Bread, pasta and pizza - Caution

Today the main part of the calories consumed by men comes from cereal grains like wheat, oats, barley, rye, maize and rice. But we are not used to this new food we started to consume between only 10,000 and 5,000 years ago. Genetically we are still the hunter-gatherers from 190,000 years ago, adapted to meats, fruits and vegetables.

Anthropology tells us that as soon as we started eating grains, there was a reduction in stature and lifespan and an increase in infant mortality, infectious diseases, iron deficiency, bone mineral disorders and dental caries. And this was only the omen of all the trouble cereal grains would bring more to mankind.

   Cereal grains and carbohydrates

The endosperms of cereal grains are carbohydrate rich. When you consume a lot of grain based products you inevitable take up a lot of starch. We convert starch into blood sugar. It is known that a chronic intake of abundances of starch and sugar leads to high blood sugar, high insulin, overweight, insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and other diseases of civilization.

   Vitamins and minerals

Cereal grains contain no vitamins A, C, D and B12 and the bio-availability of the vitamins cereal grains do contain, is low. Some cereal grains even depress vitamin metabolism. Cereal grains are poor sources of calcium, but contain relatively high phosphorus. This negatively influences bone growth, bone loss and metabolism. On top of this, high magnesium levels cause calcium excretion. Due to phytates in grains, the bio-availability of calcium, iron, copper, magnesium and zinc is low. Iron deficiency causes anemia, increases infection and prenatal mortality and reduces the mental growth in children. Shortage of zinc can result in blocked growth, reduced activity of ovaries and testes and delayed start of puberty.

   Fats and protein

A diet based upon cereal grains, leads to a disturbance of the balance between omega 3 and 6. The omega 3 content is low and the omega 6 content is relatively high. Since omega 3 and 6 need to use the same metabolic pathways, there is competition between the two. A high dietary level of omega 6 inhibits the action of omega 3. This plays a role in thrombosis, coronary heart disease, preterm births, inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Human proteins are composed out of 21 amino acids. Nine of these are essential, this means that they must come from our diet. There must be a sufficient dietary intake of both essential and non-essential amino acids to prevent us from getting sick. Cereal grains are poor sources of several essential amino acids. Deficiencies can result in impaired growth, losses of lean body mass and muscular strength, weakened immune function and compromised recover capacity.


Cereal grains are rich in antinutrients like phytates, alkylresorcinols, alpha-amylase inhibitors, protease inhibitors, lectins and gluten. Antinutrients are compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Cereal grains contain all these antinutrients to protect themselves against predators like us. Alkylresorcinols have growth depressive effects. Also they cause red blood cells to break open, DNA strands to split, they stimulate platelet aggregation and are involved in liver and renal degeneration. Alpha-amylase inhibitors inactivate the breakdown of starch into sugars and cause hypersensitivity reactions. Chronic use induces harmful changes to the pancreas. Protease inhibitors oppose the activity of digestive enzymes and can cause enlargement of the pancreas which may lead to cancer.

   Lectins are the major antinutrients in cereal grains

Lectins consist of an extensive group of proteins that have the property to eagerly bind to carbohydrate containing molecules. Different cereal grains contain several different lectins. Lectins are closely related and cause similar adverse reactions. Almost every cell in the body and every extracellular element can be bound by lectins. Lectins are heat stable and resistant to digestive breakdown. Lectins bind, damage and change gut lining cells. This interferes with digestion and absorption and changes the bacterial flora, immune state and permeability of the gut. The increased permeability of the intestines facilitates the passage of lectins and not or partly degraded dietary proteins into the blood and lymphatic circulation. When you consume grains, the concentrations of these unwanted trespassers are high and they will interfere with your state of health. Wheat lectins for instance induce pancreatic enlargement, wasting away of the thymus, depression of insulin secretion and inhibition of cell division.

   Gluten, gliadin, lectins and WGA

Many people mix up gluten, gliadin, lectins and WGA (wheat germ agglutinin). Well, gluten is derived from the Latin word for glue. And sticky it is. It is the composite of the plant storage proteins prolamin and a glutelin. In wheat the prolamin is gliadin and the glutelin is glutenin. In other cereal grains you’ll find other prolamins and glutelins. So the variety of gluten and its components as found in various cereal grains is diverse. In popular language gluten is chiefly used for the gliadin in wheat. From gliadin there are again several types. So the gluten story is not that simple. Lectins are reviewed above and not only found in cereal grains, but also in legumes, nightshades and dairy. WGA is one of the many lectins and is found in wheat. WGA is known due to its dishonorable reputation to be the main cause of celiac disease. For now, in grosso modo, you can say that gluten and lectins both cause the same sort of havoc.


Cereal Grains: Humanity’s Double-Edged Sword by Professor Loren Cordain 

Gluten sensitivity: from gut to brain by Marios Hadjivassiliou et al

Effects of wheat germ agglutinin on human gastrointestinal epithelium: insights from an experimental model of immune/epithelial cell interaction by Dalla Pellegrina et al

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