I just received a notification from my wordpress publishing platform saying ”Happy Anniversary”. It has been exactly 1 year since I started writing on my blog. Exactly 1 year since I started writing anything really. It was all thanks to … Continue reading
Gluten free packaged foods are often marketed as healthy eating. These substitute products tend to be shelved in the health food section of supermarkets so give the impression that they are healthy to the consumer. This could have something to … Continue reading
Today, I read an article slash advert in a local magazine called Cibus, that was distributed with today’s Sunday newspaper. It was titled, ‘This summer, go gluten free!’. The title itself sparked my curiosity and encouraged me to read more with … Continue reading
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?
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Just this week, I wrote an article about food-fear mongering. The two topics I dealt with were the fact that gluten is being labelled as harmful for everybody, and the new rumours about corn.
”Why we shouldn’t buy into all food fear campaigns’
Coincidentally, today I came across an article titled ‘Is Corn The Next Gluten?’ by Dr. Amy Myers http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-12939/is-corn-the-next-gluten.html.
This article is exactly what I was writing about. It talks about gluten being an inflammatory food, and it goes on to say that adherence to a gluten-free diet is enough to heal the gut and halt systemic inflammation. The thing it, this article is NOT written about people diagnosed with coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity, but for the general population, including perfectly healthy individuals. It continues to spread the notion that gluten is bad for everybody.
Furthermore, in my last blog entry, I stated that a 2012 study published in Plant foods for human nutrition, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22298027, showed that in some coeliacs, as a rare event, maize could induce a coeliac-like immune response by similar or alternative mechanisms to those used by wheat gluten peptides. This study is relevant to people with coeliac disease only, but is sadly being applied to perfectly healthy individuals by people out to make money out of this new trend.
The author who happens to be a doctor, is using fear to cause people to make irrational decisions, all the while promoting her ebooks, eCourses, soon to be released book and food-based program. As I said last time, fear sells. The author of this article also uses extreme extrapolation of the results of real studies to give credit to her claims.
Here are a few points:
1. The article talks about ‘leaky gut syndrome’– there is absolutely no evidence that eliminating certain foods like gluten or corn have any benefit on this ‘condition’ that is yet unproven to even exist.
2. It states:
”Remember that what you eat also eats, and be aware of what that is. Unless certified as grass fed, poultry and livestock are fed corn.Besides the fact that grain-fed meat comes from a less healthy animal and is extremely deficient in nutrients, the seemingly insignificant content of the animal’s diet can be enough to trigger an immune response when you eat that gluten-free hamburger or have your morning nonfat yogurt. ”
Seriously, does anybody actually believe that if an animal eats gluten or corn it will make it’s way into our hamburgers and yoghurt? The animal digests the food and it is broken down. I am surprised a doctor would actually allude to this. But again, fear sells.
2. Moreover it states
”to many people’s bodies, the protein in corn can look like gluten, and they cross-react to it”.
This is false. As I said earlier, it had been proven that in some coeliacs, as a rare event, corn could induce a coeliac-like immune response. The study the author referenced to her claim is new (January, 2013), and concluded that if a coeliac is not responsive to a gluten free diet, reasons may be cross reactivity to certain foods, or gluten cross contamination. These findings may explain why around some people with coeliac disease do not get complete relief of symptoms even when on a gluten free diet. In fact it was not only corn, but several foods were found to cause a reaction in the lab setting including cow’s milk, milk chocolate, the milk proteins: milk butyrophilin, whey protein and casein, yeast, oats, corn, millet, instant coffee and rice.
Again, the author of ‘Is Corn the next Gluten” used this study as a reference but chose only information relevant to her article and applied the results to the general population. She is inadvertently encouraging people to eliminate foods from their diet without a proper diagnosis by first encouraging people to eliminate gluten, and then to eliminate corn if symptoms persist. I still have not understood why corn was targeted from the many foods listed in the study she referenced.
