You've heard of "beer bellies," the protuberant, sagging abdomen of someone who drinks excessive quantities of beer.

How about "wheat belly"?

That's the same protuberant, sagging abdomen that develops when you overindulge in processed wheat products like pretzels, crackers, breads, waffles, pancakes, breakfast cereals and pasta.

(By the way, this image, borrowed from the wonderful people at Wikipedia, is that of a teenager, who supplied a photo of himself.)

It represents the excessive visceral fat that laces the intestines and triggers a drop in HDL, rise in triglycerides, inflames small LDL particles, C-reactive protein, raises blood sugar, raises blood pressure, creates poor insulin responsiveness, etc.

How common is it? Just look around you and you'll quickly recognize it in dozens or hundreds of people in the next few minutes. It's everywhere.

Wheat bellies are created and propagated by the sea of mis-information that is delivered to your door every day by food manufacturers. It's the same campaign of mis-information that caused the wife of a patient of mine who was in the hospital (one of my rare hospitalizations) to balk in disbelief when I told her that her husband's 18 lb weight gain over the past 6 months was due to the Shredded Wheat Cereal for breakfast, turkey sandwiches for lunch, and whole wheat pasta for dinner.

"But that's what they told us to eat after Dan left the hospital after his last stent!"

Dan, at 260 lbs with a typical wheat belly, had small LDL, low HDL, high triglycerides, etc.

I hold the food companies responsible for this state of affairs, selling foods that are clearly causing enormous weight gain nationwide. Unfortunately, the idiocy that emits from Nabisco, Kraft, and Post (AKA Philip Morris); General Mills; Kelloggs; and their kind is aided and abetted by organizations like the American Heart Association, with the AHA stamp of approval on Cocoa Puffs, Cookie Crisp Cereal, and Berry Kix; and the American Diabetes Association, whose number one corporate sponsor is Cadbury Schweppes, the biggest soft drink and candy manufacturer in the world.

As I've said many times before, if you don't believe it, try this experiment: Eliminate all forms of wheat for a 4 week period--no breakfast cereals, no breads of any sort, no pasta, no crackers, no pretzels, etc. Instead, increase your vegetables, healthy oils, lean proteins (raw nuts, seeds, lean red meats, chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, Egg Beaters, low-fat yogurt and cottage cheese), fruits. Of course, avoid fruit drinks, candy, and other garbage foods, even if they're wheat-free.

Most people will report that a cloud has been lifted from their brains. Thinking is clearer, you have more energy, you don't poop out in the afternoon, you sleep more deeply, some rashes disappear. You will also notice that hunger ratchets down substantially. Most people lose the insatiable hunger pangs that occur 2-3 hours after a wheat-containing meal. Instead, hunger is a soft signal that gently prods you that it's time to consider eating again.

You will also make considerable gains towards gaining control over your risk for heart disease and your heart scan score, a crucial step in the Track Your Plaque program.