The Nation's Health + weight loss

Weight loss: Wheat-free and weight loss

With a heart scan score of 1222 , Leslie could be in deep trouble in short order.

At 64 years old, Leslie had gained nearly 40 lbs since she'd given up a lot of her activities caring for a husband who'd developed psychological difficulties and stopped contributing to the household duties. A tall woman at 5 ft 9 inches, she held her 202 lbs well, but her lipoprotein patterns were a disaster:

--LDL particle number 2482 nmol/l--an equivalent LDL cholesterol of 248 mg/dl (drop the last digit)
--HDL 38 mg/dl
--Triglycerides 241 mg/dl
--90% of LDL particles were small
--Lipoprotein(a) 240 nmol/l

Blood sugar was in the pre-diabetic range at 112 mg/dl, C-reactive protein was high at 3.0 mg/l, blood pressure was somewhat high at 140/84.

Now, with the exception of lipoprotein(a), these patterns are exquisitely weight-sensitive. A reduction in weight would yield effects superior to any medication I could give her.

Processed wheat products were a big problem for Leslie: whole wheat bread, pretzels for snacks, whole wheat pasta. Yes, they sound healthy, even endorsed by the American Heart Association, often bearing "heart healthy" labels on the packages. Don't you believe it.

In particular, Leslie had the number one cause for heart disease in America: small LDL particles, a pattern that is magnified 30-70% by wheat products. Endorsed by the Heart Association? (As I often tell people, if you want heart disease, follow the diet advocated by the American Heart Association.)

Leslie was skeptical, worried that she would be hungry all the time and would have virtually nothing left to eat. Instead, when she returned to the office three months later, she reported that eating was easy, finding healthy foods not containing wheat was easier than she thought, she felt great, finding more energy than she'd had in years.

She'd also shed 30 lbs .

Leslie's lipoprotein patterns also reflected the weight loss. She achieved her 60:60:60 Track Your Plaque lipid targets, small LDL shrunk dramatically, blood sugar and blood pressure were back in normal ranges.

I see results like Leslie's several times every week. For those of us with patterns like Leslie's, or just obesity that accumulates in the abdomen, going wheat-free is among the most powerful single strategies I know of.

If you need convincing, try an experiment. Eliminate--not reduce, but eliminate wheat products from your diet, whether or not the fancy label on the package says it's healthy, high in fiber, a "healthy low-fat snack", etc. This means no bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, breads, chips, pancakes, waffles, breading on chicken, rolls, bagels, cakes, breakfast cereal. I find elimination of wheat easier than just cutting back. I believe this is because wheat is powerfully addictive. It's very similar to telling an alcoholic that a drink now and then is okay--it just doesn't work. They need to be alcohol-free. Most of us need to be wheat-free, not just cut back.

You won't be hungry if you replace the lost calories with plenty of raw almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower and pumpkin seeds; more liberal use of healthy olive oil, canola oil and flaxseed oil; adding ground flaxseed and oat bran to yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.; and more lean proteins like lean beef, chicken, turkey, fish, and eggs.

The majority of people who go wheat-free lose weight, sometimes dramatically. Most people also feel better: more energy, more alert, better sleep, less mood swings. Time and again, people who try this will tell me that the daytime grogginess they've suffered and lived with for years, and would treat with loads of caffeine, is suddenly gone. They cruise through their day with extra energy.

Even without weight loss, going wheat-free usually raises HDL, reduces the dreaded small LDL dramtically. It also reduces triglycerides, blood sugar, C-reactive protein, blood pressure. Blood sugar control in diabetics is far easier, with less fluctuations and sharp rises in blood sugar.

Success at this also yields great advantage for your heart scan score control and reversal efforts.

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