Links – All about gluten and health fads

If you are like me and you follow a lot of alternative health blogs, you would definitely notice a trend of gluten free recipes and food. Gluten seems to have become the new enemy, no wait,  is that sugar? Fat as the enemy is so last decade. Sugar and gluten are the new enemies. Anyways, I really liked this very long article because it not only addresses gluten but also health fad trends which can be very misleading.

Here are some excerpts which really resonated with me – 

“Until about a decade ago, the other ninety-nine per cent of Americans rarely seemed to give gluten much thought.But, led by people like William Davis, a cardiologist whose book “Wheat Belly” created an empire founded on the conviction that gluten is a poison, the protein has become a culinary villain.”

“Nearly twenty million people contend that they regularly experience distress after eating products that contain gluten, and a third of American adults say that they are trying to eliminate it from their diets.”

“For many people, avoiding gluten has become a cultural as well as a dietary choice, and the exposition offered an entry ramp to a new kind of life.”

“The most obvious question is also the most difficult to answer: How could gluten, present in a staple food that has sustained humanity for thousands of years, have suddenly become so threatening? There are many theories but no clear, scientifically satisfying answers.”

“But something strange is clearly going on. For reasons that remain largely unexplained, the incidence of celiac disease has increased more than fourfold in the past sixty years.”

“Jones said. He and Bethany Econopouly, one of his doctoral students, recently published an essay in the Huffington Post in which they argue that the legal definition of the word “bread” has become meaningless and ought to be changed: “FDA regulations state that for bread to be labeled as ‘bread,’ it must be made of flour, yeast, and a moistening ingredient, usually water. When bleached flour is used, chemicals like acetone peroxide, chlorine, and benzoyl peroxide (yes, the one used to treat acne) can be included in the recipe and are masked under the term ‘bleached.’ Optional ingredients are also permissible in products called bread: shortening, sweeteners, ground dehulled soybeans, coloring, potassium bromate . . . and other dough strengtheners (such as bleaching agents and vital gluten).”

“Fad dieting is nothing new in America; it’s what we do instead of eating balanced, nutritiously wholesome meals. Scarsdale, Atkins, South Beach, Zone, flexitarian, pescatarian, and paleo have all been awarded their fifteen minutes of fame and then shoved aside for the next great diet. They are rarely effective for long. Some nutrition specialists say that the current preoccupation with gluten-free products reminds them of the national obsession with removing fats from foods in the late nineteen-eighties. “Low-fat” foods are often packed with sugar and calories to make up for the lack of fat. The same is true of many products that are advertised as “gluten-free.”

Our abject fear of eating fat has long been among the more egregious examples of the lack of connection between nutritional facts and the powerful myths that govern our eating habits. For decades, low-fat diets have been recommended for weight loss and to prevent heart disease. Food companies have altered thousands of products so that they can be labelled as low in fat, but replacing those fats with sugars, salt, and refined carbohydrates makes the food even less healthy. “Almost all of this has proved to be nonsense,’’ Myhrvold said. “Research shows that the total amount of fat in the diet isn’t really linked to weight or disease. What matters is the type of fat and the total calories you consume.” Bad fats increase the risk of death from heart disease and good fats lower it.

Margarine is a bad fat. Yet for decades doctors encouraged consumers to eat it, instead of butter, because butter is laden with saturated fat, which was considered even more dangerous than the fat in margarine. The assumption was not tested until the early nineteen-nineties, when researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health began to analyze data from the Nurses’ Health Study, which had followed the health of ninety thousand nurses for more than a decade. The study showed that women who ate four teaspoons of margarine a day had a fifty per cent greater risk of heart disease than those who rarely or never ate margarine. Yet again, the intuitive advice followed by so many people had been wrong.”

“The diet can also be unhealthy. “Often, gluten-free versions of traditional wheat-based foods are actually junk food,’’ Green said. That becomes clear after a cursory glance at the labels of many gluten-free products. Ingredients like rice starch, cornstarch, tapioca starch, and potato starch are often used as replacements for white flour. But they are highly refined carbohydrates, and release at least as much sugar into the bloodstream as the foods that people have forsaken.”

““I went into baking because I thought it was a wholesome form of expression,’ he said while kneading a loaf he would bake the next day. I kept hearing about this gluten thing all the time. How gluten was so dangerous, and it was really getting me down in my heart. I started to ask myself, Am I making people sick? Have I become this spear of death?’ He began to think about a different profession.”


3 thoughts on “Links – All about gluten and health fads

  1. I too was wondering why so many people are becoming gluten intolerant. First, they said it’s GMOs, that wheat is one of the most modified crops. I recently read an article that said it’s because of how wheat is cultivated in the US. Farmers apparently dehydrate the crop to maximize yield, a process that causes digestion issues. I still haven’t decided what to do with wheat. I’ve noticed that if I completely eliminate something, over time, I DO become allergic/sensitive to it, even though I was able to digest it before. So, what I do is – rather than eliminate wheat, I use grain rotation – I simply use a different grain every day of the week – brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, whole wheat, etc.

    I agree with you on the fads – I try to stay away from all fads and just use common sense approaches that have worked for 1000s of years – eating a balanced, variety of foods that are whole, nutritious, include good fats like olive oil, flax, avoid additives/flavorings, home cook simple meals as much as possible, buy organic.

  2. Gluten intolerance is not a big problem in Iran and South Asia where wheat consumption is more than in the US. Corporate farming practices and GM foods need to be studied. Capitalist greed and the food industry are a toxic combination.

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