Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Is it Gluten That Prevents Bread Mold But Makes Us Ill? The Food Doc Twinkie Experiment.

Recently, our daughter’s teacher told us the story of her son's initially failed science project. After a week of no mold on moist sandwich bread left out in a cool dark closet they had to use gluten-free bread to get the experiment to work. This came as no surprise to my wife and I since in our gluten-free household we routinely freeze any gluten-free baked goods that we don’t expect to eat within a couple of days to avoid wasting the food due to mold.

My first opportunity to try my own experiment was a few weeks ago when I asked one our houseguests to leave a slice of the regular bread we had bought for them on a paper plate as an experiment. After about five days of only crumbling bread without mold was exposing our household to unwanted gluten, my wife, who has Celiac disease, threw it out.

Remembering an urban legend about 30-year old Twinkies, I did some research. I found a quote from Dr. Steven Masley describing foods containing trans fats being like "embalming fluid" and he told a group of family doctors at a meeting that he asks his patients "why do you think that a Twinkie lasts 20 years?" I recall as a child in the early 60’s bread that had already molded within a day or two after purchase despite Mom’s Tupperware breadbox. In contrast, our modern highly processed food can be left out for days uncovered without any mold. Quoting a local oak furniture store advertisement “that’s not natural”. I purchased Twinkies today to start my own experiment.

Modern day wheat is largely due to the work of Norman Borlaug, acclaimed as the “father of the Green Revolution” and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who introduced hybrid dwarf wheat with high gluten content to Mexico about 40 years ago where it could survive drought and pests. Since that time we have seen the exponential growth of autoimmune diseases and the recognition that Celiac disease is not rare but an epidemic affecting one in a hundred people worldwide. Not only is this curious but it is not unreasonable to wonder if modern day wheat is to blame.

As a doctor who specializes in gastrointestinal diseases, I see patients every day who report a dramatic improvement of a wide variety of symptoms after trying a gluten-free diet even when they fail to meet strict criteria for the diagnosis of Celiac disease. Some are family members of patients I have diagnosed with Celiac disease. Others have symptoms of Celiac disease but their blood tests and intestinal biopsy are normal or inconclusive. However, we know gluten is a natural insecticide toxic to some of the pests that normally would have destroyed wheat before it was "improved" with higher gluten content. Fortunately, modern day wheat hasn't killed us, immediately any way, but is it what's making you ill?

The company that makes Twinkies admits they have a shelf life of twenty-five days “because Twinkies contain no dairy-based ingredients that could quickly go bad. Twinkies are basically flour, sugar (three kinds of it), oil, eggs and chemicals (mainly preservatives and stabilizers)…” However, Roger Bennatti, a science teacher at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill, Maine, kept one the chalkboard in front of his class for 30 years and was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that it’s “rather brittle, but if you dusted it off, it's probably still edible.” His Twinkie “experiment” is likely the source what has become an urban legend that there are Twinkies being sold that are 30 years old. Follow along me as I examine the gluten conspiracy and I’ll periodically post photos of the Food Doc Twinkie experiment.

Copyright © 2007, The Food Doc, LLC, All Rights Reserved.

References: Twinkies, 75 years and counting. Candy Sagon. Wednesday, April 13, 2005.

Masley SS. Cardiovascular disease treatment with evidence-based nutritional and lifestyle changes. Program and abstracts of the American Academy of Family

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