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Wheat belly is a term that describes what is otherwise known as visceral fat. Who gets wheat belly? Well, certainly those who eat wheat.1 And what exactly is wheat belly? Wheat belly is another way of saying “beer belly,” or belly fat.
Can't get rid of that extra belly fat no matter how hard you try? The Body Ecology Core Program can help to calm inflammation, strengthen the gut, and address dangerous visceral fat known to cause "wheat belly."
Essentially, wheat belly is a special kind of fat tissue that wraps around the organs in the abdominal cavity, like the kidneys, the intestines, the liver… You get the idea. What makes this fat tissue so interesting is that wheat belly fat, or visceral fat, is an endocrine organ all on its own.
According to researchers from Florida's Sanford-Burnham Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes, belly fat is different from the fat you would find in other areas of the body, like thigh fat, because it's associated with a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. Researchers believe this difference is largely due to genetics — active belly fat genes behave differently than active thigh fat genes and may program fat cells to respond differently to hormones.2 Because of its specific location and function in the body (where it is often deposited in the liver), belly fat can be more harmful than obesity.3 Even thin people can carry this dangerous belly fat, or "skinny fat," that increases risk of disease.4
Wheat Belly Fat Releases Hormone Signals
A lot of science has done the work to show that visceral fat, the fat surrounding organs in the abdominal cavity, is very much like any other gland in the endocrine system:
- This means that visceral fat produces its own hormones and messages.
- Other organs that release hormone signals are glands such as the ovaries, testes, pancreas, the adrenals, and the pituitary gland in the brain.
- Visceral fat is not the same as subcutaneous fat, which sits just beneath the skin.
The messages and signals released from fat tissue are pathogenic — which means that many of the messages promote disease. So, not only is visceral fat cumbersome, it can also be life-threatening!
We now know that visceral fat:
- Controls signaling related to appetite.
- Generates insulin resistance, which is a prerequisite to type 2 diabetes.5,6
- Increases sensitivity to pain.7
- Inhibits muscle growth.8
- Releases pro-inflammatory messages.
What is interesting about pro-inflammatory messages that are produced by visceral fat is that they take part in what is known as a vicious cycle. In other words, inflammation that originates in visceral fat tells the body to make even more fat.9,10
There's no escaping the deleterious effects of visceral fat in any stage of life.
Children with bigger midsections have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease later in life.11 Abdominal fat in early pregnancy can be a predictor of gestational diabetes.12 The American Association for Cancer Research has found a direct link between visceral fat in adults and an increased risk of colon cancer, while a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society associated greater abdominal obesity in adults over 65, caused by drinking diet soda, with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome and heart disease.13,14
How Modern Wheat Differs from Traditional Wheat
As Dr. William Davis points out in his book Wheat Belly, the grain of our ancestors is not the same stuff that you will find on any supermarket shelf. Even specialty stores would be hard-pressed to carry anything made with the grain that commercial modern wheat originally came from.
He writes, "Modern wheat, despite all the genetic alterations to modify hundreds, if not thousands, of its genetically determined characteristics made its way to the worldwide human food supply with nary a question surrounding its suitability for human consumption. Because hybridization experiments did not require the documentation of animal or human testing, pinpointing where, when, and how the precise hybrids that might have amplified the ill effects of wheat is an impossible task."1
Dr. Davis explains that the wheat of today:
- Is actually a mixture of a grain called einkorn and wild grasses.
- Is the result of human hybridization, which in 50 years produced 25,000 varieties of wheat.
- Is nothing like the wheat that has been used historically.
What makes the wheat of today so doughy, elastic, and sturdy a crop are years of hybridization bent on increasing crop yield, cutting expenses, and resolving world hunger. It is important to note that today’s wheat is only sturdy when cultivated with fertilizer and under human supervision. In the wild, this wheat would not survive.15
In a 2014 British Journal of Nutrition study, researchers discovered that Dr. Davis' assessment of modern wheat holds water: Study participants with IBS who ate ancient (un-hybridized) wheat compared to modern wheat saw a significant improvement in digestive symptoms and quality of life.16 For the best digestive support, Dr. Davis still recommends avoiding grains altogether since they were never intended for human consumption. Body Ecology grain-like seeds are an ideal alternative to nourish the body, especially when soaked and sprouted before eating.
