Wheat-free diet fad bad for science, farmers

Wheat-Growers-National-AssociationBy National Association of Wheat Growers

Resolving to change our habits or reach new goals in a new year is only human. And for humans in many countries, one of the most common resolutions is to lose weight. That’s why the health clubs and fad diet promoters are on the prowl. So-called elimination diets seem to be dominant and, unfortunately for many growers, flour millers and bakers, the call to eliminate wheat from the diet is particularly popular this year.

Fortunately, there are sensible, science-based approaches to diet and weight that our customers can share with their customers that offer important, science-based counterpoints to the wheat-free fad.

No single food or food group is responsible for the global obesity epidemic. The human diet is complex and varied. Blaming one food for an epidemic is a gross oversimplification and there is, in fact, no correlation between wheat consumption and obesity rates. In the United States, for example, per capita wheat consumption has declined, while obesity rates have gone up. In France, per capita wheat consumption is 50 percent greater than in the United States, but the obesity rate is only a third of the U.S. rate. Italians consume at least two times more wheat per capita than Americans, but have one-quarter the obesity rate compared to the United States.

There is no single way to achieve or maintain a healthy weight except a diet that provides a reasonable amount of calories and regular physical activity. Fad diet plans are not grounded in sound science and often rely on anecdotal evidence. A balanced diet with moderate portions that includes all food groups, coupled with daily exercise, is the best solution for long-term health and weight management.

Fad diets do not stick. Eliminating a food group like wheat may result in quick weight loss because it cuts calorie intake but it is very difficult – and not nutritionally sound – to maintain such a diet. Most fad dieters can only stick with a plan for a few weeks or months. That may lead to worse results because an ongoing, repeated cycle of weight gain and loss is associated with more weight gain over time. In fact, carbohydrate intake is key for a healthy weight. Research indicates people with moderate- to high-carbohydrate diets tend to weigh less than people who consume fewer carbs. According to the Institute of Medicine, people should consume about half (45 to 65 percent) of their daily calories from carbohydrates. Grains like wheat as well as fruits, vegetables, legumes and dairy products are all important sources of carbohydrates.

For more information about sensible approaches to diet, weight and the truly important part wheat plays in human nutrition, USW recommends these resources:

Resources used in the development of this article include:

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