For decades the American Heart Association (AHA), the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have urged the American people to eat more “heart healthy” grains. On average, these organizations recommend a whopping six to eight servings per day!
You have probably seen the Heart Association’s heart-shaped “seal of approval” on whole-grain cereal and pasta boxes – along with the statement that these products, “meet criteria for heart healthy food.”
Unfortunately, this is absolutely untrue…
In his new book, Wheat Belly Total Health, renowned cardiologist Dr. William Davis, M.D., compares the notion of “heart healthy grains” to “heart healthy cigarettes”. They simply don’t exist.
So, let’s dispel the propaganda and consider what grains really do to your heart…
How Grains Raise Triglycerides
Grains contain a unique carbohydrate called amylopectin A. This starchy substance comprises 75 percent of wheat. And it is sometimes referred to as a “super carbohydrate” for its unique ability to increase blood sugar much faster than other carbohydrates.
Due to its rapid digestibility, amylopectin A raises your blood sugar faster than a candy bar!1
And while elevated blood sugar is a key risk factor for cardiovascular and other chronic diseases on its own, the heart-harming story doesn’t end there. Amylopectin A is also converted by the liver into triglycerides. Some of these fatty compounds stay in the liver, where they can cause fatty liver disease. Others are released into the bloodstream, where they are incorporated into very low density lipoproteins (VLDLs).
Once in the bloodstream, these VLDLs interact with LDL cholesterol and reduce the size of these molecules. Because the smaller-than-normal LDL particles are not recognized by the liver, they continue to float in the bloodstream. Your body recognizes these compounds as “invaders” and releases an army of inflammatory cells to gobble them up. This end result of this process is a cascade of oxidation and glycation (two additional risk factors for chronic disease) and the growth of arterial plaques.2 3
As you can imagine, this destructive chain of events increases your risk for heart attacks.
And amylopectin A is not the only harmful compound in wheat…
Eat Wheat, Harden Your Arteries
Wheat also contains a harmful protein called wheat germ agglutinin (WGA). This highly inflammatory protein increases levels of a growth factor called endothelial growth factor 1 (EGF-1). If you are not familiar with the term, “endothelium”, it refers to the single-cell thick tissue that lines various organs within your body. In particular, the endothelium is what lines the inside of your blood vessels. This tissue is highly sensitive.
And as the name implies, endothelial growth factor promotes growth in a very dangerous place: the cells lining the walls of your arteries.
As the artery walls thicken and harden, it can lead to atherosclerosis, plaques and the formation of dangerous clots that can lead to heart attack and stroke.
And if that’s not enough to convince you to toss out your wheat bagels, toast and pizza, consider this…
The Grain Protein That Makes Your Heart Weak
Grains (including gluten-free grains) also contain a protein called, prolamin. This compound is a primary trigger of Celiac disease. But it has also been shown to directly weaken the heart muscle itself.
The heart is a strong and resilient muscle. And it takes a lot to damage it. Typically viral infections, heavy and extended alcohol abuse and heart attacks are the most common events that can inflict direct damage to the heart muscle.
And so can grains.
In fact, grains can cause myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), which can lead to heart failure. A recent analysis of patients suffering from myocarditis showed that 7% expressed antibodies to wheat.4 5
Go Grain-Free for a Healthy Heart (and Much More!)
In the grand scheme of our evolutionary history, grains were only introduced to the human diet very recently. By returning to the native diet of our ancestors, we eliminate these problematic compounds that harm our health… and can experience the robust health our bodies were designed to enjoy! So fill your plate with nutrient-dense, pasture-raised meats, organs and eggs, bone marrow and bone broth, wild seafood, and a variety of colorful, above-ground organic vegetables, organic berries, nuts and seeds. And when the craving for your favorite comfort food strikes, opt for grain-free baking mixes and recipes. You’ll satisfy your cravings … without harming your heart or your long term health!
ED NOTE: Kelley Herring is the co-founder of Wellness Bakeries, makers of grain-free, gluten-free, low-glycemic baking mixes for cakes, cookies, breads, pizza and much more.
Kelley’s academic background is in biology and chemistry and for the last 15+ years, she has focused on the study of nutritional biochemistry… and the proven powers of compounds in foods to heal the body.
1 Diets containing high amylose vs amylopectin starch: effects on metabolic variables in human subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 1989 49: 2 337-44
2 Peter O Kwiterovich Jr. MD. Clinical relevance of the biochemical, metabolic, and genetic factors that influence low-density lipoprotein heterogeneity. The American Journal of Cardiology. Volume 90, Issue 8, Supplement, 17 October 2002, Pages 30-47
3 Lyons, TJ. Glycation and Oxidation: A Role in the Pathogenesis of Atherosclerosis. American Journal of Cardiology. 71, no 6 26B-031B
4 FRustaci, A. et al. Celiac Disease Associated with Autoimmune Myocarditis. Circulation 105 no 22; 2611-18
5 Curione, M. eat al. Idiopathic Dilated Cardiomyopathy Associated with Celiac Disease; The Effect of a Gluten-Free Diet on Cardiac Performance. Digestive and Liver Disease 34, no 12; 866-69