Book Review: Wheat Belly

Wheat Belly
By William Davis, MD
Rodale (2011)
Reviewed by Holly R. Layer, RD


Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist who says he has put more than 2,000 of his patients on wheat-free diets, calls wheat ‘nutritionally bankrupt’ and claims it is the cause (or at least connected to) of weight gain, fat build-up, diabetes, as well as rheumatoid arthritis and dementia. Additionally, Davis says the wheat we eat today is the ‘transformed product of genetic research’ and that the weight we’ve gained as a society due to our wheat intake ‘isn’t our fault.’

Synopsis of Diet Plan:

Davis’ only ‘diet plan’ is that one should remove all wheat from their diet, but does not offer many suggestions on how to replace the absence of traditional wheat products in the diet. Only one chapter discusses ‘life after wheat,’ yet most of that is still focused on the consequences of having wheat in the diet and wheat ‘withdrawl;’ there are only 15 pages dedicated to what dieters CAN eat and a weeklong sample meal plan.

Instead, he spends much of the book vilifying wheat, and the genetic gymnastics that have changed the wheat from Bible times to the wheat we have today. He begins the book discussing einkorn and emmer wheat thousands of years before Christ, to its journey to the New World with Christopher Columbus and eventually its hybridization in the last 50 years. It is this hybridization, or genetic modification, in order to increase crop yields that Davis blames for our society’s health issues. All nine chapters in Part 2 of the book tie wheat to ailments such as insulin resistance, aging issues, heart disease and even skin problems.

Nutritional Pros and Cons:

Eliminating wheat from one’s diet will, inherently, create a calorie deficit if replaced with healthy options, like fruits and vegetables. In fact, Davis does mention the decrease in calories and offers eating larger portions of salads or vegetables as ways to make up for the lost calories. Those needing to lose weight may benefit from this decrease in calories. Additionally, much of what’s labeled as ‘junk food’ is made of or with wheat, and therefore eliminating those items can only have a beneficial effect on overall heat.

Davis does address, albeit briefly, that wheat is a source of fiber and B vitamins in the diet, and quickly points out that fruits, vegetables and nuts provide as much or more of those nutrients. While true, it’s questionable whether dieters who used to rely heavily on ‘fortified’ wheat products would include enough variety of those healthier options in their diets.

Bottom Line:

Yes, the wheat we eat today is different that the wheat people ate thousands of years ago. Yes, our society is dealing with myriad health issues, many of which can be improved with diet. However, is it really fair, or accurate, to place all the blame on wheat? Perhaps more blame should rest on the proliferation of processed junk food made with wheat instead. Eliminating wheat entirely is too restrictive for most dieters; in fact, the only true followers may be Davis himself and those with a wheat allergy.

The book contains 25 pages of recipes in Appendix B.

See also:

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