Sunday, July 12, 2015

To gluten or not to gluten

This spring the EdX course on The Ethics of Eating (Cornell X) began with a couple of very funny video clips. One was the scene from an episode of Portlandia where the restaurant patrons, after asking many questions of their server, decide it would be best to visit the farm where the chicken they are contemplating eating was raised. The second was one in a series of spoofs on new age lifestyles called "How To Become Gluten Intolerant" - which sends up all those situations of the dinner guests from hell, who not only have very specific dietary requirements, but forget to tell you about some of them until you are serving the meal.

Recognizing that some people have celiac disease (1% or so of the population, 1:133 from epidemiological studies) and some people have wheat allergies (far fewer as it turns out). I have tried to be tolerant of the gluten free craze, but haven't really succeeded.

So, it was good today to find a well balanced article on the BBC News web site.
Turns out there are about 6% of folks who are gluten sensitive but don't have celiac disease. But compare that to the more than 1 in 4 folks in the US who are avoiding gluten. What!?!

Some of this is related to the paleo-diet mythology, of course. If you think this might be a good idea, read Paleofantasy first.

Two things that amused me from the BBC article. The writer cites the author of The Gluten Lie, who opines that Britons who feel better giving up gluten may attribute it to "the placebo effect, combined with the fact that they are not drinking five beers a night."   

And another "Whaaat?" that made me laugh out loud is this paragraph:
The tennis star Novak Djokovic believes he owes his stellar 2011 season to giving up gluten. In his book Serve to Win, he describes the moment his nutritionist Igor Cetojevicv gave him a slice of bread and told him to hold it against his stomach while he held his other arm out straight. Then Cetojevicv pushed down on his arm. "With the bread against my stomach, my arm struggled to resist Cetojevicv's downward pressure. I was noticeably weaker," the tennis star writes. "This is a sign that your body is rejecting the wheat in the bread," Cetojevicv told him. 

And one thing that gave me pause. Elimination diets (like gluten free) are often effective for weight loss, because they limit choices which often causes one to eat less. But the author of the BBC piece points out that elimination diets may give rise to disordered eating, with serious negative consequences.

See the whole article here:

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