Wheat is the new asbestos — or at least that’s what bloggers and bestselling books like “Grain Brain” and “Wheat Belly” suggest, said Julie Miller Jones, Ph.D.

“You have all kinds of people professing that not eating gluten helped them win Wimbledon and not eating gluten made them a movie star… and that we didn’t evolve to eat grain, and that it’s destroying our brains,” said Dr. Miller Jones, a certified nutritionist and scientific advisor for the Grain Foods Foundation. “Bloggers say grains are really bad for you. It’s interesting that every government in the entire world says we should have 45% to 65% of our calories coming from carbohydrates. Nearly every diagram, pyramid, plate… the bottom layer is grain. The world agrees that grain is what we ought to be eating.”

Dr. Miller Jones addressed common myths and misperceptions surrounding grains and gluten during a presentation at the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE), held Oct. 8-11 in Las Vegas. She also discussed the nutritional ramifications of avoiding grains.

“The paleo people claim that we didn’t evolve to eat wheat or grain,” she said.

To the contrary, humans have been eating grains for more than 100,000 years, as proven by dental record evidence. Cooked grain DNA was found in the dental calculus of Paleolithic era humans, Dr. Miller Jones said.

“Not only did we evolve to eat grains, but that actually promoted human evolution,” she said. “Normal primates have two copies of amylase enzymes, which break starch down. Humans are the only ones that have six copies of amylase enzymes. Because we have six copies that meant our brain could grow more rapidly so we could evolve to be a higher being than all primates. Cooked carbohydrates enabled that evolution.”

Fad diets aside, many consumers believe grains are to blame for the rise in obesity. 

“In 2016, in every state, 20% of the people are obese (and) about two-thirds of us are obese or overweight,” Dr. Miller Jones said. “Grain consumption is flat or going down, and obesity in kids all over the world is going up. So, if grains are the problem, we should be losing weight, not gaining it.”

A meta-analysis of 45 studies published this year revealed consumption of whole grains lowered relative risk of disease and death.

“Those people who ate whole grain had half the risk of diabetes of people who did not eat the recommended serving of whole grain,” Dr. Miller Jones said. “They had a 20% lower risk of coronary disease, a 25% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, a 22% lower risk of stroke, and a 15% lower risk of cancer. They had a 17% lower risk of death overall.”

Read more on this story at Food Business News.