by Marion Nestle
Jan 17 2014

Is wheat bad for you? Not for most people.

As Food Navigator-USA puts it, “No, wheat does not make people fat and sick.”

Bread lover that I am, I consider recent research to be giving us good news.

Food Navigator is referring to a review of research on whole wheat and health just published in the Journal of Cereal Science of all places.  The authors conclude that unless you have celiac disease or wheat allergies, eating whole-wheat foods is good for you.

In fact, 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 favourable long term weight management. Nevertheless, individuals that have a genetic predisposition for developing celiac disease, or who are sensitive or allergic to wheat proteins, will benefit from avoiding wheat and other cereals that contain proteins related to gluten, including primitive wheat species (einkorn, emmer, spelt) and varieties, rye and barley…Based on the available evidence, we conclude that whole-wheat consumption cannot be linked to increased prevalence of obesity in the general population.

The authors find little evidence in support of popular myths:

  • Proliferation of wheat products parallels obesity and is causally related.  No, it does not.
  • Wheat starch differs from starches in other foods in especially undesirable ways.  No, it does not.
  • Whole wheat bread has a higher glycemic index than sugar.  No, it does not.
  • Wheat contains opioids that make people addictive. No, they do not.

In the meantime, the FDA has been working on updating its 2006 guidance to industry about how to label statements about whole grains. The agency has been conducting research on how consumers judge:

  • Food products, including nutritional attributes, overall healthiness, and health benefits.
  • Labeling statements in terms of their credibility, helpfulness, and other attributes.
  • Terms and statements such as “Made with Whole Grain”, “Multi-Grain”, and “100% Whole Wheat.”
  • Whole grain statements beyond the scope of the statements themselves (i.e., halo effects).
  • How whole grain statements influence consumer use of the Nutrition Facts.

Can’t wait to see the results.  They ought to be out soon.

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  • The grains also contain phytic acid which could be
    antinutrient,also most of the grains contain gluten and most people who have
    gluten tolerance don’t even know that they have it 😉

  • My personal experience is that I fell better without certain types of grains,especially grains with gluten and because of that I avoid them as much I can 😉

  • Deborah Lynne Downs

    Did you bother to research what that was, or did you just assume from the title that you knew. Because so few do this, they rely more on how they feel about a subject based on what they want to hear and make judgments based on what they want to believe. Why not find out what it is and then read some of it…What you just did is the definition of being closed minded…

  • Deborah Lynne Downs

    The Journal of Cereal Science is a scholarly journal of peer reviewed studies and reseach of all grains. Some of it is published on line.

  • Deborah Lynne Downs

    Do you ever consider that you might be wrong?…

  • Cloud Hobbit

    That’s where it was published, not who paid for the research. At least that was not indicated in the piece above. When information is paid for by people connected with a particular product or issue or whatever, it does not follow that they are the people doing the actual research. Usually, they hire a lab and the lab reports back. If the information is not accurate, then it will be revealed in peer review.

    If you have reliable, peer reviewed research that comes to different conclusions, why not post a link to that research.
    People who make food products have a self interest in seeing to it that their products are not going to kill you or make you sick.

    AFAIK there is no reliable data that shows any real benefit to the so called natural or organic diets. In fact, organic food is much less nutritious and will always be more expensive and usually not taste as good as food grown by (gasp) big Agra.

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  • Anthony Joseph Pace

    Lol, I’ve been eating ramen, wheat cereal, and pasta for years. I feel bad for people who actually undergo a negative health effect from including wheat in any form. I really cannot relate or see any issues with my health at all. Call me crazy, but I train athletically and eat everything. My blood pressure is immaculate, my resting heart rate is less than 60 bpm, and my energy levels are greater than my peers. I see no problem with wheat. I think most people know how to eat a balanced diet, some people just don’t get enough excersice or are genetically affected by certain lifestyle choices. Whatdyaknow.

  • Jose Israel Martinez

    I do not care if you are right or wrong, maybe you are or maybe you are not. All I REALLY know is that I do NOT have celiac disease but when I removed WHEAT from my diet it CHANGED my life to the better. I did not know what HEALTH was until I removed the stupid WHEAT from my life FOREVER!!!

    I ONLY WISH I HAD REMOVED WHEAT EARLIER IN MY LIFE. Now I can not undo the damage!!!


  • mopsie1

    This whole ridiculous notion that wheat and bread are evil is further evidence of how Americans are total lemmings. Whatever one famous person does trickles down and we get stupid things like the cabbage soup diet and this obsessive avoidance of bread. I know people at work who think they are being noble and healthful by giving up all wheat products yet still sit there and stuff their faces with bacon, sugar and all kinds of fats and then wonder why they don’t feel well. I’m thin and healthy- always have been- and don’t eat meat. I do eat bread and pasta pretty much every day- white and wheat-I feel great. But I choose quality products with few ingredients. Just because some people have genuine allergies does not mean that everyone should be against gluten.

  • mopsie1

    No, organic food is not “much less nutritious”– it’s just not any more nutritious than the non-organic version. But no one who is buying organics ever argued that it was more nutritious. Those of us who eat organic just feel it is more natural, which it is.

  • mopsie1

    Why do you have to be so combative about this? MILLIONS of people throughout history have consumed bread. Yes, the argument that today’s commercially processed breads are less nutritious and desirable is totally valid. However, this whole argument that white is bad (i.e., white rice, white wheat, etc.) is just stupid. I’m sorry but even though I’m not a scientist, I know my own history. I know my family history. We are not fat. We are not diseased. And we eat bread. I, in particular, have always been thin and I do eat bread and pasta every day. Let me tell you what did make me ill- eating meat. Eating soy. Eating the copious amounts of fat, salt and sugar that is so prevalent in the American diet. You have to read labels and you have to be vigilant. I predominantly eat fruits and vegetables and breads. Animal fats in moderation are probably good, too, although I am against killing. GMOs cause problems, as do pesticides and additives. I realize that this country has a problem in that most poor people do not have access to the foods that are not contaminated. Shame on the FDA. But those of us who do have a choice, should exercise it instead of creating false panics about bread. It’s totally your choice to not eat it but to argue that it’s been bad for every one is just wrong.

  • mopsie1

    Are you kidding? “Power has always been concentrated in the hands of protein eaters.” Like who? Donald Trump?

  • mopsie1


  • mopsie1

    How does he know what was in ancient bread?

  • mopsie1

    Such as?

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  • fnafaz

    Very interesting blog. Alot of blogs I see these days don’t really provide anything that I’m interested in, but I’m most definately interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know.

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