My Rant on the NYT Article on Gluten

A Big Bet on Gluten-Free –

Oh. My. Gosh. There are so many wrong-headed, misleading ideas and inaccuracies here, I barely know where to begin.

Let’s start with whether avoiding gluten is only a passing fad like “the cupcake craze”, as the article unfortunately suggests. Now you have to admit that is pretty ironic, right? Beyond the silly analogy, while avoiding gluten might seem like a fad, something that stars and athletes are doing along with their other crazy and extreme behaviors, the truth is that virtually everyone will benefit from eliminating gluten.

Why? Because we know that gluten causes inflammation in everyone. No exceptions. That it contributes to heart disease. Diabetes. Arthritis. Auto-immune diseases including Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Hashimoto’s, and Cancer. IBS. Crohn’s. Endometriosis. Alzheimer’s. Depression. Anxiety and Panic Attacks. Brain fog. The list goes on and on, and there’s plenty of research to back it up. Two prominent medical doctors, a neurologist and a cardiologist, have written informative, accessible yet solidly researched best sellers: Wheat Belly and Grain Brain.

It’s certainly true that manufacturers are leaping on the bandwagon, labeling everything gluten free that they possibly can: juices, ketchup, dairy items, all sorts of packaged foods that never had any risk of gluten in them. Just labeling it preys on an uneducated group of consumers that hope that might mean the processed product they’re buying is somehow healthier. $10.5 billion dollars is a lot of money to compete for.

“I see this as part of the current American concern with digestive health, which is also responsible for the yogurt boom,” said Harry Balzer, vice president at the market research company NPD Group, where he has followed the food industry for some 30 years. “About 30 percent of the public says it would like to cut back on the amount of gluten it’s eating, and if you find 30 percent of the public doing anything, you’ll find a lot of marketers right there, too.”

And there you go… Yogurt, which I remember from my time as a teen in France, and even its early days in America (yeah, I’m old), in a small container: plain, extremely tart, creamy white, and not particularly tasty. It morphed, over time, and with Dannon’s help, into dessert with a virtuous aura, with no fat (that’s a bad thing! And do you know how hard it is to find full fat yogurt now?), artificial sweeteners or WAY too much sugar, and none of the probiotics that made it healthy in the first place. Unless, of course, they put them back in and charge a premium for them! (see Activia, a Dannon product)

By the way, “cutting back” on gluten isn’t going to do it. We know that one quarter teaspoon of gluten stays in the system for two weeks (it’s GLUE-Y folks! They actually make glue from it!) and effects inflammation markers for six months!

And now the food industry wants to convince us that we can have our cake and eat it too. Otherwise why we would Betty Crocker be producing brownie and cake mixes? They are so far from healthy it is ludicrous, yet the gluten-free label somehow bestows that same cash-worthy aura of virtue.

So let me be really clear here (and I’ve written about this before): gluten free does not mean healthy. In fact, most food out of a package, whether gluten free or not, is pretty much guaranteed to be unhealthy. As with yogurt, we have been deceived. And going from whole wheat to potato starch, corn, and rice flour is a big part of the reason people switching to gluten free sometimes gain weight, and can raise their cholesterol and risk of diabetes. These are high glycemic grains that spike blood sugar and drive cravings for more fast fuel carbs, including sugars and other refined processed food products. (That’s biochemical, by the way, not a question of will power.)

As for the numbers quoted, I don’t know where they come from. About a third of the population is genetically predisposed to be gluten sensitive, and certainly many more than 6% are, according to any research I’ve seen in many years. This too, is a topic I’ve written about previously, and has to do with a change in our wheat over the past few decades, as well as the bombardment of toxins that super-sensitizes us, wrecks our guts, and weakens our immune systems.

Bottom line? If you take gluten out of your diet, and focus on replacing it with real food: protein from healthy animals, healthy fats from coconut, avocado, nuts, seeds and olive oil, and lots of non-starchy vegetables, you will be doing yourself a huge favor in terms of your health. If you replace gluten with packaged products labeled gluten-free? Not so much…

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