Why Does Wheat Make You Store Fat?

by Dennis Volz

in Health & Fitness


Yes that common, everyday thing you have in your breadbox. Doesn’t matter if it’s white, whole wheat, multi-grain or sour dough it’s still wheat.  Why does wheat tend to help you gain weight?  Well the answer lies in the chemistry of the wheat itself and it’s reaction with your digestive system.  But first let’s look at the documented problem of obesity and diabetes in our country.

The Low Fat, Healthy Whole Grains Craze

The problem began in the eighties when it was discovered that when processed white flour products were replaced with whole grain flour products, there was a reduction in colon cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. That is indeed true and indisputable. The problem is that the assumption was made that if a little is good for you then a lot must be very good for you.  It follows the same reasoning as “low tar cigarettes” — If smoking low tar is better for you than smoking regular cigarettes, then smoking a lot of low-tar cigarettes must be very good for you.  What followed was a 30-year experiment that has taken our “eat-healthy-whole-grains” nation to one of the fattest nations in the world.

The USDA and other “official” opinion makers say that more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese because we’re inactive and gluttonous. We sit on our fat little behinds watching too much reality TV, spend too much time online, and don’t exercise. We drink too much sugary soda and eat too much fast and junk foods.

Do you know anyone who follows these “official guidelines” to eat low fat foods and more “healthy whole grains” and just can’t seem to maintain a healthy weight? Many people follow these guidelines to eat six to eleven servings of grain per day of which four or more should be whole grain. The American Heart Association, the American Dietetic Association and the American Diabetes Association preach these guidelines. If many Americans follow these guidelines then why are we the most obese nation on the planet?

(SIDE NOTE: Could it have anything to do with the high profitability of wheat products.  Can you really make money by turning 10-cents worth of wheat into a $4.95 loaf of bread. You bet you can! Do you think there’s any influence levied by the wheat industry upon these “expert” organizations in the form of funding for studies that continue to support the notion the whole grains are “healthy”. Follow the money…)

This same advice from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute through its National Cholesterol Education Program in 1985 coincides precisely with the start of the sharp statistical upward climb in body weight for U.S. men and women.  Ironically, that’s the exact year that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began tracking body weight statistics, tidily documenting the explosion in obesity and diabetes that began that very year.

It’s nearly impossible to deny the fact that our nation started to get fat when we shifted from our traditional diets to low-fat and high carbohydrate diets in the mid 80’s. Take a look at any group pictures of people in the U.S. in the 40’s and 50’s when we all ate bacon and eggs, steak and a little Wonder Bread compared to group pictures today where two out of every three people are either overweight or obese.

The Physical Composition of Wheat

Modern wheat — also known as Triticum aestivum, is made up of 70% carbohydrates, 10-15% protein and indigestible fiber, and the remaining portion is fat: phospholipies and PUFA’s (Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids)

Wheat starches or complex carbohydrates are the darlings of dieticians and the USDA.  They tell you to eat plenty of “whole grains” meaning to get your fill of complex carbs.  Complex simply means that these carbohydrates are chains of varying lengths of glucose. The complex carbohydrates of wheat are made up of about 75% amylopectin (a chain of branching glucose units) and about 25% of a liner-chain carbohydrate called amylose. And here’s where it starts to get interesting!

As you probably well know, your digestion starts in your mouth when you break up your food by chewing and add saliva to the mix. Both amylopectin and amylose are digested by the salivary and stomach enzyme amylase. Meaning that the digestion of carbohydrates begins the second they enter your mouth.  Amylopectin is digested very efficiently by amylase but amylose not so much.  Some amylose will actually reach your small intestine in an undigested form.


Amylopectin is rapidly broken down to it’s basic component which is glucose – What we generally call sugar. It’s broken down to glucose because that’s the only form that our body can use for energy.  We can’t use carbohydrates until they are digested down to simple glucose molecules.  Yes… your whole wheat bread is basically a loaf of sugar!

Furthermore, the amylopectin in wheat is the most easily digested form of amylopectin available.  While amylopectin is available in other foods, the variety found in wheat, Amylopectin-A, is the most easily digestible by the human body. Amylopectin-C is found in legumes and is the least digestible form.  That’s why we get the little jingle, “Beans, beans, the musical fruit….”  Well, you know the rest!

Amylopectin-B is found in potatoes and bananas and is more digestible than Amylopectin-C, but still is resistant to the process.  Amylopecin-A is by far, the most easily and readily digested form of carbohydrate and it therefore rapidly becomes a cascade of sugar rushing from your digestive system into your blood stream where it triggers the dissemination of insulin.

Eating two slices of whole grain bread is little different (and often worse) from the standpoint of a glucose rush and subsequent insulin stampede than drinking a sugary soda or eating a Snickers Bar!

This will begin a complicated process of depositing fat to your existing fat reserves.  That process is discussed more completely in a previous post,  The Science of Insulin – What Sugar and Carbohydrates do to Your Body.

So the next time your reach for that sandwich, cracker, bagel, pretzel, tortilla, piece of toast or a donut, just picture it as a heaping bowl of sugar rather than the so called healthy complex carbohydrate that the American Dietetic Association wants you to think it is.  I call this: FOOD for thought.

Obviously I’m not a doctor or trained nutritionist. Don’t make any diet changes without consulting your doctor or at least doing some of your own research.  Information for this article was gleaned from:

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health

The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet



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