess blood sugar; spikes, triglycerides, etc.  US and western Europe, esp US, people just eat way to many calories because they are eating nutrient poor, manufactured, refined, imitation foods that do not satisfy the body's needs for nutrition in terms of micronutrients and oversupply calories.  If you only eat starches/carbs in the form of whole intact grains and starchy veg IN THE CONTEXT of a diet emphasizing micronutrient rich, nonstarchy veg, then you just will not have all the problems.

  • Jenny

    7/15/2010 5:47:17 PM |

    The glycemic index is a poor guide to carbohydrate impact because it is based on the fallacy that carbs that don't raise blood sugar at 1 hour after eating don't matter.

    They do.

    The carbs in many supposedly low glycemic foods WILL metabolise into glucose over a period of anywhere from 1.5 to 5 hours (Pasta) and when they do, they require insulin secretion to be dispersed.

    Also, "Glycemic Index" values for identical foods vary from study to study because the reading depends on the blood sugar status of the subjects used to test the foods. It is a junk measurement created by the food companies to fight the success of the low carb movement.

    Count the non-fiber carbs in your food, rather than the glycemic index values and you'll get a MUCH better idea of what impact foods will have on your health.

  • Pallav

    7/15/2010 6:19:28 PM |

    Dr Davis

    Dont be so stubborn. Get a hold of cooking practises as practised outside of your country too. If america is consuming wheat the wrong way, or you are consuming wheat in a wrong way don't implicate wheat in its entirety.

  • Pallav

    7/15/2010 6:21:32 PM |

    Imagine if i consume fish day and night cooked in hydrogenated vegetable oils and then implicate fish for my health problems. How stupid would that be?

  • John

    7/15/2010 6:51:53 PM |

    Hello, what happens if you consume bread with a fat or protein e.g. butter or cottage cheese.

    Will the bread contribute too much to insulin pike or will it be buffered by the fat/protein in the same serving?


  • Carl

    7/15/2010 9:58:41 PM |

    Glycemic index if flawed in that it counts fructose as a carb for the denominator but uses glucose as the numerator -- at least as I understand it.

    Fructose follows a different metabolic path, but it is more destructive when in the blood than glucose -- which is probably why the liver does all the fructose metabolism.

    I revised glycemic index which used glucose and glucose based starches only in the denominator would be a better index to determine which foods slowly feed glucose into the body.

    Or, you can use glycemic index and just not look at fructose and sucrose containing foods.

  • Matt Stone

    7/15/2010 10:05:33 PM |


    Starches do not raise blood sugar or cause hyperinsulinemia in people on traditional diets because they are not insulin resistant like modern man on low-nutrient, refined-carbohydrate, vegetable and trans fat laden fare with a vast array of other complications.  

    Kitavans for example ate 69% of their food as unrefined carbohydrate, most of it as starch, yet the average fasting glucose is less than 70 mg/dl with zero documented cases of hyperglycemia or type 2 diabetes...


  • Dr. William Davis

    7/15/2010 10:10:58 PM |

    I have yet to meet a wheat product I liked.

    In my experience, they ALL increase blood sugar to one extravagant degree or another.

    Wheat also triggers inflammatory phenomenon more than any other food known. Celiac disease just one manifestation of wheat-triggered diseases.

  • Dr. William Davis

    7/15/2010 10:13:55 PM |

    Hi, Jenny--

    I agree wholeheartedly.

    We do the exact same thing as you: Count carbohydrate grams or check 1-hour postprandial glucoses. Works far better than the misleading glycemic index or glycemic load.

  • Anne

    7/15/2010 10:54:28 PM |

    After going gluten free I quickly discovered I felt better if I avoided all grains. I became very serious about eliminating grains after I found they all raised my blood glucose even if I ate them with fat and protein. I am now on a fairly simple primal-like diet.

    I run a support group for gluten intolerance and I tell people that the gluten free diet can be a healthy or as unhealthy as they want to make it. Sadly, many people who go gluten free don't want to change their diet other than to substitute gluten free products for their favorite wheat products. The market for gluten free foods has exploded and still growing. The most recent addition is Gluten Free Bisquick.

