The Trouble With Wheat #2: The Glycemic Index and the Insulin Cop

Reference: Eric Westman, Duke University Weight Loss Associate Professor and American Jr of Clin Nutrition August 2007

The problem with wheat and insulin is pretty easy. It’s all about how fast the glucose of wheat gets into your blood. The form that carbohydrate is stored in wheat is called amylopectin and is very available to be digested in your gut. It is composed of long strings of glucose attached to each other, and branched every 24 to 30 glucose units making it have many endpoints, each of which can be attacked by a digestive enzyme to release it. You can digest it very rapidly, breaking down the chains of glucose molecules into single glucose units. In fact, white bread has a glycemic index of about 72-75 which means it gets into your blood at about 72% of the speed of pure glucose.

That’s the problem. Your body has a traffic cop called insulin that sees glucose speeding into your blood at 72% of pure glucose when the speed limit is about a glycemic index of 55. Foods below a glycemic index of 55 don’t inspire the release insulin. (The cop stays in his car, eating his own, low glycemic snack of raw broccoli) With a glycemic index over 55, the rapid and efficient secretion of insulin instantly ensues, slowing down the rise of glucose. And guess what insulin does? Exactly! It puts the glucose into the slammer (aka – fat cells, aka, long term storage) and takes no excuses, no lame pleading, no second chances. The glucose gets put into those fat cells, where it stays. Not even three strikes to be out. First time, long term storage. “A minute on the lips, a life time on the…….(need I say it?) We are just getting a real handle on the efficiency of the insulin effect on your body’s ability to mobilize fats. It’s extremely efficient, effective and rapid. It takes just a tiny bit of insulin to shut down the release of fatty acids from your fat cells for hours. That means just only little bit of processed wheat (a donut, a breakfast cereal made from some processed grain, a bagel, a cookie, even just sweetened coffee) and you release some insulin, and your fat cells are slammed shut with about 80-90% efficiency in just a few minutes. Without access to fatty acids, your cells don’t get any energy and you feel tired and hungry. Hence, you have to eat more. Remember last week? Which came first? Overeating is COMPENSATORY, not primary. You eat because you are starving and your cells are crying out for energy. You set yourself up because you released the stupid traffic cop inside you, insulin, who just did his job and put all the glucose away in the slammer without any excuses.

Wheat has never been refined like we have it in America today. When you eat it as a whole grain, the glycemic index is about 38. That is below the 55 speed limit and doesn’t set off the insulin response. We only discovered how to make fine white flour 150 years ago in Minneapolis when Pillsbury came out with a series of inventions on how to make fine white flour. Whole wheat flour is not much better. It’s glycemic index is 72, just the same. The tiny bit of retained fiber doesn’t slow down the speed of digestion. (Traffic cop is perfectly color neutral)

WWW. What will work for me. This is JUST the first layer of trouble. We have more to go. But trouble #1 is that wheat is processed into fine white flour and our body is completely unable to handle it. Still, we refine wheat and make it into about every product we eat. And that pesky glycemic index is incredibly rapid, merciless and ever watchful. You inner sugar cop is ALWAYS on our street corner. You just can’t cheat, unless you want all the calories you are eating to go into storage. Think of it. 90% efficient at marshaling (get the pun with the cop?) your calories into storage. You then are starving. You eat more to compensate for your hunger when you have all the calories you need, sitting there on your hips, unable to be released, because you just ate another free carbohydrate. Your homework: just try and make it through one day without ANY processed wheat. Just try. I’ve been at it for a week. I’m currently O for 7. Did I lose any weight this Holiday week? No no no.

Written by John Whitcomb, MD Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic, 17575 W North Ave, # 160 Milwaukee, WI 53045 262-784-5300 and newsletters archived at

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