Food That Makes You Gain Weight
8 Reasons Wheat is Making You Gain
The Wheat-Weight Connection
Whole Wheat is Marketed as Healthy
Bread Breeds Belly Fat
Carbs Create Cravings
Wheat Eaters Eat More
Wheat Messes with Estrogen
Your Brain Becomes Addicted
Eating Wheat Zaps Energy
“Gluten-Free” Foods Are Not the Answer
Your Brain Becomes Addicted
When you grab a coffee or pour a glass or two of wine, you’re looking for a certain fix. But when you eat wheat, you consume it for its nutritional value—or so you think.
What makes wheat the real bad guy is its addictive property, which it doesn’t share with other grains, like millet and flax, says Davis. Wheat stimulates your appetite so you want more and more of it and when you stop eating it, your body goes through withdrawal symptoms. In fact, wheat’s effect on the brain is the shared with that of opiate drugs.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health found that polypeptides in gluten have the ability to penetrate blood-brain barriers. Once they gain entry into the brain, wheat compounds bind to the brain’s morphine receptors, the same receptors to which opiate drugs bind, producing a sense of reward or mild euphoria.
Scientists first took note of this while studying wheat’s effect on schizophrenia patients. In the mid-1960s, researchers at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Philadelphia conducted an experiment during which they removed all wheat products from the meals they provided to the mental health patients. After 4 weeks, patients experienced fewer hallucinations and delusions and experienced less detachment from reality. When wheat was reintroduced into patients’ diets, hallucinations, delusions, and social detachment again worsened. Researchers at the University of Sheffield in the UK report similar findings. While Davis notes that it’s unlikely that wheat causes schizophrenia, science shows that wheat is associated with worsening of its symptoms.
More recent research examines how the brain effect of gluten can be blocked by administering naloxone, a medication that instantly stops the “high” created by an opiate drug. In lab tests, naloxone blocked the binding of wheat compounds to the brain, too.
In a Psychiatric Institute of the University of South Carolina study, wheat-consuming participants given naloxone consumed 33% fewer calories at lunch and 23% fewer calories at dinner (a total of about 400 calories less over the course of two meals) than participants who took a placebo. In a University of Michigan study, binge eaters were confined to a food-filled room for 1 hour, and participants who were given naloxone consumed 28% less wheat crackers, bread sticks, and pretzels than those who did not receive the drug.
Not surprisingly, the pharmaceutical industry is pursuing a weight loss drug that contains an oral equivalent to naloxone.