“Oh, beautiful for spacious skies for amber waves of grain.” We have all sung those words and felt pride in our beautiful country. But when was the last time, if ever, you saw ‘amber waves of grain’? In 1893 when Katherine Lee Bates wrote the words for America the Beautiful, four foot high amber waves of grain were seen all over America. But today those four foot tall wheat stalks are no longer seen. The story of what happened to America’s Amber waves of grain is intriguing.
In 1943 the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (IMWIC) met in a location east of Mexico City at the foot of the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains. In collaberation with the Rockerfeller Foundation, the Mexican government intended to help Mexico achieve agricultural self-sufficiency. This effort grew into an impressive worldwide effort to increase the yield of corn, soy and wheat with the goal of reducing world hunger. Mexico proved to be the ideal location for such a project as the climate allows two growing periods per year. This shortened the time required for hybridizing in half as compared to other locations. The United States produced enough crops to meet demand, but many other nations worldwide were unable to feed their populations, resulting in widespread hunger.
The IMWIC found that when they treated wheat fields with large quantities of nitrogen-rich fertilizer, it produced huge seed heads which caused the wheat stalks to buckle under the weight. Buckling killed the plants and made harvesting difficult. Geneticist Norman Borlaug, a University of Minnesota graduate, working at the IMWIC developed an exceptionally high-yielding dwarf wheat that was shorter and stockier allowing the wheat to remain erect and resistant to buckling. This wheat matures more quickly which means a shorter growing season with less fertilizer used.
Dr. Borlaug earned the title of “Father of the Green Revolution” in the agricultural community. He also recieved the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal as well as the Nobel Peace Prize. His high-yield dwarf wheat did help solve world hunger. The wheat crop in China increased eightfold from 1961 to 1999.
By 1980 the efforts of IMWIC had produced thousands of new strains of wheat. The most high-yielding, desease resistant strains of wheat have since been adopted worldwide. Today dwarf and semi-dwarf wheat comprises more than 99 persent of all wheat grown worldwide.
In his book, Loose the Wheat, Loose the Weight, Dr. William Davis, MD writes; “The peculiar oversight in the flurry of breeding activity, such as that conducted at IMWIC, was that, despite dramatic changes in the genetic makeup of wheat and other crops, no animal or human safety testing was conducted on the new genetic strains that were created. So intent were the efforts to increase yield, so confident were plant geneticists that hybridation yielded safe products for human consumption, so urgent was the cause of world hunger, that these products of agricultural research were released into the food supply without human safety concerns being part of the equation.
It was simply assumed that because hybridization and breeding efforts yielded plants that remained essentially “wheat”, new strains would be perfectly well tolerated by the comsuming public. Agricultural scientists, in fact, scoff at the idea that hybridization has the potential to generate hybrids that are unhealthy for humans. After all, hybridization techniques have been used albiet in cruder form, in crops, animals, even humans for centuries. Take two varieties of tomatoes, you still get tomatoes, right? What’s the problem? The question of animal or human safety testing is never raised. With wheat, it was likewise assumed that variations in gluten and structure, and modifications of other enzymes and proteins, the qualities that confer susceptibility or resistance to various plant diseases, would all make their way to humans without consequence.”
However, research findings of agricultural geneticists show these assumptions may be unfounded and just plain wrong. This new wheat flour is not the flour your grandmother used to make her delicious muffins. Below are some of the findings about the difference in grandmother’s wheat and the wheat now sold on your grocer’s shelves.
This new wheat is a supercarbohydrate. The modern Cinnabon, French crullers or Duncan Donuts were not possible with your grandmother’s flour. The new flour is 70% carbohydrate by weight with protein comprising only 10 to 15%. The remaining weight is fat. Grandmothers’ flour contained 28% more protein.
In 1981 a University of Toronto study launched the Glycemic Index. This index shows the blood sugar effects of carbohydrates. The higher the blood sugar after consuming a specific food the higher the Glycemic Index or GI. The GI is especially important for diabetics in determining which foods to eat to keep their blood sugar levels under control. This study showed that the GI content of white bread was 67, while the whole grain bread was 72. Table sugar was only 59. The GI of whole grain is HIGHER that sucrose! And the GI of a Mars bar – nougat, chocolate, sugar, caramel, and all is 68 and a Snickers bar is 41!
