Jumping on the gluten free bandwagon to make a profit.

china

I will just come out and say it.

I hate the gluten free craze / fad or whatever you want to call it.  I wish people would inform themselves. But I do tend to give them the benefit of the doubt (sometimes).  So I try to inform and educate.

But ….  I wish that when people are given information, THEY WOULD LISTEN!

The gluten free diet is necessary for people with certain medical conditions. It is scientifically proven to be required by people with coeliac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis. Non coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) has also been accepted as a real medical condition that warrants a gluten free diet. Other people with medical conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and multiple sclerosis claim benefit from following this diet. Although it is still unproven to be effective, it is great that these people experience some sort of relief from their symptoms.

But I become impatient every time a perfectly healthy person claims that they are ”going gluten free’ just because.

Just because what exactly? To lose weight? To feel more energetic? To look more beautiful, young and hip?

Come on! We all have access to information. Too much so at times. Which brings me to the point of this post.

The only things that makes me cringe more than the gluten free fad itself are people who are out to make money by spreading misinformation.

A while ago, I came across an advert for an Asian restaurant that claims to be a Gluten Free Zone. There are adverts about this all over their facebook page. I immediately thought that it was a restaurant that served gluten free food only considering the use of Gluten Free Zone everywhere. I contacted the restaurant owner and was disappointed to find out that they have some items that are gluten free on their menu, but that we cannot take anything with batter (which are quite a few items), and noodles, and that their soy sauce is not gluten free. They do not have a dedicated kitchen or a dedicated preparation area for gluten free food. I still have not understood the boasting about being a gluten free zone.  I proceeded to try to give my standard advice regarding the importance of avoiding cross contamination and hidden ingredients and I decided not to dine there and not bother with the place again.

However, yesterday an this advert by the same restaurant was placed on a gluten free facebook group that I am a member of:

Going gluten-free has numerous health benefits, such as reducing risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

Although this irritated me, I decided to contact the owner privately to inform him that gluten free foods have benefits for people with certain medical conditions but there are no proven benefits for all. I explained that gluten free products tend to be high in fat, low in important healthy nutrients, like iron and vitamin B and lower in fibre. Since gluten is found in grains that are high in fibre like wheat, and fibre is important for cardiac health, I explained that eating gluten free products was not the way to go for a healthier heart. As for reducing the risk of cancer, this is partly true- coeliacs have a small increased risk of certain cancers and a gluten free diet is their only treatment option. But it does not prevent cancer in normal people.

The owner assured me that he would amend this, but actually did not. That is when I realised that this was the type of person I was talking about. He was out to make money out of the fad. I informed him, and my advice was ignored.

Another thing written on the restaurant’s page was this:

Some 30% of the European population carries the gene for celiac disease. Those people are more likely to suffer health problems caused by gluten. It’s best to avoid it!

So not only is this person uninformed, he is also giving dangerous advice. Yes, some 30% of Europeans carry the gene for coeliac. Most never develop it in their lifetime though. Only 1 in 133 people have coeliac disease. To get diagnosed one must be still eating gluten. So why advise people to avoid it?

Because the more people that avoid gluten, the more money in these people’s pockets. That’s why!

This is only one example of buisnesses that are jumping on the gluten free bandwagon. This is a huge industry, and a growing one. Although the high demand leads to more products and services for us to enjoy, it sadly also results in mockery of those who have a real medical condition that warrants this diet. It also results in unnecessary dietary restriction for perfectly healthy people.

How do you feel about this?

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/pjanvandaele/3990379048/”>pjan vandaele</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

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4 thoughts on “Jumping on the gluten free bandwagon to make a profit.

  1. Hi Candie! I try not to judge those who go gluten free. However, when people go gluten free “to lose weight,” they’re really just cutting carbs, and when they don’t get tested for Celiac Disease first (I try to educate them). In other news, I highly recommend Gluten Freedom by Dr. Fasano that just came out. I’m pretty sure a few passages from there could be more educating to my friends than when they hear the same words from me (especially since they are all brainy academics). But I have the same emotions as you, and I’ve been geek-ing out about this book since I read it earlier this week.

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  2. It’s a tricky one, because on the one hand the prevalence of ‘going gluten free’ as a health fad has meant that there are a lot more options eating out for coeliacs, and much larger range of products than a few years ago. But on the other hand, sometimes people lump me (a lifelong and sensitive coeliac) in with the health fad crew, and don’t take my needs seriously as a result. It also really annoys me when businesses jump on board the bandwagon without actually doing the research to make things properly gluten free, for example the fish and chip restaurant in London who claim to offer gluten free batter, but actually fry it in the oil with wheatflour! Gah! It’s irresponsible. Enjoyed your post.

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