Below is a large portion of an article that is found at http://www.grainstorm.com/pages/modern-wheat Shared here for educational purposes.
How an ancient food staple became toxic junk food, and what we can do about it (without going gluten-free)
Grain has been at the heart of humankind’s diet for thousands of years. It is, in fact, the foundation of civilization: it cultivates easily, stores for years in kernel form, releasing its nutritional bounty when the seed is ground and prepared into fresh breads or porridges. This is how grains have been consumed over the millennia: stored in whole kernel form and milled fresh, full of life and nutrients.
It’s a 10,000 year food tradition. But in the last few generations, something’s gone wrong.
At farmers’ markets and natural food stores, we’ve talked to hundreds of people about wheat. And it’s very clear to us: modern wheat is making people sick. More and more people are going “gluten-free” to fix long-standing digestion issues and they feel better. Yet, it is also very clear that there is more to this than gluten. For instance, we get many people telling us how they can’t eat gluten so they eat spelt or Kamut. Yet both these ancient grains have gluten.
So what’s changed? In fact, almost everything.
The way we grow it, the way we process it and the way we eat. The very wheat itself. Since industrialization, everything has changed, and it has happened in two distinct “technology revolutions”. The first was in milling, the second in cultivation and farming. Both have had a profound effect, yet most people have no idea.
Revolution # 1:
Industrial milling, white flour and the birth of the processed food industry
Our rallying cry is “Bake Like it’s 1869”. That’s because, in the 1870’s, the invention of the modern steel roller mill revolutionized grain milling. Compared to old stone methods, it was fast and efficient and gave fine control over the various parts of the kernel. Instead of just mashing it all together, one could separate the component parts, allowing the purest and finest of white flour to be easily produced at low cost, so every class of person in rapidly growing cities could now afford “fancy flour”. People rejoiced for modern progress.
And, beyond being cheap and wildly popular, this new type of flour shipped and stored better, allowing for a long distribution chain. In fact, it kept almost indefinitely. Pest problems were eliminated because pests didn’t want it. Of course, we now know that the reason it keeps so well is that it has been stripped of vital nutrients. The bugs and rodents knew this way before we did.
The steel roller mill became so popular, so fast, that within 10 years nearly all stone mills in the western world had been replaced. And thus was born the first processed food and the beginning of our industrial food system: where vast quantities of shelf-stable “food” are produced in large factories, many months and many miles from the point of consumption.
This excerpt from Wikipedia says it well: “From a human nutrition standpoint, it is ironic that wheat milling methods to produce white flour eliminate those portions of the wheat kernel (bran, germ, shorts, and red dog mill streams) that are richest in proteins, vitamins, lipids and minerals.”
While these “advances” in milling were hailed as an innovation of modern living, nobody thought much about what was happening to the actual food value of wheat. Ironic indeed.
Even more ironic perhaps, is that although we’ve understood this problem for many many decades, industrial white flour is still—by far—the most popular way to eat wheat.
But there is another, newer problem, caused by a second technology revolution in the 20th century, which is not nearly as widely understood: so-called “advancements” in farming food production may have wrecked wheat itself.
Revolution # 2:
Radical genetic modification and industrial “high-input” farming
Most of us are too young to remember, and those old enough will likely remember it only as a shining example of the wonders of modern science. But the world’s wheat crop was transformed in the 1950s and 60s in a movement called the “Green Revolution”. The father of the movement, Norman Borlaug, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, credited with saving one billion lives.
According to his Wikipedia entry, Borlaug led initiatives that “involved the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers.”
He pioneered new “improved” species of semi-dwarf wheat that, together with complimenting fertilizers and pesticides, increased yield spectacularly. This amazing new farming technology was propagated around the world by companies like Dupont and Monsanto, while mid-20th-century humanity applauded the end of hunger.
Like the industrial milling revolution before it, the green revolution applied new technologies to improve efficiency and output, with little or no regard to the effect on human nutrition. This Green Revolution was about solving world hunger, but we’re now discovering some unintended consequences.
According to Wheat Belly author Dr. William Davis, “this thing being sold to us called wheat—it ain’t wheat. It’s this stocky little high-yield plant, a distant relative of the wheat our mothers used to bake muffins, genetically and biochemically light-years removed from the wheat of just 40 years ago.”
And now scientists are starting to connect modern wheat with all manner of chronic digestive and inflammatory illnesses. And based on our personal and customer experiences, we would have to agree.
So let’s summarize
For 10,000 years, we cultivated wheat, stored it, milled it and consumed it. The system worked, and it nourished civilization. Then, in the industrial era, we changed things.
First we invented mechanical technologies to turn wheat into barren white flour. Then, we invented chemical and genetic technologies to make it resistant to pests, drought and blight and easier to harvest, dramatically increasing yield per acre. And, while we were tweaking genetics, we also figured out how to increase glutens for better “baking properties” (fluffier results). Put another way:
We have mutant seeds, grown in synthetic soil, bathed in chemicals. They’re deconstructed, pulverized to fine dust, bleached and chemically treated to create a barren industrial filler that no other creature on the planet will eat. And we wonder why it might be making us sick?
If all this alarms you, the simple and obvious prescription is “don’t eat wheat”. Hence the gluten-free craze. But, for most of us, there is an alternative solution: don’t eat industrial flour made with modern wheat.
The gluten-free bandwagon: Misinformation and confusion
As we mentioned, in our many market conversations, we hear all the time: “I’ve gone gluten-free and feel so much better. Now I only eat spelt or Kamut”. (These both have gluten.)
What’s going on here? For the very small percentage of the population that is celiac, even minute traces of gluten can cause terrible discomfort. But for the vast majority of people (myself included) with some level of “wheat sensitivity”, symptoms are much milder and seem to be triggered not necessarily by gluten per se, but by *something* about modern wheat. There is an increasingly understood distinction between gluten intolerance and modern wheat sensitivity, yet as more and more people go gluten-free, many are unaware of any difference.
So we have waves of people (with varying degrees of wheat sensitivity) going gluten-free to be healthier. And the food industry is responding. A dizzying selection of gluten-free products has popped up, seemingly overnight, to cater to this new “healthy” lifestyle choice.
The irony, however, is that most gluten-free versions of traditional wheat-based foods are actually junk food. Check the ingredients and you’ll likely see some combination of rice starch, cornstarch, tapioca starch, potato starch and guar gum as a substitute for white flour. These are the same kind of highly refined industrial starches that spike blood sugar as much—or even more than—white flour.
So don’t fall for gluten-free junk disguised as health food. For the vast majority of gluten-free eaters that are not celiac, we propose a return to honest to goodness old fashioned flour: organic heritage wheats, freshly stone ground.