  • Lori Miller

    7/16/2010 12:42:56 AM |

    When I cut out wheat in January, my appetite ratcheted down and my bloating went away. That's reason enough for me to leave wheat alone.

    Since I cut way down on carbs in late February (probably less than 50g per day), a lot of aches and pains suddenly disappeared. The one in my left shoulder returns if I eat quite a bit of carb. For me, at least, it's carbs in general that seem to be inflammatory.

  • Lori Miller

    7/16/2010 12:51:06 AM |

    Jenny said, "Count the non-fiber carbs in your food, rather than the glycemic index values and you'll get a MUCH better idea of what impact foods will have on your health."

    This is what my mother and I have been doing for the past few months since we went low-carb. It's worked for us. (She's diabetic and I'm prone to acid reflux, so non-fiber carbs give us a smackdown very quickly if we eat too many of them.) It's easy, too, since it just involves looking at a label and doing a bit of subtraction. I never quite understood how the index worked--maybe because it doesn't?

  • Lori Miller

    7/16/2010 1:41:39 AM |

    For a thickener, I use xanthan gum. All the carbs in it are fiber. It's expensive, but a little goes a long way. I use half a teaspoon to thicken my protein/peanut butter shake, which is around 12 ounces.

  • julianne

    7/16/2010 3:20:33 AM |

    I have followed a low Glycemic load diet (always with protein and moderate carbs at each meal, plus a little good fat) in two different ways, for 12 years I used small amounts of grains including wheat (Zone Diet). 14 months ago I removed grains and legumes (but kept to Zone ratio as it works well for me) after reading this outstanding paper by Loren Cordain.
    "Cereal Grains: Humanities double edged sword"

    The difference was amazing - no more PMS breast pain, no more menstrual cramps, no more joint swelling, some fat loss, ganglion cyst that I'd had for 10 years shrank, no more constipation, all I can say is: try it - grain free is a cut above managing glycemic load with grains.
    Even fruit and it's fructose content is fine in moderate amounts (2 -3 serves day)

  • Anonymous

    7/16/2010 3:58:51 AM |

    I have celiac and type II diabetes, the fastest way to get my blood sugar in the danger zone is to eat "gluten-free" foods.  1/2 of a gluten free 6 inch pizza on a recent camping trip when we stopped in town for lunch sent me over 200. The only answer is to stick with real food, and skip anything with tapioca starch!

  • Bilal Shanti

    7/16/2010 10:18:01 AM |

    For people who respond well to low-carb diets, it’s important to sort out the nutritional value of a food from its affect on blood sugar. For someone who is (take your pick as they mean similar things): sensitive to sugar, prediabetic, Type 2 diabetic, insulin resistant, or has metabolic syndrome, keeping blood glucose stable is an important priority for health. In that way, it’s not much different from any condition that is treated by diet tradeoffs must be made. Someone who is allergic to wheat, for example, can still eat a balanced, healthy diet without harming their body. So can someone who strives for stable, normal levels of blood sugar.

    My Social Bookmarks: Bilal Shanti Facebook, Dr. Bilal Shanti Wordpress, Bilal Shanti MD Vitals, Dr. Bilal Shanti MD SiliconIndia, Bilal Shanti 123people, Bilal Shanti MD LinkedIn

  • Food, flora and felines

    7/16/2010 1:36:51 PM |

    @ Peter: Maybe it's the letcins? I came across a bit on how lectins may promote obesity (and so metabolic syndrome) in the whole food health source recently;



  • DrStrange

    7/16/2010 3:50:39 PM |

    anonymous: "The only answer is to stick with real food...!"


  • help to stop smoking

    7/16/2010 6:22:54 PM |

    For most people, this is just interesting, albeit, a little confusing. It is for me anyway. I don't pay attention to anything I eat, except I try to avoid desserts (when possible).

    I'm curious, are there simple guidelines for those who are gluten intolerant or have similar food "issues". Also, don't most people who "feel" they are gluten allergic, not?

