Tuesday, 9 June 2015

GLUTENous Greed (A Fear Factory)

Humans are anxious beings that from the moment they've noticed their egos mirrored on a puddle of muddy water, in some random cave ages ago, have since then been living in constant fear and under utter surreal threat. The worst 'predator' people have is their complicated minds; especially distempered and ignorant ones.

Another important issue with the human kind is greed. And sometimes greed creates problems and needs in order to provide enough space for products to come and correct those problematic needs that were never needs in the first place. Most oftenly these innovative and corrective procedures/products should be supported by scientific data that also often has very little of scientific. All in the name of business!

You see; sometimes companies spot a small threat that hasn't been thus far explained or adequately researched. They promote a certain fear that among mums and dads and the Paltrows of this world will become massive paranoias. Because that's what people do - people live in constant fear. Fear is unfortunately the ultimate weapon in the business industry.

The growing industry of gluten-free nutrition is, in my humble opinion, based upon fear. Don't take me wrong, there is clearly a health risk for some (very few) individuals in ingesting food that contain gluten. But just like ritalin in adhd, gluten-free in coeliac disease is a solution for some, not a prevention strategy for all.

Gluten-free food is a $5 billion business [1] based upon fear and diverts attention from those who actually do really suffer of coeliac disease, creating a loophole where all illusions collide. Hank Campbell refers a blind study firstly reported by Julia Llewellyn Smith in The Telegraph where 75% of the people claiming they were allergic or intolerant to bread showed no signs or symptoms after eating it [1].

Humans have been consuming wheat and the gluten (glutenin and gliadin bond) it contains for at least ten thousand years [2]. 1% of the world's population is indeed allergic to gluten and suffer of small intestine surface epithelium irritation [2]. And suddenly nearly 20 million Americans out of the blue are now claiming that they regularly suffer of digestive problems after eating products containing gluten [2]. The chain of fear is indeed working and you must understand that the food industry will never progress more than being there offering you food. If there is no novelty in food as most of the times there isn't, an issue must be generated so the industry can increase sales. Remarkably gluten-free product sales will be exceeding fifteen billion dollars by 2016 [2]!!!!!!

Can't you see the pattern? We had the superfood some years ago, we had the organic food some years ago, we have now the gluten-free market... and when sales decrease and fear no longer exists, you will have something so stupid as chromophores in plants being responsible for bipolarity or dementia. You don't believe me? Just wait for the meat industry to suffer some arrested growth and you will have loads of 'scientific facts' on this matter.

If people were so dedicated to judge the crap that food companies have been adding to processed food all these years, gluten would be the smallest of our worries. But hey, the fear factory always point fingers outwards of its original source. Whatever happened in terms of coeliac disease it only emerged from 1950 as so well states gastroenterologist Murray and colleagues from the Mayo Clinic [3]. The incidence of coeliac disease has increased more than 4-fold in the past 60 years [3]. More public awareness? More reported cases? Or just more trendy behaviours and ever more fear?!

Nutritionist Ian Marber once stated with a smile that "If gluten really is the root of all evil, then coeliacs, who really can't eat it, would be in perfect health..." [1]. Hank Campbell adds to it even better: "Food companies are not in the business of correcting the public about science - unless it hurts sales" [1].

Following a gluten-free diet is not going to harm you tremendously, but bear in mind that such diet demands a knowledgeable approach that most people do not have. And then they will go consume products that lack in fiber, iron, folate, thiamin, niacin, calcium, phosphorous, vitamins, minerals, etc [4]. And these products are frequently more adulterated and significantly higher in fat than their regular equivalents. 

If you don't have coeliac disease, a wheat allergy or you aren't gluten sensitive, you're unlikely to benefit from a gluten-free diet [4].

Want some more facts to support this idea? Evidence Mag has a great article on it that really puts it well and simple while presenting you with even more references [6]:

a) Less than 10% of the population has coeliac disease, wheat allergy or gluten intolerance;

b) There is no objective definition of what gluten sensitivity really is as there are presently no lab tests that can actually prove it. Self diagnosis is as valuable as magic;

c)  CONFUSING CORRELATION WITH CAUSATION FALLACY - Symptoms that may resemble gluten sensitivity/intolerance are more likely to be related to a number of other causes that in fact have nothing to do with gluten;

d) THE ONE TRUE CAUSE FALLACY - When a person is suffering of a panoply of symptoms it is very tempting to blame it on a popular cause.

e) CONFIRMATION BIAS - People tend to go crazy ways to validate their selective thinking, and the gluten-free diet is just another way.

f) APPEAL TO POPULARITY FALLACIES - Celebrities adhere to the movement and the movement tends to grow. Gwyneth Paltrow is just one example that drags people to trendy diets.