The Wheat Belly Conclusion
It's important to get the gist of Dr. Davis' message:
- Today’s wheat is largely responsible for what we call the obesity epidemic and several other degenerative diseases related to visceral fat, such as high blood sugar, heart disease, and dementia.
- Signs of aging, skin disorders like acne and rashes, arthritis, bouts of depression and anxiety, seizures, and gut disorders, including celiac disease, can all be attributed to modern day wheat.
- A serving of whole wheat bread has a higher glycemic index than table sugar.
Newsflash: Whole wheat has a higher glycemic index than a Snickers bar.
The fact that wheat has such an incredibly high glycemic index pretty much turns the whole USDA Food Pyramid upside down. It means that you won’t get complex carbs that slowly release sugar from pasta or a slice of bread.
Let's break this down:
- Table sugar is made of simple sugars, and these are easily absorbed.
- Wheat, on the other hand, even whole grain wheat, is modern day wheat — which means it has been engineered over the last 50 years.
- All modern day wheat may indeed be classified as a complex carb.
- But the complex carbohydrates in wheat are mostly amylopectin A.
- Amylopectin A is highly digestible.
- In fact, digestion of amylopectin A begins in the mouth with the enzyme amylase, which accounts for the incredibly high glycemic index of wheat.
Sometimes removing wheat isn’t enough to lose the wheat belly. Gut dysbiosis plays a key role in the inflammatory cascade and in poor health. In the latest book on the belly fat phenomenon, Belly Fat Effect, Mike Mutzel connects this harmful abdominal fat with the health of the gut. As Mutzel explains, addressing the modern obesity epidemic and controlling disease-causing belly fat is about more than "calories in, calories out." It starts with restoring healthy levels of gut bacteria, designed to burn fat, first.17
It is important to understand the delicate balance of microflora in the gut:
- Understanding modern wheat and the role it plays in degenerative disease is clearly a big piece of the puzzle.
- We must educate ourselves about why all forms of wheat, even whole grain and organic, are inherently dangerous.
- Soaked and sprouted Body Ecology grain-like seeds (amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, and millet) can be eaten instead as a prebiotic that will not feed pathogenic Candida in the body but will feed healthy bacteria in the gut.
- Wheat belly, or visceral fat, is a sign of inflammation often related to a number of other health conditions.
- Controlling visceral fat and inflammation is a unique process that starts in the gut.
A wheat belly is dangerous, but it's possible to restore health and lose stubborn belly fat when you support your gut first of all. With the help of the Body Ecology Core Program, designed to help heal digestion and improve overall wellness, you can balance your inner ecosystem and decrease the inflammatory cascade that is causing the body to store excess belly fat.
Making simple changes each day can have a transformative effect on your health. Along with gut support, cultivating a daily attitude of mindfulness could help to lower belly fat by a pound, on average.18
What To Remember Most About This Article:
Wheat belly is otherwise known as a beer belly or visceral belly fat. This visceral fat surrounds the organs in the abdominal cavity and is similar to any other gland in the endocrine system. Wheat belly produces its own hormones and messages that are pathogenic and disease-promoting.
Modern day wheat that has been hybridized contributes to this dangerous belly fat. Even seemingly healthy whole wheat has a higher glycemic index than a Snickers bar! But eliminating wheat from the diet may not be enough to get rid of wheat belly, once the damage has been done.
A healthy waistline that reflects a healthy body begins with a balanced inner ecosystem. Avoiding inflammatory wheat is important, but the body may never recover fully if it isn't given the proper support from healing probiotics and essential nutrients. With more than 30 years of digestive research to back it, the Body Ecology Core Program has been specially designed to help heal the gut and help prevent the inflammation causing belly fat.
