Does wheat make us fat and sick?

19 January 2014

Researchers responsible for a new study have concluded that the idea that wheat causes obesity or sickness is misguided.

The new study published in the Journal of Cereal Science by a team from Maastricht University in the Netherlands and the Crop Science group of Rothamsted Research UK set out to dispel myths about wheat consumption, caused they said, by non-peer reviewed publications.

The study concluded that no data justifies a negative opinion about whole-wheat products in a healthy population, based on a review of peer-reviewed, controlled scientific studies.

According to the researchers earlier debates on fat, high fructose syrup and added sugar in the aetiology of obesity had now turned to a suggestion that wheat consumption is also a cause. This idea was based on wheat consumption having adverse effects on health due to addiction and overeating.

The researchers argued that the cause of obesity cannot be specific to one type of food, while ignoring overconsumption and inactive lifestyles. They also showed that an increase in wheat sales has a parallel with an increase in obesity, but so too does an increase in the sales of cars, mobile phones and sports shoes with the average speed of winners in the Tour de France.

Included in their article the researchers stated that “Hard data about adverse effects of wheat, consumed in baked, extruded, and other processed foods, are not available, and there are no grounds to advise the general public not to consume this common dietary staple,”

Five recent scientific reviews were referenced that concluded the consumption of whole grains exerts positive effects on health. “Foods containing whole-wheat, which have been prepared in customary ways (such as baked or extruded), and eaten in recommended amounts, have been associated with significant reductions in risks for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and a more favorable long term weight management.”

The researchers did recommend that one consumer group avoid wheat products and other products containing gluten (rye, barley) - consumers with gluten sensitivity or a genetic predisposition for developing celiac disease. They suggested it is the job of industry to develop foods that these consumers can enjoy based on crops not containing gluten, for example, amaranth, oat, quinoa, and chia.


Source: Journal of Cereal Science
Published September 2013, Volume 58, Issue 2, pages 209-215. Doi: 10.1016/j.jcs.2013.06.002
“Does wheat make us fat and sick?”
Authors: FJPH. Brouns, VJ. Van Buul and PR. Shewry