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Separating wheat from chaff

As a registered dietitian, I feel compelled to address the claims Lucienne Loiselle puts forth in her Feb. 21 letter, Contributing to belly fat. Loiselle says that many of the diseases that are commonplace today in Canada (ie. obesity, Type 2 diabetes) increased in prevalence "at the same time that our North American wheat was hybridized."

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When looking at research and stats, it's vital we remember that association does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. The rise in Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity also coincided with Canadians becoming less active and eating more processed food.

Dr. Wade Davis's book Wheat Belly, which blames a multifaceted problem on wheat, essentially repackages an Atkins-type diet. As dietitian Leslie Beck has stated, "There's no proof eating wheat is a direct cause of obesity, nor is there strong evidence to show the grain causes the numerous diseases that Davis links it to."



Being a farmer and a retired government wheat analyst, I can say with authority that no current varieties of hybrid wheat are being produced anywhere. Wheat is very difficult to hybridize given that it is self-pollinated and the flowers do not have to open for pollination to occur.

Modern varieties are little changed in their basic nutritional properties from the wild wheat neolithic farmers grew 6,000 years ago. Improvements to yield, shattering resistance and disease resistance came about by traditional crossing of various "wild" types, which could have (and likely did) occurred in nature.

Consumption of "ancient grains," such as spelt and kamut (actually the ancestors of modern commercial wheat varieties), is of no particular benefit, since they, too, contain gluten and their flour is virtually indistinguishable from that of modern wheat.

Some people do indeed have gluten intolerance, but for the rest of us, eat your whole grains. We have survived quite well since neolithic times doing just that.



Lucienne Loiselle blames grain products and Canada's Food Guide for the current "belly fat" epidemic in Canada (60 per cent of adults are now overweight or obese), and wrongly states that the majority of us "eat fruit and veggies and follow a balanced diet without junk food and sugar."

I'm not sure what evidence is backing this assertion, because in Manitoba, 67 per cent of us eat four or fewer servings of fruits and vegetables per day (the current recommendation for adults is seven per day); 82 per cent of us consume too much sodium; and only six per cent get enough fibre (from the chief provincial public health officer's Report on the Health of Manitobans 2010).

Further, about one-third of our calories come from "other" foods outside the four food groups (soft drinks, salty snacks, candy). Sure, we should eat fewer refined-grain products, but wheat isn't the "smoking gun" here -- it's our over-consumption of low-nutrition, highly processed and junk foods, which are available everywhere.


Department of human nutritional sciences

University of Manitoba

First World 'bribes'

Re: OT bill for ticket drive rolls in (Feb. 21). Third World cops collect bribes at checkpoints. We call that extortion.

Winnipeg police, on overtime, issue traffic tickets.

What's the difference? Overtime is pensionable.



Riel views distorted

Bartley Kives' Feb. 16 article Modern-day history: Louis Riel's legacy redefined is sorely lacking with respect to Riel's legacy, the history surrounding the entrance of Manitoba into Confederation and the basic human rights that he fought for, for the people of the Prairies.

This failure is evidenced by the fact that three non-Métis individuals were interviewed for the article. It would have been more appropriate to have highlighted Riel's legacy as the Father of Manitoba and the leader of the fight for the rights of the people of Manitoba and Western Canada.

Such a factual approach would make the people of Manitoba and the West proud of their history, heritage and culture.



A diversionary tactic

Bravo for your Feb. 20 editorial cartoon, showing the Tory Economic Action Plan as a diversionary tactic.

I was beginning to think there was going to be no criticism in the media of a blatant misuse of taxpayers' money for what amounts to pre-election feel-good propaganda.

As the only serious newspaper in Winnipeg, you can help to wake Manitobans up to the fact that millions of their hard-earned dollars are being spent by a government that claims to be concerned with balancing its books.

Because Stephen Harper and his crew are so secretive, we have no way of knowing the total they are blowing on self-promotion. (The figure of $80 million has been mentioned, but I am sure that is "conservative" in every sense of the word.)

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which claims to represent our interests, is more concerned with the cost of liquor. I understand Colin Craig and his gang must cater to the right wing that appears to finance their lobby group, but it would be nice to see some attempt to show balance.

Thank you for making an attempt -- however small -- to represent the rights of the ordinary Canadians who have been asked to tighten their belts and spend wisely.


Portage la Prairie

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 23, 2013 A16

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