Bread, in its many forms, be it waffles, pancakes, croissants, or the comfortable slice (or stack) of toast, is an easy go-to for many busy people—but according to some experts, bread is not easy to digest, and eating too much may harm the body.
Dr. Fukushima Masatsugu, a Japanese gastroenterologist, asserts in his book “Don’t Eat Bread for Breakfast” that seemingly easy-to-digest bread is poor for digestion in the stomach, and consuming too much may harm the body. Bread can cause the blood sugar level to soar, and its high carbohydrate content can upset the balance of the autonomic nervous system and lead to a “carbohydrate vicious cycle,” resulting in obesity.
Fukushima further explains:
- Gluten in bread hinders digestion and absorption, potentially causing illnesses
A high proportion of protein in flour is gluten protein, and the small intestine mucosa absorbs gluten protein without completely digesting it. When this viscous substance reaches the small intestine, it will entangle the small intestinal villi. When this occurs, digestion and absorption of nutrients may be disrupted and trigger stomach pain or allergies.
- Toasted bread may cause a variety of illnesses
When baking or toasting bread at high temperatures, sugar and protein can combine to form damaging substances called advanced glycation end products (AGE), which damage proteins in the body. AGEs are found in the browned, burnt part of the surface of toast and waffles. Primary risk factors of AGEs can be diabetic complications and inflammatory symptoms in the blood vessels, kidneys, muscles, and other vital organs. Similarly, barbecued food can trigger heart and brain diseases. If AGEs continue to build up in the body, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, arteriosclerosis, myocardial infarction, cerebral infarction, and cancers may occur.
- Incomplete digestion
Food remains in the stomach and small intestines for six to eight hours. Gastroscopy shows that meat, which is often thought to be hard on our digestive system, leaves almost no residue in the stomach. Conversely, bread, rice, udon noodles, and other carbohydrate-heavy foods leave the most undigested food in the system and can cause a burden on the body when accumulated.
- Eating an excess of carbohydrates causes blood sugar to soar
The flour used for baking is high in carbohydrates. In 100 grams (two slices) of white bread, there are 45 grams of carbohydrates. In response to a meal high in carbs, the body secretes cortisol and adrenaline, and the absorption efficiency of sugar is high, especially in the morning. Eating bread at breakfast can result in a rapid surge in blood sugar levels—the fluctuation of which can damage blood vessels and lead to severe illnesses, such as arteriosclerosis, myocardial infarction, and stroke.
Dr. Tai Ting-En, the chief resident of the urology department of Taipei Medical University Affiliated Hospital, said “Overeating bread will cause a sharp increase in blood sugar. The human body secretes cortisol and adrenaline in the morning, so the sugar absorption rate is high. So eating bread in the morning will cause a high fluctuation in blood sugar within one to two hours of meals, which can harm our health.”
Even more concerning is that carbohydrates disrupt our autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic nerves, active during the day, help blood circulation and inhibit digestion. The parasympathetic nerves, active at night, will help the body rest and slow down the heartbeat and simultaneously promote digestion. Both are part of the autonomic nervous system.
If you ingest too much sugar as soon as you wake up, the autonomic nervous system will be disturbed and cause a biological imbalance. Tai reminded the people to keep a balanced diet and regular eating schedule and to avoid eating burnt toast.
Alternatives to Bread
A group of medical doctors and nutritionists in the U.S. studied the effects of AGEs on food. The research was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and PubMed Central on June 1, 2010.
The study concluded that AGEs in food represent pathogenic compounds linked to chronic diseases. The clinical report unveiled that AGEs form more in food that is barbecued, roasted, or cooked at high temperatures than in food that is not.
Any processed food or total fat products will spike the level of AGEs in the body. The study also showed that people can lessen their intake of AGEs substances by adding fish, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits to their diets.
In an interview with The Epoch Times, Tai said, “Patients should look for balanced and nutritional intake daily. While you may still enjoy bread every once in a while, I recommend the Mediterranean diet. Also, you can replace your white bread with whole-grain bread. In addition, you can include other whole wheat products, fresh vegetables, fruits, and vegetables in your daily meals. The Mediterranean diet is much healthier than food containing high [amounts of] oil and sodium.”