Finally let me state here a few reasons also mentioned by Oregon and Southwest Washington's Providence Health and Services, to go and not to go gluten-free:

  • To manage coeliac disease if you have the autoimmune disease
  • To control dermatitis herpetiformis (coeliac disease attacking the skin)
  • To reduce symptom of gluten sensitivity (but gluten sensitivity is not a disease).


  • To eat healthier (carbohydrates should make up to 60% of a healthy diet)
  • To lose weight (gluten-free diets are expensive and you risk missing out on important nutrients)
  • To try to diagnose your own symptoms (if you suspect of coeliac disease go see a doctor - that simple)
[1] The gluten-free fad is dangerous - so is the back lash, Science 2.0, [http://www.science20.com/science_20/glutenfree_fad_dangerous_so_backlash-124085], last visited on the 8th of June 2015, last updated on the 12th of November 2013.

[2] Against the grain, The New Yorker, [http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/11/03/grain], last visited on the 8th of June, last updated on the 3rd of November 2014.

[3] Celiac disease is a disease for the masses, Mayo Clinic, [http://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/clinical-updates/digestive-diseases/celiac-disease-for-masses], last visited on the 8th of June 2015, last update unknown.

[4] Most people shouldn't eat gluten-free, Scientific American, [https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/most-people-shouldnt-eat-gluten-free/], last visited on the 8th of March 2011, last update on the 11th of March

[5] Why you probably don't need to eat a gluten-free diet, Evidence mag, [http://evidencemag.com/gluten-free-diet/], last visited on the 8th of June 2015, last update unknown.

[6] Three reasons to go gluten free and three reasons not to, Providence Nutrition Services, [http://oregon.providence.org/our-services/p/providence-nutrition-services/forms-and-information/three-reasons-to-go-gluten-free-and-three-reasons-not-to/], last visited on the 8th of June 2015, last update unknown.

1st image kindly taken from http://www.goodblossom.com/surprise-gluten-free-craze-largely-misguided-says-science/

2nd image kindly taken from http://blog.fooducate.com/2014/05/04/4-reasons-people-lose-weight-when-they-go-gluten-free/


  1. I used to think gluten free was over hyped bull. You know me from biotech at UALG. I am a type 2 diabetic and was getting really sick. Out of desperation with high triglycerides, cholesterol problems, kidney problems, etc... My health was in urgent need of remedying this. I tried low carb, low fat but it wasn't working. I tried a very strict gluten free diet: the ketogenic diet, which is a low carb, high fat and moderate protein diet and it is healing me. I just keep getting better. In 3 months my cholesterol stabilized, no more triglyceride problems. My kidneys were functioning properly and it's all because of not eating grains or heavy starches. I no longer take day insulin, my night insulin has dropped drastically and I lost weight. Experimenting on my own body, I discovered that gluten free is not bullshit and that carbs, as we know are not essential to our bodies, in fact grains make everyone sick over time. More people should be studying this.

  2. Hello kjherstin, long time no see. Wow, it is good knowing from you again! I am really happy that your dietary changes made a huge difference to your health, I am really happy for you. However, just bear in mind that I am not advocating against a gluten-free diet when it does help specific cases in people that needed a dietary change for the sake of their health improving. What I must stress is that a high carb diet can promote a range of issues that do not specifically or immediately have to do with gluten. As you know, when assessing the role of a certain variable in our health it is important to account for all the variables that orbit around the problem and that may have an effect on the issue itself. In your case, and just knowing the tiny bit you shared with us, I wouldn't immediately blame the presence of gluten per se, as the one and only factor. Having said that, I must say that every individual knows better what affects him/her the most and should act accordingly. But from a scientific perspective one cannot say, as you well know, that such and such is the guilty part without an effective look into the worth of all the other participating variables. All the best and keep in touch.