As a mother starting out with bio-medical interventions one of the first things you come across is keep clear of gluten (wheat et al) and casein (milk), and unless you've just landed from some far flung planet, you must have heard the obesity and diabetic problems sweeping the 'modern' world. Today I want to show you how they are linked through the consumption of a new breed of 'super' wheat.
It all started in Mexico 1942, when a man called Norman Borlaug started working with the Rockefeller foundation pioneering technical assistant program in Mexico. Borlaug was the chief scientist in charge of wheat production. He intensively crossbred wheat and produced a new high yield dwarf variety. By 1963, Mexico had become the net exporter of wheat, and between 1965 to 1970, wheat yields nearly doubled in India and Pakistan. This wheat was created to prevent catastrophic mass starvation, and in 1970, he was rewarded for his services to humanity with the Noble prize. He is know as 'The father of the green revolution' and 'The man who saved a billion lives.' Now to be fair to him, he was charged with creating a high yield plant, this he did. But I don't think that it occurred to him at the time, that this plant produces grain which is quite toxic to human health. Now there are two problems. First, its not good for us at all, and secondly and very quickly - its the main wheat crop grown around the world. Its a plant highly dependant on fertilisers and pesticides ( many derived from oil) and because its the main wheat crop, a total failure of the wheat crop is possible. This would in an ironic twist, lead again to mass starvation.
So why is it so bad for us? Well its a three fold whammy. It now contains very high levels of a starch called AmylopectinA - this is the starch that makes our modern breads so light and fluffy. However, just two slices of wholemeal bread (not even the white stuff most of us eat) will raise your blood sugar more than amount 2 desert spoons of sugar (english) or 2 table spoons of sugar (USA)!! This high glycemic food makes you store fat round your belly, triggers inflammation (that means screwing up your bodies cells) gives you a fatty liver and starts the process of becoming diabetic. In the USA, 1 in 3 medicare dollars is apparently spent on diabetes. So basically it makes us fat.
It has many more chromosomes than more ancient varieties, which code for new odd proteins (because they are new to our digestive and biological systems). When digested they produce shorter proteins polypeptides called exorphins, which are like the endorphins you get from a runners high. They bind to the opioid receptors in your brain giving you a high and making you addicted just like a heroin addict. They get absorbed directly in the blood, and cross the brain / blood barrier. They are called 'Gluteomorphins,' and that is why you want to binge on cakes, biscuits, bread etc and not on say - carrots. So basically its addictive, making you want to eat more of it than you would normally, which again, makes us fat.
Dwarf wheat also has a different gluten peptide know as glia-a9. Gluten is what makes it sticky, and this type of gluten is what most people react negatively to, i.e. celiacs. Whilst celiacs have obvious symptom, most of us will react negatively, but in a hidden way, like inflammation. So it makes us feel ill with symptoms of unknown cause.
Now if if you do your own reading on this subject these are the main three topics about what is wrong with this new variety, but there is another area that needs mentioning and that is phytic acid. Phytic acid is the principle storage system for phosphorus in most plants - particularly the bran portion of grains, nuts and seeds. It inhibits enzymes we need to ingest food, including pepsin which helps break down protein (with out this you can develop little white fatty spots on the skin) and amylase needed to break down sugar (which we have already discussed is much higher in this variety and is a third way it makes us fat). Another problem is its structure. The phosphorus is held tight in phytic acid molecule, which looks a bit like a 6 armed snowflake. Now phytic acid is a serious issue for our health because as well as holding on tight to phosphorus, its arms hang on to other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc etc, making them all unavailable to the body. Because of this it has been named an anti-nutrient. Perhaps one of the reasons why this is such an issue with dwarf wheat is because it has depleted levels of minerals compared to its older varieties. We know this because since 1843, agronomists at Rotherstead Research Station in Herefordshire, England, have been conducting experiments over the last 2 centuries with multiply wheat cultivates. Experimenting with different crop rotations, fertilisers and farming techniques, all the while tracking the change in the mineral content of both grain and soil. Between 1843 to the mid 1960's, the mineral content including zinc, copper, magnesium, and iron remained constant. But after that (when planting the dwarf variety) they began to drop - as a point of interest, the mineral level in the soil actually went up slightly. The reason they think is that the dwarf variety has a much shorter root systems meaning that its uptake of nutrient is less, which, if you continue along that line, also means that it is more vulnerable to dry conditions - and we have another possible cause for total crop failure. While nutrient levels have dropped in the new grain, phytic acid levels have remained constant. I didn't read it anywhere, but joining the dots together, this means more areas in the phytic snowflake not already containing minerals are empty, giving it the ability to suck it up more minerals from your body. Research has suggested that we absorb approximately 20% more zinc and 60% more magnesium when phytic acid absent. A traditional method of dealing with phytic acid is 'soaking' or fermenting. Both these methods are used in the making of traditional sourdough bread, which shouldn't be confused with soda-bread. When it comes to bread though, there are other issues like the speed with which a loaf is made. No time for the gluten to break down in the natural process and the over use of bakers yeast, some of which is genetically modified - but that is another sad story for another time.
Now zinc and magnesium are very interesting minerals particularly for autism, and whilst they deserve a whole page each, lets just summarise. Zinc aids the saliva protein 'gustin' which has a major role in the sensation of taste. Any body got a picky eater? Its also important for cognitive function as it helps protect neurotransmitters. I have read also that it plays a role in our auditory sense, children who are hyper-sensitive to noise cope much better with zinc supplements. Magnesium plays the opposite role to calcium in the body. Calcium causes the muscle to contract, magnesium helps it relax. Magnesium deficiencies can result in disruptive behaviours like restlessness, body rocking, teeth grinding, hiccups, noise sensitivity, poor attention span, poor concentration, irritability and aggression to name a few more important ones. When magnesium levels are low, calcium starts to play mischief in our bodies. Leaching out from where it should be and lodging in places it shouldn't. When it lodges in our joints its called arthritis. It can cause bone spurs, cancer, kidney stones, hardening the arteries, hardening the heart chambers, and those concerned with their looks - wrinkled skin. Dr Carolyn Dean says "Magnesium permits calcium to enter a nerve cell to allow electrical transmission along the nerves to and from the brain. Even our thought, via the brains nervous system, are dependant on magnesium." So you can see how important these minerals are for our children.
To sum it up, the wheat we eat today is not the long stalked Einkorn wheat of our fathers, so beautifully described in one of Americas anthems as 'amber waves of corn'.
There is a saying with autism that genetics are the gun that the environment loads, so dwarf wheat is just one of the bullets.
Now if I was more computer savvy, I could pop back in and put a post-script on the article about paracetamol. Forgive me for sticking it here. I forgot to put this in. There seems to be an argument about the results regarding the ratio of autism in France. They also used paracetamol with vaccines but have lower rates than the USA. Again, this is my own conclusion, but your typical french diet is high in onions and garlic and other sulphur rich foods. Knowing the French, they also have a strong tradition for food with flavour as opposed to long shelf life, and tend to buy their fruit and veg fresh from markets, which presumably would have higher vitamin and mineral contents. Having a diet high in sulphur I think it fair to assume that the process of sulfation works pretty well for them, so their bodies don't need to resort to the cytochrome P450 pathway to eliminate the toxin, which is perhaps the nuts and bolts of why the allium family is so good for us - but I am not a scientist so what do I know. Again, this information is presented for information only, I am just a mum trying to find my way out of the autism maze, and hoping as I do to help others. x