The GI shows that wheat products whether white or whole grain elevate blood sugar more than any other carbohydrate from beans to candy bars. Yet the USDA still recommends eating more “healthy” whole grains. To quote from Dr. Wm. Davis’: “Studies conducted during the eighties and since have shown that, when processed white flour products are replaced with whole grain flour products, there is a reduction in colon cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. That is indeed true and indisputable. According to accepted dietary wisdom, if something that is bad for you (white flour) is replaced by something less bad (whole wheat), then lots of that less-bad thing must be great for you. By that logic, if high-tar cigarettes are bad for you and low-tar cigarettes are less bad, then lots of low-tar cigarettes should be good for you. An imperfect analogy, perhaps, but it illustrates the flawed rationale used to justify the proliferation of grains in our diet. Throw into the mix the fact that wheat has undergone extensive agricultural genetics-engineered changes , and you have devised the formula for creating a nation of fat people.”
Because this new flour is so readilly converted into sugar in the blood stream a blood sugar high lasting about 120 minutes is experienced after consumption. The problem is the high is followed by the low of the glucose drop. This surge and drop creates a roller coaster ride of satiety and hunger that repeats itself through the day. The higher the blood glucose after consumption of food, the greater the insulin level and the more fat is stored in the body.
One of the worst problems with this new wheat is the gluten. While only 10 to 15% of the wheat is protein, 80% of that protein is gluten. Gluten is the part of wheat that transforms dough into bagels, pizza and bread. Without the gluten yeast would not have the ability to raise the dough. Hybridization efforts of the past fifty years have generated numerous changes in gluten-coding genes, mostly powerful modifications of the D genome that confer baking and aesthetic characteristics on flour. These genes located in the D genome are those most frequently pinpointed as the source of glutens that trigger celiac desease. It is important to know that changes in the characteristics of gluten by plant geneticists are responsible for many of the odd health phenomena experienced by consuming humans.
This new wheat gluten when broken down by the enzymes and acid found in the stomach is degraded to a mix of polypeptides. These polypeptides share the same effects as opiates in their ability to cross through the blood-brain barrier. The brain is highly sensitive to the wide variety of substances that gain entry to the blood. The blood-brain barrier protects the brain from undesirable effects of these substances. Once wheat polypeptides gain entry to the brain. they bind to the brain’s morphine receptor, the same receptor to which opiate drugs bind.
Dr. William Davis writes: “So this is your brain on wheat; digestion yields morphine-like compounds that bind to the brain’s opiate receptors. It induces a form of reward, a mild euphoria. When the effect is blocked or no exorphin-yielding foods are consumed, some people experience a distinctly unpleasant withdrawal.” He went on further to say: “Wheat, in fact nearly stands alone as a food with potent central nervous system effects. Outside of intoxicants such as ethanol (like that in your favorite merlot or chardonnay), wheat is one of the few foods that can alter behavior, induce pleasurable effects, and generate a withdrawal syndrome upon its removal.” In effect, wheat is an appetite stimulant. It makes you want more cookies, and cupcakes, and more pretzels, candy, soft drinks, muffins, tacos, submarine sandwiches, pizza and on and on.
If we look at history it is easy to see that the ranks of overweight or obese Americans has excellerated, especially since the the 1960s. But the real upward trend began in the mid eighties. The rate of obesity has tripled over the past fifty years. The CDC now states 34% of adults are overweight and another 34% are obese leaving slightly less than one in three at a normal weight.
The cornerstone of all nutritional directives is “Eat more healthy whole grains.” Go into your local supermarket. You will see that vegetables, meats, dairy and fruit tend to be at the perimiter of an explosion of processed grain-based foods full of fructose corn syrup, wheat flour, cornstarch, sucrose and food coloring. Kraft alone now generates $48.1 billion in annual revenues an 1800% increase since the late 1980s. The situation for the food industry has been made even better by the US government’s glowing endorsement urging Americans to eat more “healthy whole grains.” All the while diabetes, celiac desease and obesity continue to grow.
I have barely scratched the surface of the information contained in Loose the Wheat, Loose the Weight. Dr. Davis’ book is fascinating. If you are in the two thirds of Americans who have a weight problem, his book offers some fascinating insights into what seems to be a big part of the problem. He offers case studies of many who have eliminated wheat and gluten from their diets with amazing results. In any case, Loose the Wheat, Loose the Weight is a book I highly recommend.
For now, Earlynn’s just sayin’; “It’s true, the wheat flour we are now eating is definitely not grandma’s flour.”
To order your copy of Earlynn’s book, Transformed, just click on the link aboveto order your copy. Thank you. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo!