Nutrition Syllogism

What do you think of these chains of logic?

Cyanide is a potent lethal poison; carbon monoxide is a less lethal poison.
Therefore: plenty of carbon monoxide is good.

Having uterine cancer is a bad thing. Having uterine fibroids is a less bad thing.
Therefore: plenty of uterine fibroids are good.

These are obvious examples of seriously flawed logic. Students of logic and philosophy will recognize the above erroneous sequences as examples of the twisted arguments often used to persuade an argumentative opponent of the logic of a premise. As long ago as 335 B.C., Greek philosopher, Aristotle, recognized the pitfalls of thinking in such arguments. You think we’d know better by now.

Try this one:

White enriched flour is a bad for health; whole grains are less bad for health.
Therefore: plenty of whole grains are good for health.


In the 1960s, we all ate hot dogs on white buns, white flour Wonder Bread® sandwiches, Mom made cookies and cupcakes with white flour. Then, during the 1970s and 1980s, clinical studies were performed demonstrating that whole wheat and whole grains reduced colon cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease compared to white flour. In other words, add back fiber and B vitamins and health benefits develop: No argument here.

Therefore: whole grains must be good for health. Further, lots of whole grains?unlimited quantities of whole grains many times per day, every day?must be even better. Even the USDA says so on their nutrition pyramid, with 8-11 servings of grains per day, 4 of which should be whole grains, at the widest portion of the pyramid.

But what happens when you follow this logic through and fill your diet with whole grains?

Look around you and it’s easy to see: Appetite increases, people become obese, blood sugar increases, diabetes develops, HDL cholesterol plummets, triglycerides skyrocket, inflammatory patterns (e.g., c-reactive protein, or CRP) increase, small LDL (the number one cause for heart disease in the obese U.S.!) shoots through the roof.

I would no more fill my diet with “healthy whole grains” than I would close my garage door with the car running.

Comments (21) -

  • TedHutchinson

    7/21/2009 1:38:08 PM |

    Increased Levels of 25 Hydroxyvitamin D and 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D After Rosuvastatin Treatment: A Novel Pleiotropic Effect of Statins?
    So statins work their magic (in some way not yet identified)by  increasing vitamin d status and thus obtaining Vitamin D3's important pleiotropic effects that lead to reduced coronary artery disease mortality.

    So is this an excuse to make everyone take a statin (that inevitably will have some side effects)to achieve higher vitamin d status or is there a simpler way of increasing vitamin d3 status that doesn't have (at the normal amounts people reading this forum can be expected to require)any nasty side effects?

    I think we just need to Follow the Money, to see how this piece of research will be interpreted.

  • bowseat93

    7/21/2009 1:50:21 PM |

    So tell us. How much is too much?

  • Jim Purdy

    7/21/2009 4:00:18 PM |

    This is an excellent post.

    But Doctor Dean Ornish points out that the same argument is made about mono-unsaturated fats being better than saturated fats, and people therefore eat lots of mono-unsaturated fats. He claims that logic is also badly flawed.

    I used to be a big fan of Ornish, and I still am, but I do try to eat lots of mono-unsaturated fats from avocados, pecans, and walnuts.

  • Anonymous

    7/21/2009 4:59:21 PM |

    One web doctor says eat no meat. Another, no fruit. Yet another, no dairy. Still another, no grains. So much disagreement tells me that dietary results are anecdotal. Simply opinions.

  • Ross

    7/21/2009 6:19:15 PM |


    No wheat is necessary for a long diabetes-free, heart disease-free life.  Also, there appears to be very little real benefit to consuming wheat, so "some" is too much.

    Now that the data which establishes the protective nature of many saturated fats (including animal fats and tropical oils), and the beneficial nature of fats in general, I think that we're on the cusp of discarding Ancel Keys's bizarrely misguided leadership on fats.  Next we need to decide as a country that the FDA (Department of Agriculture) probably isn't the right place to seek dietary advice.

    As for Ornish, well, I simply say that he and I start from different premises.

  • Get Primal

    7/21/2009 8:03:27 PM |


    You are correct about one thing...if you spend enough time on the web you can find a physician or nutrition 'expert' that will support any diet you want to follow.  However, find me another physician that has tested the lipid profiles of thousands of patients, both during a grain based diet and following the elimination of grains, and still tells you to eat them.  

    I can save you the time and aggravation, you're not going to find it.  The unfortunate truth is that most physicians you speak to know no more about nutrition than you do.

  • billye

    7/21/2009 8:42:23 PM |

    I followed the low fat high carbohydrate diet recommended by the medical establishment for 50 years.  I put on 80 pounds, developed diabetes type 2 which led me to chronic kidney disease stage 3 along with many other ailments too numerous to mention.  10 months ago I went on an evolutionary diet, high saturated fat and low carb supplementing with high dose vitamin D3, Omega 3 wild fish oil, vitamin K2 and kelp. I have lost 54 pounds, diabetes type 2 cured, my Trig/HDL ratio is now 2.53.  

    This is not an opinion it's a fact.

    Courageous doctors who are not afraid of ridicule are leading the way to a medical revolution and I am sorry to say that DR. Ornish is not one of them.

    It's amazing that for fifty years I was in decline and now I am reversing my health issues.

    This health revolution could could cut the cost of health insurance in half if only it would become the national recommendation.  WAKE UP AMERICA!!

  • Dr. William Davis

    7/22/2009 2:48:52 AM |

    Hi, Ted--

    Excellent point.

    It's as if every aspect of health can be best served by a drug, particularly statin drugs.

    While statins like rosuvastatin may increase vitamin D in its various forms by a modest quantity, it is far better to simply supplement vitamin D.

  • Dr. William Davis

    7/22/2009 2:56:53 AM |


    So should we just toss up our hands and give up?

    Well, that's certainly what Big Food would like us to do--succumb to the tides of marketing and eat what tastes good.

    I'll stay out of that line. I'd choose instead to pick the food philosophy that makes most sense. Humans did not evolve to consume pretzels, high-fructose corn syrup, and Cheerios.

  • DJ

    7/23/2009 3:19:18 AM |

    This is the best blog ever for cardiovascular, thyroid, and other medical information!  Thank you Dr. Davis!  I respectfully disagree with the idea that complete elimination of whole grains is the BEST or ONLY way to bring about the beneficial health changes (weight loss, drastic improvement in lipid profile, blood sugar, blood pressure, etc).

    "Too many whole grains are bad for your health.  Therefore, you must completely elimate whole grains from your diet."...seems like a faulty logic sequence to me.

    How about just consuming reasonable portion sizes within the context of a truly balanced diet?  I would bet that few people you see in your clinic actually do this.  Therefore, how would you know if it worked just as well (or even better) than completely eliminating them?  It is certainly one way, but I don't believe it is the only way, and I do not know if it is the best, because I do not understand what exactly you replace the whole grains with.  I am wondering what the "ideal" day looks like as far as macronutrient breakdown and the actual foods eaten.  Would love to see a post about this!

  • billye

    7/23/2009 3:53:14 AM |

    I just received my latest blood test results and was delighted but not surprised to find my triglycerides down from 115 mg/dl to 66 mg/dl, because of your recommendation to supplement with high dose vitamin D3 and high dose omega 3 fish oil.  However, my other numbers have yet to improve very much. In a previous post August 9, 2007 you recommended oat bran to lower LDL to the 60 mg/dl range.  The problem is that I am hung up on the fact that oat bran is a grain product, and because I am totally wheat and grain free I hesitate to eat this.  Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill?  Also my HDL is stagnant at 42 mg/dl and will not budge.

    Because of following your dietary recommendations my health has improved immensely.  Diabetes type 2 now cured and a 54 pound weight loss so far.  I will not give up until I get my HDL and LDL to mirror my excellent triglyceride numbers.

    Thanks for your wonderful recommendations.  Keep up the good fight.

  • Anne

    7/23/2009 11:30:13 AM |

    Dear Dr Davis,

    Re the current questionnaire you have about going wheat free and what amount of weight a person lost, I  think you need another option for people who did not need to lose weight but still went wheat free. The questionnaire implies that people go wheat free to lose weight...not everyone does as not everyone is overweight to begin with.


