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WBB: Wheat, Graham crackers, and lust

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Posted: 7/7/2015 12:00:00 PM
Edited: 5/21/2022 10:50:23 AM (2)

Originally posted by Dr. Davis on 2015-07-07
on the Wheat Belly Blog, sourced from and currently found at: Infinite Health Blog.
PCM forum Index of WB Blog articles.

Wheat, Graham crackers, and lust

title page of a Graham’s lecture

Wheat and grains, having been incorporated into the human dietary menu 10,000 years ago, is the subject of many trials, tribulations, and misadventures along the course of human life. Looking back with our enlightened view of diet, recognizing the enormous blunder we made as humans by incorporating such grasses as food, or at least the compromises we struck in order to fend off starvation, make for some entertaining stories. Here is an interesting piece of wheat history from the 19th century, a perfect example of the mix of truth and fiction that characterizes thinking about grains that continues even today.

Mr. Sylvester Graham, a Presbyterian minister from Connecticut, promoted the philosophy that bread should be made from unrefined flours without additives such as bleaching agents. Some of his early ideas were articulated in his 1837 book, Treatise on Bread, and Bread-Making (graphic above with full text posted by Google here.)

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 8.07.23 AM
Thousands in civic life will, for years, and perhaps as long as they live, eat the most miserable trash that can be imagined, in the form of bread, and never seem to think that they can possibly have anything better, not even that it is an evil to eat such vile stuff as they do.” From Treatise on Bread, and Bread-Making

He advocated wearing loose-fitting clothing, taking frequent cold baths, was a student of phrenology (the practice of discerning character from the shape of the head), and promoted a diet of breads prepared by the Graham philosophy. He believed that many social evils of the first half of the 19th century got their root from excessive sexual urges, too frequent sexual intercourse, and masturbation, and urged the public to consume more of his unrefined Graham bread and crackers to subdue these urges. Such breads and crackers, bland and unsweetened unlike the modern sugared, mass-produced version sold today, became a dietary staple for many of Graham’s followers.

From what we now know, this was an impressive example of nutritional prescience. Mr. Graham was ahead of his time, recognizing the hormone-disrupting effects of wheat 150 years ago. We now know that eating plenty of grains (though “coarse” is now known to be every bit as bad as finely-ground or white and bleached) does indeed result in a range of hormonal effects that include:

  • Expansion of visceral fat that overexpresses the aromatase enzyme responsible for converting testosterone to estrogen.
  • Impaired libido in males and females due to lower testosterone, higher estrogen levels
  • Growth of breasts in both males and females–This causes man breasts in males, increased breast cancer risk in females. In addition to the visceral fat aromatase effect, this is worsened by the A5 pentapeptide derived from the gliadin protein of wheat that stimulates pituitary gland release of prolactin that causes growth of breast tissue.
  • Exaggeration of the phenomena associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)–Such as increased mustache hair, higher testosterone levels, higher blood insulin and blood sugar, and infertility.

Hoping to subdue excessive sexual urges, Graham managed to identify an important aspect of this peculiar, endlessly fascinating, but health-impairing thing called wheat. Though he may have been wrong about lust lying at the base of all human problems, or the practice of discerning personality from features of the head, he was absolutely correct in advocating the consumption of foods made of wheat as a means of suppressing sexual urges.

Ironically, the graham crackers of today that still bear his name are far from being unrefined and the stuff of abstinence. Nonetheless, Graham’s insight subsequently served as the inspiration for a huge wheat and grain empire, as it was Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a disciple of Graham’s, who embraced both the perceived sanctity of grains, as well as the need to quell excessive sexual instincts in humans, and invented the anti-aphrodisiac of the 20th century: breakfast cereals.

D.D. Infinite Health icon