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- Davis, William (2011-08-30). Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health. Kindle Edition.
- Karastergiou, S. K. Fried, H. Xie, M.-J. Lee, A. Divoux, M. A. Rosencrantz, R. J. Chang, S. R. Smith. Distinct Developmental Signatures of Human Abdominal and Gluteal Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue Depots. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2012; 98 (1): 362 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2012-2953.
- Paul Poirier, M.D., Ph.D., Institute of Cardiology, Laval University, Quebec, Canada; David Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director, Yale University Prevention Research Center, New Haven, Conn., and president, American College of Lifestyle Medicine; Dec. 1, 2015, Annals of Internal Medicine.
- "The Hidden Dangers of ‘Skinny Fat’." Time.
- Gabreily, et al. Removal of visceral fat prevents insulin resistance and glucose intolerance of aging: an adipokine-mediated process? Diabetes. 2002 Oct;51(10):2951-8.
- Barzilai, et al. Differential responses of visceral and subcutaneous fat depots to nutrients. Diabetes. 2005 Mar;54(3):672-8.
- The differential contribution of tumour necrosis factor to thermal and mechanical hyperalgesia during chronic inflammation. Inglis JJ. Arthritis Res Ther. 2005;7(4):R807-16. Epub 2005 Apr 12. 288.
- TNF-related weak inducer of apoptosis (TWEAK) is a potent skeletal muscle-wasting cytokine. FASEB J. 2007 Jun;21(8):1857-69.
- Miguel Otero, et al. Leptin, from fat to inflammation: old questions and new insights, FEBS Letters, Volume 579, Issue 2, 17 January 2005, Pages 295-301, ISSN 0014-5793, DOI: 10.1016/j.febslet.2004.11.024.
- Fat produces proinflammatory factors that stimulate its own growth. Endocrinology of adipose tissue – an update. Fischer-Pozovsky P, Hormone Metabolism Research, 2007 May;36(5):314-21.
- Medical College of Georgia. "Children With Fatter Midsections At Increased Risk For Cardiovascular Disease, Study Finds." ScienceDaily.
- Leanne R. De Souza, Howard Berger, Ravi Retnakaran, Jonathon L. Maguire, Avery B. Nathens, Philip W. Connelly, and Joel G. Ray. First-Trimester Maternal Abdominal Adiposity Predicts Dysglycemia and Gestational Diabetes Mellitus in Midpregnancy. Diabetes Care, November 2015 DOI: 10.2337/dc15-2027.
- M. Huffman, L. H. Augenlicht, X. Zhang, J. J. Lofrese, G. Atzmon, J. P. Chamberland, C. S. Mantzoros. Abdominal Obesity, Independent from Caloric Intake, Accounts for the Development of Intestinal Tumors in Apc1638N/ Female Mice. Cancer Prevention Research, 2013; 6 (3): 177 DOI: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-12-0414.
- Sharon P.G. Fowler, Ken Williams and Helen P. Hazuda. Diet Soda Intake Is Associated with Long-Term Increases in Waist Circumference in a Biethnic Cohort of Older Adults: The San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, March 17, 2015 DOI: 10.1111/jgs.13376.
- Shrewy PR. J Exp Botany 2009;60(6):1537-53.
- Br J Nutr. 2014 Feb 13:1-8. [Epub ahead of print].
- Mutzel, Mike. Belly Fat Effect: The Real Secret about How Your Diet, Intestinal Health, and Gut Bacteria Help You Burn Fat. Print.
- Eric B. Loucks, Willoughby B. Britton, Chanelle J. Howe, Roee Gutman, Stephen E. Gilman, Judson Brewer, Charles B. Eaton, Stephen L. Buka. Associations of Dispositional Mindfulness with Obesity and Central Adiposity: the New England Family Study. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s12529-015-9513-z.
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