  • Anonymous

    7/23/2009 12:26:13 PM |

    Dr. Davis

    Would you consider dedicating a post to your weekly diet (or even just a couple days)?  I hear the no grains, more mono fats, veggies and fruits thing but I have no idea how to put them together to make a meal since I'm so used to eating wheat products.  For instance, all I can think of for breakfast is eggs, eggs, and more eggs.  What other options are there?  Is dairy bad too?  Thanks!

  • Dr. William Davis

    7/23/2009 2:04:50 PM |


    I ran the wheat-free poll as a reason to talk about why people fail to lose weight with wheat elimination, and a reason to talk about what grains fit well into a healthy diet. Coming soon.

  • billye

    7/23/2009 3:59:16 PM |


    I had diabetes type 2 for most of my adult life. Because of this, according to my Nephrologist, I became a chronic kidney disease stage 3 patient.  Dr. T.  "" also told me that millions of us are walking around with kidney disease and don't even know it.  He also said that if I had this program before I contracted CKD I probably would have avoided it. Ten months ago he put me on a wheat and grain free regimen and completely turned my life around.  I don't think that he would mind if I told you that he reads Dr. Davis religiously and believes they are simpatico. Because of this his practice is now based on nutrition coupled with a reduction or elimination of prescription medications including Staten's.  His plan is to be Wheat and grain free, low carb high saturated fat, supplementing with high dose vitamin D3, high dose fish oil, Super K2 and kelp caps.  These two
    brave doctors along with many others who came before, are changing the face of how medicine is practiced today.  Yes, the primary offender is wheat.  Before this plan I could never report to you A1c numbers of 4.7, 4.8 and 5.0 over the last 6 months. I know no one who's life style allows them to lose weight permanently without any hunger what so ever.  The freedom of having complete control is overwhelming.  It took me fifty years to finally get it, I hope you don't waste as much time chasing fruitless diets that make you sicker and sicker. Please take advantage of the advise these great doctors provide and talk to your own physician about this plan.  By the way my kidney disease is not only under control, some of the markers are also reversing, miracle of all miracles. MY wish for you is only Good luck and great health.

  • Hellistile

    7/25/2009 1:01:51 AM |

    I'm a zero carber and it's no big deal. You just eat meat and some eggs, maybe some cheese. Don't have to worry about anything else.

    I eat about 1200 cals a day, I'm not hungry and I have no cravings. My lipids when doing low-carb were the envy of people half my age.

    And I'm not going to stand around waiting for everyone to reach a consensus on what and how to eat. I've tried them all and this is what works for me. I listen to MY body. It tells me when I'm hungry and when to eat.

  • Helena

    7/27/2009 8:30:10 PM |

    Dr. Davis, once again - I love your blog! I am a bit confused about the wheat and grain part. To lower cholesterol are we supposed to eliminate wheat or ALL grains?

    I am now on a quest to get my nice belly down to a normal size, and eliminating all grains is on my list, including other actions off course.

    Thank you again for a well written blog!

  • trinkwasser

    7/29/2009 6:10:46 PM |


    Here's yet another take

  • Anonymous

    8/23/2009 10:10:36 PM | I'm new to all of this and have to ask what about those of us who start healthy (all the numbers look good), eat a balanced diet that included a reasonable balance of all sorts of food, and exercise regularly/aren't overweight.  On a very pragmatic level, I agree w/ Anne...suggestions for menus/meals, etc would be helpful...especially for those of us with teenage boys who eat like locusts regardless of what you fill them up with (protein, fat, grains, vegetables, fruit).  My personal opinion is that the #1 reason most folks in the US have a problem is that we simply eat TOO MUCH...there is food all around us.  Just eating less would probably solve a lot of our health problems.

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  • glutaminl

    2/8/2011 11:36:19 AM |

    For better absorption of your body nutrients & better balance of essential nutrients, eat whole plant foods, which will slow digestive processes. This results in better cell growth management, and better maintenance and cell division. In addition, it will cause better regulation of your appetite & of your body's blood sugar levels. Its better to eat regularly scheduled meals instead of infrequent meals.