New Study Vindicates William Davis: Modern Wheat is more Toxic than Ancient Varieties

Last Updated on May 25, 2019 by Afifah Hamilton
Read Time: 2 min

Scoop: trial demonstrates that ancient wheat reduces symptoms of IBS compared to modern varieties

In his New York Times bestseller, Wheat Belly, cardiologist William Davies claimed that wheat is the primary driver of obesity, heart disease and a host of other metabolic and digestive problems. His controversial claim is based largely on his clinical experience, the story of which is truly remarkable: since he started advising his cardiac patients to cut all forms of wheat and wheat products from their diets, he has not had a single patient suffer a heart attack!

Cardiologist William Davis claims that modern wheat varieties are significantly different to their ancient counterparts and contribute to a host of modern diseases

Critics of Davis’ anti-wheat stance, suggest that any benefits from a wheat-free diet are simply those associated with a low-carb diet, and that outside coeliac disease, wheat itself is no more problematic than any other carbohydrate. Controversially, Davies claims that wheat has been altered through centuries of selective breeding, such that modern wheat varieties are now effectively ‘toxic’ to humans. This has brought ridicule from many scientists as conventional plant breeding is assumed to be entirely safe, and critics point out that selective breeding has been going on since the dawn of agriculture.

Amazingly, a study published this month in the British Journal of Nutrition has put Davis’ theory to the test, by giving twenty sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) either modern wheat products (bread, pasta, biscuits and crackers etc) or identical products made from an ancient variety. The results were clear-cut: whilst on the modern wheat diet no improvement in symptoms occurred, but participants on the ancient-wheat diet experienced a very significant decrease in symptoms, including less abdominal pain, distension, bloating, tiredness and improved quality of life. Also, at the end of the ancient wheat diet, but not the modern wheat diet, multiple markers of inflammation were reduced, including vascular endothelial growth factor – implicated in cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetic retinopathy.

– William Davis: High Five!

The strengths of this study were that it was a randomised, double-blind crossover trial – the gold standard when trying to identify cause, not just correlation. Also, the differences in subjective assessment of symptoms between the two dietary phases were very distinct, ranging from P<.004 to P<.0001. i.e. the probability of these results being due random chance is as small as one in ten thousand! (Drug efficacy only needs a P<.05 – which is just one in twenty)

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27 thoughts on “New Study Vindicates William Davis: Modern Wheat is more Toxic than Ancient Varieties”

      • Thanks for the comment Mark, however, millet is not a wheat variety at all, but belongs to a different grass tribe all together, with its own nutritional issues. Although millet is considered a gluten free alternative to wheat, as it often well tolerated in coeliac disease, it contains high levels of goitrogens and antithyroid agents, which are not neutralised by cooking, e.g. Gaiten 1989, 1995, Sartelet 1996

    • Hi Jan, I don’t suggest anyone eat any cereal grain, however ancient it is, as none of them are appropriate for humans and have caused any number of problems in our species since we began eating them. The article on my blog is just to help people see that modern hybridised wheat is definitely different, very different, from those early forms, and a serious trouble maker in vast numbers of people today. The rise in auto-immune diseases is laid at the door of modern wheat by some authors, and they certainly have evidence to support this belief. Thanks for reading and commenting on the blog. I hope you find it a useful site to visit, as we will continue to add more and more articles of importance.

    • Hi Aida, yes, spelt is an ancient wheat strain, and although some people with IBS do find it less troublesome others continue to have problems and inflammation in their gut when they eat it. I tend to recommend that people come off all these grains if they want to restore gut health. Yes it means you have to be a bit more thoughtful about what you eat (no more grab and run lunches) but when the gut is allowed to fully heal many many conditions i.e. not just those felt in the gut, can improve or even vanish entirely. All cereal grains however ancient are ‘new’ to our genes. They date back millions of years, and grains only around 10,000 years, i.e. a small proportion of the time since we humans arose on earth, and our genetic make up has struggled to adjust to cereal grains of all sort, with many many people finding that actually they are far better off with none in their diets at all. You might be one of them. Why not give it a try?

  1. I suffered with acid reflux for years, it seemed to have gotten to be a daily occurrence. I was aware that pizza dough and pie pastry seemed to trigger a heavy dose of it. I had always believed breakfast cereal, bread and whole grain bread was an essential part of a healthy diet and therefore could not be responsible. I assumed instead the acid reflux must be caused by something else like an additive or some fat or oil element somewhere else in my diet or maybe too much stress or just another one of those illnesses people get as they get older that we have pills for today. Since plenty of other people I knew also seemed to complain about acid reflux and big bottles of Rolaids and Prevacids were readily on hand I just kept living with the problem.
    Then one day my wife said she would like to try cutting out bread and cereal and having more protein to try lose some weight, I said OK let’s try it. I was absolutely shocked to notice that within a week or so of cutting out these flour products the acid reflux began to go away. Since then I have been avoiding flour in my diet and feel better in many ways and I have not bought any rolaids in quite a while.

