Are Whole Grain Products Healthy?

Louis B. Malinow, MD
By Louis B. Malinow, MD
June 15, 2018
Are Whole Grain Products Healthy?

You’re standing in the bread aisle of your supermarket trying to select a healthy bread to buy. Whole grain, whole wheat, multi-grain -- it’s confusing.  But the reality is, none of them are healthy. Based on the Plant Paradox by Steven Gundry, eating whole grains is like taking a wrecking ball on your health. Here’s why.

Whole Grains are Worse than White Bread
Whole grain and white flour products are made from wheat plants, so both types of bread contain gluten, which is a problem for many people. Even if you don’t have Celiac disease or non-Celiac gluten sensitivity, there’s a good chance you experience an undetected, negative reaction after eating gluten.

Whole grains have something white bread doesn't: wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) – a lectin or a plant protein that behaves a lot like the hormone insulin. While insulin is necessary to some extent, too much triggers weight gain and diabetes down the road. There are many different lectins, and depending on the type, they can work their way into different parts of your body, such as organs, arteries or glands, disrupting normal functioning. In WGA’s case, it crosses the gut barrier, damages cells and creates inflammation. 

WGA Looks a Lot Like Insulin – And this is NOT Good
After you eat, your body breaks down carbohydrates into sugar, triggering the pancreas to produce insulin. Insulin escorts sugar from the bloodstream into liver, muscle, nerve and fat cells. But too much insulin — or an insulin lookalike protein — can cause your body to become resistant to it. 

So instead of sugar entering cells, it hangs out in the bloodstream. Excess sugar in the blood raises your risk for type 2 diabetes, often referred to as insulin resistance, and Alzheimer's disease, which we are now calling type 3 diabetes because of its link to insulin related problems.

When WGA Replaces Insulin  
WGA looks so much like insulin that your body gets confused and allows it to bind to insulin receptors. Of course, issues begin brewing when this occurs.

For instance, when WGA binds to a fat cell, it guides sugar into the cell and instructs the cell to continuously let in sugar, which converts to fat. This is a much different response than when insulin binds to a fat cell — it escorts sugar into the cell, but only on a stop and go basis.

Once upon a time, WGA foods would have been valuable in preventing starvation because they promote fat storage, helping people get through their next period of food unavailability. However, there’s not too much food unavailability in my practice.

When WGA attaches to a muscle cell, it has the OPPOSITE effect of insulin. It BLOCKS sugar from getting into the cell, detouring to -- you guessed it -- fat cells, where that sugar converts to more fat. It’s probably starting to make some sense how we lose muscle but gain fat as we age. Perhaps WGA and other lectins are involved.

Lastly, when WGA locks onto a brain or nerve cell, sugar is BLOCKED from entering the cell. But your brain and nerve cells need sugar to function properly. A of lack of sugar can lead to nerve damage and is peripherally and directly related to Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Additionally, studies have found that WGA in the gut can climb up the vagus nerve, which connects the gut to the brain. 

What’s interesting is that in the old days, surgeons cut the vagus nerve to treat stomach ulcers. It stopped the acid production. But it also rendered an unexpected benefit: Surgeons reported that patients who underwent this surgery had a 40 percent drop in Parkinson’s disease.

What’s the Bottom Line?
OK, here’s the bottom line: There is nothing healthy about whole grains. They’re full of WGAs. If I ate bread, I'd stay away from whole grain variations and choose non-whole wheat options like French and Italian breads. There are plenty of French and Italian people who eat starchy foods but remain much slimmer than Americans. It could be because they skip whole grain products.
There is a lot more on this subject, but this is just a TASTE.

This blog reflects the medical opinion of Dr. Lou Malinow, an MDVIP-affiliated, board-certified internal medicine physician, and not necessarily the opinion of all physicians in the MDVIP national network.

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About the Author
Louis Malinow, MD Author

Louis B. Malinow, MD is an MDVIP-affiliated physician that's been practicing in Baltimore for more than 20 years. He's board certified in Internal Medicine, a certified Hypertension Specialist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Clinical Lipidology. Dr. Malinow graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and completed his residency at Stanford University Hospital in Stanford, CA. Dr. Malinow is one of the only physicians in Maryland that specializes in both high blood pressure and high cholesterol management. He is also a member of the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society and is recognized by Best Doctors and Top Doctor by U.S. News & World Report and Baltimore Magazine. Dr. Malinow has appeared on numerous news programs advocating for preventive care and wellness.

View All Posts By Louis B Malinow, M.D.
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