3. ”Gluten is only one of several molecules that imitate our own body tissues and contribute to autoimmunity”.
Yes, gluten triggers auto-immunity- in people with coeliac disease.
Some people may have an allergy or an intolerance to corn, and some coeliacs (extremely rare) who do not respond to the gluten free diet might be having a reaction to corn, but there is no evidence that corn is unsuitable for everybody.
Now, I know that many people may avoid corn since alot of it is GMO. I will not enter into a discussion about GMO because since there has not been independent testing on these GMO grains, it is still a subject of debate as to whether these are safe or not. If anybody is going to argue that corn is unsuitable for human consumption because of GMOs, there is always the option to buy organic. But that is a personal choice.
This spreading of fear should stop!
I strongly suggest that if anybody suspects that their symptoms are the result of a particular food, they should follow the advice of their doctor or dietitian. Eliminating certain foods without guidance can be risky, because the symptoms could be the result of some other condition that would need to be investigated. This is especially true with gluten.
For more information about leaky gut syndrome visit http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/leaky-gut-syndrome/Pages/Introduction.aspx
A. Vojdani and I. Tarash, “Cross-Reaction between Gliadin and Different Food and Tissue Antigens,” Food and Nutrition Sciences, Vol. 4 No. 1, 2013, pp. 20-32. doi: 10.4236/fns.2013.41005.
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Just because something is written by a celebrity doctor or a popular blogger, it does not make it a fact.
There are many unsubstantiated claims about the harmful effects of certain foods in circulation. People claim that a particular food is the root of all evil, and blame it for all their ills based on the word of an author, blogger or the media. Not all health ‘’experts’’ who are promoting food fears are doing so in the best interest of the individual. Fear sells– and the more the fear, the more it is shared via social media, and the more the profit for the so called expert in terms of book sales, a service or a supplement.
Most of these fears are not supported by scientific evidence. Studies quoted as a backup to these claims are often flawed, and the ones that are validated are often misinterpreted. Although references seem impressive as first glance, if one actually reads even just the abstract of the study, it can be seen how the results are totally misinterpreted. It is becoming common to make extreme assumptions from research to fuel fear-mongering tactics.
The people who make these claims know that fear is a strong emotion and it can be used to steer people into making emotional rather than reasoned choices.
This is happening with so many foods, but in this article I will deal with just two subjects that are irking me right now- the effects of gluten and the query that corn contains gluten.
1. Gluten is poison!
Let me start with the ever increasing fear of gluten. I will say it time and time again. The only medical conditions that are scientifically proven to require a gluten free diet are coeliac disease, non coeliac gluten sensitivity, gluten ataxia and dermatitis herpetiformis (coeliac rash). There are people with other medical conditions like auto immune thyroid disease and autism that claim to benefit from a gluten free diet however current research does not yet support these claims. I suggest that these people should follow the advice from their medical team regarding the matter. However, many perfectly healthy individuals are choosing to eliminate gluten from their diets based on little or no evidence other than testimonials in the media, and books with no evidence based reporting. The apparent benefits of eliminating gluten are endless and some of the claims are beyond belief.
These are some comments I received after an article I wrote that highlighted the medical reasons for which people need to follow a gluten free diet. These people somehow felt insulted and felt the need to educate me because I said that experts agree that no benefit has been found in excluding gluten from one’s diet when no medical condition warrants this.
- Gluten is inflammatory for all … Allergenic to some.
- Medical professionals have been telling us for years that we should not be ingesting gluten. I don’t understand why everyone is so offended by people trying to be healthier. Even if you want to call it a “trend” I’d say it’s a pretty progressive one.
- Gluten causes intestinal and joint inflammation, the gas, the groggy feeling all over, the inability to think well after consuming. This isn’t a fad! The gluten free diet is a form of educating yourself on what your eating and how it affects your body.
- Yes, it is generally an intelligent idea for healthy-minded human beings to avoid gluten.