    I read somewhere that it takes an endoscopic biopsy to officially diagnosis someone as gluten intolerant? For instance, a family member thinks she is because she thinks bread gives her gas. Weird, huh? Last time I checked, EVERYTHING gave her gas! Smile

    But apparently the internet has many sites just waiting to fill her head with crazy ideas.

  • Dr. William Davis

    7/16/2010 6:42:37 PM |

    Hi, Help to stop--

    My personal view is that all humans should stop consuming wheat. There is more to wheat intolerance than celiac disease, the conventionally accepted health problem provoked by wheat gluten.

    But there are so many other expressions of wheat intolerance that are rarely diagnosed, from childhood behavioral disorders to unexplained ataxias (imbalances due to neurologic deterioration) to peripheral neuropathies to diabetes to heart disease . . . and the list goes on and on.

    The difficult thing is that the majority of these people with non-celiac wheat intolerances test negative for celiac markers like anti-endomysial antibodies and anti-gliadin IgG.

  • Anonymous

    7/16/2010 10:24:18 PM |

    As I understand it the glycemic index was set using only slender healthy college age men, hardly a model for me!

  • Lori Miller

    7/17/2010 12:22:13 AM |

    @Help to Stop, according to Norm Robillard, a microbiologist, carbohydrates produce gas in the digestive tract. Fat and protein, not so much. In my case, wheat--especially whole wheat--made me so bloated I looked like I was pregnant. (Look up "wheat belly" on this site.) Since cutting out almost all the starchy, sugary carbs, I no longer have this problem. I recommend your family member with the gas problem try a low carb diet and avoid dairy products.

  • Pallav

    7/17/2010 4:50:20 PM |

    Dr. Davis.

    "wheat is not for human consumption"
    knock knock! anyone home?
    cooking styles? perhaps?
    Hydrolysis and depolymerization of gluten proteins during sourdough fermentation
    Sourdough Bread Made from Wheat and Nontoxic Flours and Started with Selected Lactobacilli Is Tolerated in Celiac Sprue Patients http://aem.asm.org/cgi/content/abstract/70/2/1088
    Potential of sourdough for healthier cereal products http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6VHY-4F6CRDT-2&_user=10&_coverDate=03%2F31%2F2005&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1403383360&_rerunOrigin=scholar.google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=c744a61e5abbed1ed60c4a079ff39fb5.
    Prolonged Fermentation of Whole Wheat Sourdough Reduces Phytate Level and Increases Soluble Magnesium http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf001255z
    Phytase activity in sourdough lactic acid bacteria: purification and characterization of a phytase from Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis  CB1
    Moderate Decrease of pH by Sourdough Fermentation Is Sufficient To Reduce Phytate Content of Whole Wheat Flour through Endogenous Phytase Activity http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf049193q

    i'm curious why wheat is still unsuitable after neutralizing gluten and phytic acid?

    kindly explain the science dr. davis!

  • TomF

    7/17/2010 9:23:30 PM |

    Can you successfully build muscle mass on a grain free/low-carb diet?  I am eating to gain weight, but I'm concerned my diet is not optimal (i.e. heavy in carbs).  However, I'm afraid that if I drop the carbs down I could end up doing myself a disservice in terms of building muscle mass.

  • Lori Miller

    7/18/2010 1:41:41 PM |

    Tom F, I was a Body-for-Lifer for six years. For health reasons, I traded the low-fat, high carb diet for a high-fat, low-carb one. It took me a few weeks to get back the energy to sprint across the street, for example, but for ordinary, day-to-day stuff, I had more get-up-and-go.

    Recently, I started the Slow Burn program by Fred Hahn. It's a strength training program. Having done weightlifting for six years, I was fairly strong, but I've found these exercises very challenging--especially the one-legged squats. With the BFL exercises, I was at the limit of what my joints, not muscles, would take. With Slow Burn, the exercises are easier on your joints, so my muscles are getting more of a workout.