    • There is nothing like direct experience is there Phil? You know for yourself that cereal grains were causing you trouble, and stopping eating them has done you the world of good. In fact everyone is better off without cereal grains. Humans cannot digest some of the proteins in them, and they can cause a huge range of negative effects, the vast majority of which are never pinned down to the real cause. I mean, who would have thought that schizophrenia could be cured by ceasing to eat cereal grains? Or that eczema could resolve when this simple change of diet habit was put in place? Only a tiny proportion of doctors would ever even consider it, so what hope is there for most people? Thank goodness for the internet and the ability to find things out for oneself. Grains can effect absolutely any organ of the body negatively, from the bones (osteoporosis) the joints (arthritis) the glands (thyroid disease) the lymphatic system (lymphoma) the blood (leukaemia) the skin (dermatitis herpetiformis) the brain’s balance system (gluten ataxia) the mental state (brain fog, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia and migraine to name but a few) kidney disease, lungs (COPD) the heart (William Davis is a cardiologist, read what he has to say in Wheat Belly about the heart), the liver, the spleen, the acoustic nerve (deafness) and the reproductive organs (infertility), oh yes, and the gut, from mouth to anus. Why would anyone eat this stuff!?
      Well done you, you are free of it, and I bet your wife lost the excess weight she hoped to shift too. Keep at it and spread the word.

  2. Modern wheat may very well be toxic but it’s less about hybrid varieties and more about the elimination of basic processes that were developed with the onset of agriculture. All traditional and ancient cultures ate grains but they knew that grain needs to be prepared for digestion thru either sprouting or fermentation (leaven) and this has been the standard right up to the industrialization of wheat and bread. Ancient cultures fermented grain for bread and for alcohol. The studies the blogger cites here look only at industrial “bread like” products rather than the sourdough breads humans have been successfully living on for well over 10,000 years. Sourdough breads are rarely considered in these studies. Sprouted grain breads, less so. And it’s a tragic oversight of what real bread is all about. Wheat, when properly grown for nutrient value and prepared for digestion thru sprouting and or fermentation is imminently healthy, hearty, delicious and probably your best single choice for optimum personal health and health of the planet. I would also make the argument that had homo-sapiens not discovered that grain could be stored, planted and harvested, we would have gone the way of every other proto-homonid that once walked the planet and have since disappeared. And it’s not that paleo’s did not eat grain – they absolutely ate grain. They just didn’t have the success or wherewithal to plant and harvest it.

    • Goeie dag, ek bly nog steeds onseker nadat ek baie hier gelees het oor wheat. Ek wil baie graag weet of wheat sleg is vir ons gesondheid. Ons eet Bokomo Weet-Bix en wil baie graag weet of ons dit liewer nie meer moet eet nie.

      • I had Google translate your comment Amanda and, though I am sure it is not a great translation, I think you are wondering if you should or should not eat Weet Bix. I suggest that this is not a good food for you, or anyone, as it is probably made of wheat, and probably non-organic wheat at that! Therefore you should probably find better foods to eat for, say, breakfast, such as eggs! Please read my three-part article on ‘why no one should eat cereal grains’ and you will probably get the idea. I don’t know how well Goodgle ‘translate’ will do with them, but it’s worth a try.

  3. May want to read the original paper.

    Literally only 20 people in this study. Doesn’t mean much.

    They clearly state further and larger studies are required before it can even be be confirmed…

    • Sure. I have read the original, and yes it is a small study. There have been at least a couple of others since, one in IBS patients if I recall, and one on gut permeability. Several small studies coming at it from different angles add weight. The evidence for the damaging effects of wheat per se, are overwhelming, and in the case of patients seen at the clinic, many need to remove all wheat, gluten and often most or all other grains before their diseases go into remission.

  4. My theory is the problem is not the “modern” wheat, but rather the lab created folic acid in enriched flour which blocks natural folate receptors and the fact that many of us have the MTHFR gene mutation.

    • That is an interesting thought Kathy, though it could only apply in countries that ‘fortify’ wheat flour with folic acid. This is not done in Britain. Some ‘breakfast cereals’ do have this synthetic folate added, and yes, this can definitely cause trouble for those with MTHFR or other methylation gene ‘snips’, but I think it will prove to be just a part of a bigger picture. The increase in Amylase-Trypsin Inhibitors in wheat, due to breeding techniques of the past decades, along with the use of glyphosate on wheat prior to harvesting also explain some of the rise in reactions to wheat and other cereal grains. This site discusses the ATI matter:

  5. Denise Minger analysed the data from the China Study and found that the highest correlation with heart disease was with wheat which was surprising because the authors never mentioned it themselves

    • You are entirely right, of course, Smartersig. I have shown Denise Minger’s work many times and it really is extremely striking that, of all the possible correlations between the many different foods, and lifestyle factors, that were taken into account in the vast data sets collected by Colin Campbell for the China Study research, which included smoking, and income in general, the stand out factor that correlated fully with rates of heart disease was wheat consumption.
      Nice to see you have found my blog. I think you will enjoy reading the many articles here. I look forward to receiving your comments.


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