But I am saving the best one for last, because a celebrity doctor was actually mentioned.
- This chick who wrote this is a whiner and is missing the entire point of gluten free eating, which is to avoid a myriad of symptoms from eating gluten ranging from skin problems, inflammation, heart disease, and of course coeliac disease. She’s not a doctor, and I certainly take the word of cardiologist Dr. William Davis who wrote the book about gluten and its problems, over this whiny chick.
I am all for people living a healthy lifestyle and preventing diseases. If anybody eats healthy unprocessed foods, increases their intake of natural foods rich in nutrients and fibre, and couples this with regular exercise, they will definately help to prevent diseases like cardiac disease, diabetes 2 and stroke, as well as a myriad of symptoms. But sadly, the gluten free diet tends to be lacking in fibre, iron, calcium, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folate if one is not careful. And gluten free products are packed with sugars and preservatives.
As for the claim that a gluten free diet can prevent coeliac disease, all I can say is absolutely not! For coeliac disease to rear its ugly head, one must have the specific gene or genes, and it often requires a trigger. Yes, gluten must be in the system for the auto-immune reaction to occur, but the person must be genetically susceptible in the first place, and not every person who has the gene actually develops the disease. A gluten free diet is the treatment for coeliac disease.
For those of you who are not familiar with Dr William Davis, he is the author of the New York Times bestseller, ”Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. Since this was written by an actual doctor, people automatically trust that what is written is gospel. To read more about why this book is exactly what I am talking about in this piece, read ”Wheat belly, busted” http://noglutennoproblem.blogspot.com/2012/03/wheat-belly-busted.html
2. Corn contains gluten and corn is not suitable for coeliacs!
First of all, corn (maize) that has not been contaminated is ‘gluten free’ in the sense of gluten that is known to affect coeliacs. Corn contains a substance known in agriculture as “corn gluten,” which isn’t the same gluten we refer to with regards to gluten intolerances. Outside of agriculture, the term gluten refers to gluten contained in the grasses wheat, barley and rye. It is the related proteins in these three grains that give rise to the peptide sequences that are capable of triggering the auto-immune response of coeliac disease. So to say that corn contains gluten is actually not correct when we are not speaking about agriculture.
Some coeliac disease patients who are established on a strict gluten-free diet still suffer from symptoms. I wrote a post about this last January titled ”Do you still suffer from symptoms of coeliac disease even though you follow a gluten-free diet?”.
I suggested that before refractory coeliac disease is suspected, there could be other possible reasons for still feeling unwell. These include the possibility of gluten cross contamination (even corn is often contaminated with gluten), different sensitivity to gluten (some people cannot tolerate the recommended limit of gluten), secondary causes like IBS , due to associated auto-immune conditions and due to symptoms unrelated to gluten like other food sensitivities.
An article by Ortiz-Sánchez et al (2013) states that the lack of response could be related to other dietary ingredients, such as maize, which is one of the most common alternatives to wheat used in the gluten-free diet. It has been documented that some maize prolamins (zeins) contain amino acid sequences that resemble the wheat gluten immunodominant peptides. A 2012 study published in Plant foods for human nutrition, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22298027 , showed that in some coeliacs, as a rare event, maize could induce a coeliac-like immune response by similar or alternative mechanisms to those used by wheat gluten peptides.
This is useful information for the follow-up of some coeliacs who remain unresponsive to the gluten free diet, but this does not mean that all coeliacs cannot tolerate corn. If anybody with coeliac disease is doing well on a gluten free diet, please do not be alarmed by these claims. Just because a coeliac has another food intolerance does not mean that all coeliacs do! The same can be said for maize. This study is very useful, but again it is being misinterpreted and is being applied to all coeliacs by the media.
There are so many other claims being made about different foods that I could go on forever. Sadly, it is often perfectly healthy people who buy into these claims and limit their diets for no reason. Moderation in everything and healthy eating is the key, unless one has a medical condition to warrant such a dietary elimination.
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