By Newt Briggs
The food pyramid is a three-sided polygon of lies. First, since it is almost exclusively presented in two dimensions, it is not technically a pyramid but a triangle. Second–and far more importantly, according to nutrition expert and author Danna Korn–the so-called food pyramid puts an abnormal emphasis on the consumption of wheat and wheat products, a diet that couldn't be less adapted to the human digestive system. Wheat, she insists, is the devil's food–even more than the delightful chocolate cake of the same name.
Korn's campaign against wheat began 14 years ago when her son was diagnosed with celiac disease–a genetic disorder characterized by the inability to digest gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. At the time, celiac disease was considered a rare pediatric disorder that was limited to gastrointestinal symptoms, but during the last decade, it has been recognized as the most common genetic disease in the world. Right now, it is estimated that celiac disease effects one in 100 people–"most of whom have no idea why they feel so terrible," says Korn.
The disease actually goes back 11,000 years to Mesopotamia and the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. There, humans evolved from hunter-gatherers to farmers and introduced gluten-based grains into the food supply. The human body–accustomed to a steady diet of foraged nuts, berries and meat–did not take readily to the change. "That's really only yesterday, evolutionarily speaking," Korn says. "Our bodies still look at wheat like a toxin and try to fight it off. No human fully digests wheat. Even if you don't have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, your body does not completely digest wheat."
Symptoms of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, depression, irritability and gastro-intestinal irregularities. As a result, they're often mistaken for other serious disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. "So these people are told, `Sorry, you've got fibromyalgia or you've got chronic fatigue syndrome, there's nothing we can do for you. Take these pain pills and go away." The only way to diagnose celiac disease is a series of blood tests, and the only way to overcome it is to give up gluten cold turkey. "You go gluten-free, and your health will be fully restored," says Korn. Unfortunately, the list of food items containing gluten reads like a catalog of scrumptiousness: "bread, pasta, pizza, cookies, cake, bagels and beer." And just because a bread is white doesn't mean it's gluten-free. All breads are made of wheat flour. "We've perpetuated the myth that wheat is good for you and it truly is not," she says. "There's a little bit of protein in wheat. Other than that, though, wheat offers very little in the way of nutrition. Whole wheat is a whole grain and that's good for you, but you can get whole grains from so many other sources that won't have a toxic effect on your body."
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