By MATTHEW WEAVER
The U.S. wheat industry says research shows that an author's claims that wheat is unhealthful are untrue and a "slander."
The National Wheat Improvement Committee has released a set of scientific facts in response to William Davis, author of the book "Wheat Belly."
Davis claims eliminating all wheat from the diet results in weight loss and improved general health. He also claims modern breeding to increase wheat productivity has altered the genetics of wheat so that it hurts people who eat it.
The committee calls Davis' message a "slander" on the industry.
Jane DeMarchi of the National Association of Wheat Growers said Davis takes breeders' efforts to improve yield and make the plant more resistant to disease and turns them "into something very sinister using very faulty information without proof of his claims."
Judi Adams, president of the Wheat Foods Council, said it's important to set the record straight.
"Any diet that cuts out an entire food or food group is definitely a fad diet," she said, noting the "Wheat Belly" diet is essentially a low-carb diet. "There's no scientific basis for cutting out an entire food such as wheat."
It's too soon to tell whether Davis' message has been effective, she said.
"We definitely are worried there will be people out there desperate to lose weight, that they will glom onto any diet and believe what he has to say," Adams said.
The committee includes public and private sector researchers and growers. DeMarchi said the researchers are internationally respected and their work was reviewed by peers.
"It would be difficult to question their credentials," she said.
The researchers studied Davis' book and responded to his claims.
"The man on the street really doesn't understand what plant breeding is," DeMarchi said.
The response will be sent to growers and industry members, DeMarchi said.
Kara Rowe, Washington Association of Wheat Growers director of outreach, welcomed the answers. When she went on a month-long wheat-free diet in 2012, she heard from many critics who sided with Davis. Rowe doesn't expect the facts to silence his most dedicated followers.
"What the (committee) was able to do was bring truth to the story," she said. "The silent majority of people, the 80 to 90 percent who really don't have an opinion either way, the response validates the fact these claims were inaccurate."