POPULAR FOOD MYTHS (PART 2)

#2. Genetically Modified Wheat Causes Obesity

 The Misconception:

If you’re one who keeps up with the latest diet trends, then you know a new villain has emerged to take its place among the ranks of trans fat and high-fructose corn syrup as the prime culprit behind America’s fatassness epidemic: wheat. Specifically, the genetically modified Frankenstein wheat your grocery store is trying to pass off as food.

Yes, thanks to years of being selectively bred for things like increasing crop yields and better disease-resistance, today’s amber waves of grain have gone from wholesome to homicidal, not only decreasing a person’s lifespan by exponentially increasing his or her surface area, but also exacerbating medical conditions ranging from arthritis to irritable bowel syndrome.

If those dangers sound overblown, you’re right. If you’re wondering who’s behind it, well …

The Guy You Can Thank for It:

Dr. William Davis.

Davis is the disappointingly robotless Bolivar Trask of the diet world: one man willing to make a stand against the murderous mutants lurking in our midst. His ludicrously named book Wheat Belly has reached seven-digit sales numbers and spent dozens of weeks on The New York Times best-sellers list, and for good reason — it’s packed with painstaking, abundantly backed research revealing that wheat literally addicts you to eating, that the extra genetic components of contemporary wheat are transforming us all into walking skin-sacks of inefficacy, and that the cure for our national health woes is the complete elimination of wheat from our diet.

Actually, that description is being way too generous — most of his “research” is based on his own personal observations and anecdotal evidence, meaning that the good doctor claims to have personally observed dramatic improvements in his patient population after putting them on a diet of his own design (now available for the low, low price of $16.99). Seems legit.

The wonky lynchpin of Davis’ theory is that when a person digests wheat, a specific variety of peptide is produced. These wheat peptides then interact with the body’s opioid receptors (the same receptors that narcotics bind to), turning us all into honest-to-goodness wheat junkies. And, no different from when a human body becomes addicted to more nefarious substances, a veritable cascade of unhealthiness ensues.

Now, to be fair, in an article published in Cereal Foods World, Dr. Julie Jones compared his claims against currently available scientific data and found that about half of what he says is pretty much spot-on. Unfortunately, it’s the more fantastical half that Dr. Davis yanked straight out of his wheat-free (and, as a result, admittedly svelte) rear end.

And while we’re on the subject of diet advice you got from your yoga instructor …

#1. You Need Yogurt (and “Probiotics”) to Fix Your Poop

The Misconception:

At some point, the world decided that you should be able to set your watch by when and how often you poop. And then the world decided that no one wears watches anymore because it’s not fucking 1985, but you get our point: if you’re not popping a squat twice a day, every day, then you’re simply not normal, and you’re in need of fixing.

Enter probiotics, and the wonders that probiotic-infused yogurt can do for Jamie Lee Curtis’s poop chute, and presumably yours. What’s that you say? You never, ever, not once in a million years needed to know the intimate details of how often the Halloween lady drops a long, healthy deuce? Well …

The Guy You Can Thank for It:

Elie Metchnikoff.

Metchnikoff was a Nobel prize-winning, Russian zoologist who had a serious bone to pick with the human colon — he thought of it as a reservoir for all manner of rotting, malady-inflicting nastiness — as well as a serious hankering for some delicious yogurt.

See, Metchnikoff had spent a goodly amount of time observing mountain peasants in Bulgaria that were known for their long lifespans. He credited their longevity to their tendency to drink fermented milk products and, as a direct result, consume buttloads of bacteria that kept their colons squeaky clean. His claims kicked off a new craze in Europe in which slurping spoiled milk became fashionable and, though they didn’t have the fancy name for it yet, the probiotics craze was born.

Our fascination with probiotics may ebb and flow throughout the years, but it never completely dies out. Those Jamie Lee Curtis ads we mentioned? They were pretty much phased out after Dannon reached a $21 million settlement with the FTC because the ads were, perhaps fittingly, chock-full of shit. Also, in stark contrast to the European obsession with yogurt that happened during Metchnikoff’s lifetime, the European Food Safety Authority has ruled that, unless you’re suffering from some kind of specific gut malfunction, the benefits of probiotics are a big ol’ nil. Yet if you do a Google search for “probiotics” right now, you’ll find approximately a gajillion results for everything from drinkable versions to pill versions to suppositories. No shit.

Jason is an editor for Cracked. His Facebook page is unabashedly unhealthy.

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Hope you enjoyed the article. 

Randy Powell, Eating-veggies.com