The Nation's Health + [Wheat belly]

Wheat hip

You've heard of wheat belly. How about wheat hip?

Recall that the innocent appearing wheat belly is actually a hotbed of inflammatory activity beneath the surface. The visceral fat of the wheat belly, i.e., fat kidneys, fat liver, fat intestines, fat pancreas, produces abnormal inflammatory signals, such as various interleukins, tumor necrosis factor, and leptin. These are the inflammatory signals that create insulin resistance and diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and cancer.

These same inflammatory mediators are able to enter the joint spaces, such as those in your hips, knees, and hands. This leads to osteoarthritis, the exceptionally common form of arthritis that affects 1 in 7 Americans. In particular, the level of leptin in joints mirrors that in blood, a phenomenon that has been associated with joint destruction.

The previously widely-held notion that arthritis is simply a wear-and-tear phenomenon due to the mechanical stress of excess weight is proving to be an oversimplification. Arthritis is also part of the carbohydrate-driven, weight-increasing, inflammatory condition of insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome.

Throw into this cytokine storm the fact that glycation, i.e., glucose modification of proteins, also causes cartilage destruction. The cells of human cartilage lack the ability to divide, so the cartilage cells you had at age 18 are the cartilage cells that you will hopefully still have at age 80. However, high blood sugars (glucose) glycate the proteins in cartilage. (Wheat raises blood glucose higher than almost all other foods, higher than a Milky Way bar, higher than a Snickers bar.) The process is irreversible and cumulative. Because cartilage has next to no capacity for repair or regeneration, it becomes brittle. Over years, it essentially crumbles, leading to the "bone on bone" that prompts conversations about total hip and total knee replacement.

So that ciabatta or blueberry muffin in your mouth takes you a step or two closer to joint destruction via heightened inflammation arising from the visceral fat of the wheat belly, worsened by glycation of high blood sugars after carbohydrate consumption.

My solution: Lose the ciabatta.