    A few people have written about the Slow Burn program: Dr. Michael Eades (he's a co-author of the book: http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/uncategorized/slow-burn-fitness-for-boomers/

    Tom Naughton: http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/2009/10/01/taking-the-6-week-cure-almost/

    and me (see comments too, Fred Hahn was kind enough to make some suggestions).

  • DrStrange

    7/18/2010 3:16:59 PM |

    "For health reasons, I traded the low-fat, high carb diet for a high-fat, low-carb one. It took me a few weeks to get back the energy to sprint across the street, for example, but for ordinary, day-to-day stuff, I had more get-up-and-go. "

    It's all about individual physiology and uniqueness.  I basically had the opposite reaction when I did this, going from moderate fat fairly high carb "health food "diet. After about 9 months on low carb (approx 30 grams/day total) high fat diet, I felt like I was dragging an anchor all day every day. Gradually worse as time passed. If I did even mild exercise ie Nordic Walking for a couple miles, I would be totally wasted to the point I would almost have to sleep for a couple hours then continue to feel exhausted for another 24 hours or so.  Finally got smart and went the other way first McDougall and got my energy back then "upgraded" to Fuhrman and finally stabilized blood sugar etc.

  • Dr. William Davis

    7/18/2010 4:47:52 PM |


    Please read the past posts in this blog.

    Wheat is not just about gluten, though gluten proteins are indeed a major part of the adverse reaction to wheat.

    We also have neurologic phenomena attributable to wheat, only some of which may be gluten-mediated. We have amylopectin A, among the most highly digestible starches known, accounting for wheat ability to increase blood sugar more than just about all other carbohydrates.

  • rmarie

    7/19/2010 3:50:35 AM |

    @ Dr. Strange
    We know each other from the McDougall forum. I left, because I couldn't take the constant hunger any more, even though I ate practically all day long. I lost so much weight that my BMI was down to 17.5. I did McD for almost 1 1/2 years. At the end I weighed 3 pounds less than when I was 17 - which was 50 years ago!

    (note to others, I'm 4'11" started McDougall weighing 93 lbs and within 3 months was down to 88 and then actually went down to 85lbs. That's when I said 'no more' and went over to the low(er) carb community (60-80g).

    Unlike most people I have never had any aches or pains, joint problems or digestive problems in my life.
    And I've always been very active with lots of energy both with low-fat/high carb or low-carb/high fat. I see no difference except that I can now often go 3-4 hours between meals before I get hungry.

    But I did not adopt the american way of eating (junkfood and sodas) after coming here from Europe. I started McDougall starch based diet because of its promise to lower blood sugar (he does have many success stories, helped change people's lives in more than 30 years and offers many well researched science based articles to support his position). It is so confusing when each side is certain they have the answer WITH STUDIES TO PROVE IT.

    I have been pre-diabetic for at least 10 years that I know of. Doc never said much because the cut off number was 126 and I was well below that.

    Low-fat, high carb surprisingly did not change my BS much either way. I certainly did NOT have the reaction Dr. Davis talks about.

    Everyone reacts differently (maybe there is something to the metabolic typing after all?

  • Pallav

    7/19/2010 9:05:31 AM |

    Dr davis

    Thanks for your reply. what wheat contains is probably not entirely known, ill give it to you because of the clinical results coming through but wheats culpibility in the crime is quite interesting and certainly whether some component of wheat is responsible for the results you are observing or whether it is just a matter of preparation would certainly call for further investigation.

  • JTownsend

    7/21/2010 10:07:28 PM |

    Inspired by the good doctor I have essentially eliminated all grains from my diet, particularily wheat, with positive results. But I must admit that I do still enjoy a cold beer and am loath to
    forsake this one precious pleasure. Where does beer fit in I wonder? It is a grain product I guess just like bread or cereal. So is it on the banned list for cardiac health?

  • Anonymous

    7/23/2010 3:41:22 PM |

    Is there a safe sandwich bread out there in most local stores?  I eat sandwiches most every day and I'm trying to figure out how to follow your advice re wheat.

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    8/26/2010 4:23:10 PM |

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