Cardiologist William Davis, MD, claims in his book “Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health” that by removing wheat from your diet, you will lose weight. But it’s not wheat alone that is triggering the weight loss in his diet plan.

Davis claims to have witnessed patients who lost between 10 to 50 pounds rapidly by eliminating wheat from their diet. However, his diet plan removes far more than just wheat. In essence, he’s promoting a low-carb diet, like hundreds of others, but he found a better way to publicize his plan. Dr. Julie Miller Jones, a professor emeriti at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn., researched and published a peer-reviewed, 12,000-word paper that shined a light on Davis’ claims.

“Rapid weight loss often occurs with adherence to any weight loss diet in the short run,” Miller Jones stated in her report.

“Studies and testimonials documenting dramatic weight loss abound, especially when the diets are low in carbohydrates. Recommendations to eliminate wheat in conjunction with the other advice in this book reveal the Wheat Belly diet to be a low-carbohydrate diet. While it is true that such diets have been shown to cause more rapid weight loss than other diets in the initial six months following such a regimen, they do not result in greater weight loss over time and result in more dropouts than other diet types that are more balanced and do not eliminate entire food groups.”

Davis also claims to have cured many patients of disease, including type 2 diabetes, asthma, acid reflux and joint pain. Miller Jones stated that these claims are scientifically invalid.

“The reductions in type 2 diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome cited fit with weight loss, while Davis’ attribution that disease mitigation was due to wheat removal is not supported,” she said. “Reduction in calories and loss of weight by any method is the number one recommendation of diabetes associations around the world. Other claims that the elimination of wheat from the diet reduced disease are interesting, but in the end, are simply testimonials.”

In a recent blog, mywheatbelly.com, Washington Association of Wheat Growers' Director of Affairs and Outreach, Kara Rowe, gave readers a peek inside her journey of a 30-day diet eliminating wheat and gluten products. She lost 5 pounds with little exercise. She then immediately started another 30-day diet keeping her calories similar to the wheat-free phase, but ate wheat products. She limited her exercise and lost another 5 pounds. This was not a scientific study, but another testimonial to the fact that healthy choices can include wheat and that reduced calories are one of the many keys to healthy and sustainable weight loss.

“The mindfulness that Kara exhibited in her blog is similar to what most people need to do to lose weight, which involves paying attention to incoming energy (food) and outgoing energy expenditure (exercise),” said Registered Dietician and Nutritionist Craig Hunt. Hunt not only works with patients, but he also teaches nutrition at Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga University. Hunt worked with Rowe during her journey. “Kara did this by recording her food and exercise throughout the two months. Most people attempting to lose weight need a similar awareness, but it doesn’t require eliminating wheat or any other major food category or even recording your food intake. It starts with paying attention to when and how much you eat. Unfortunately, many people are impatient with the process and want a quick fix, making themselves susceptible to gimmicks such as diet pills or highly restrictive diets.”

This diet advice does not apply, of course, to those with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, which amount to probably less than 6 percent of the U.S. population. They cannot, and should not, eat wheat. Similarly, people with peanut or dairy allergies cannot eat peanut butter or milk. However, there is nothing wrong with peanuts and dairy products for the general public.

Celebrities such as Bill O’Reilly, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga are all on a wheat/gluten-free bandwagon, claiming weight loss and renewed energy. But is it really the wheat? Or is there more too it? Millions of celebrities, politicians and common folk eat wheat and grains on a daily basis and balance them very well in their healthy lives.

In fact, Travis Stork, M.D., ER physician and star of “The Doctors” told Prevention Magazine in their August 2012 issue that fad diets, like the gluten-free or wheat-free plan, are not beneficial and can be dangerous.

“The only time you can really hurt yourself and your health is when you grab onto one health craze so strongly that you then lose balance—like the gluten-free fad, for instance,” he said in the article. “Just because something is gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy...Most people don’t have a gluten allergy, so they’re missing out on an opportunity to have whole grains and the nutrients that come with gluten in their diet.”

Anytime you reduce your calorie intake below what you expend through motion and exercise in a day, you will lose weight. If the calories you eat are less than the calories you burn, weight loss will occur. Most dietitians and nutritionists agree that the secret is not removing wheat and small grains.

“Fortunately, copious amounts of research supports the long-term health benefits associated with the Mediterranean eating style, which emphasizes a variety of whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables,” said Hunt. “And for those people who truly are gluten intolerant, then avoiding gluten-containing foods is an important part of their food lifestyle—but that doesn’t mean the other 94 percent of the population needs to follow that prescription.”

For more information on fad diets and healthy eating, visit wheatfoods.org/node/857#node-857.