HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >

Discussion

Wheat industry is behind effort to label gluten intolerance a fad

"The Wheat Council hosted a presentation about how gluten intolerance was just a fad, not a real medical problem."

http://www.motherjones.com/environmen...

This may explain some of the random hate for anyone trying to restrict gluten from their diet that has been going around as of late.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
      1. re: jpc8015

        and for every 100,000 hipsters, there are 1,000,000 underinformed internet snarksters

        1. re: cringle22

          I am completely unaffected by your comment.

            1. There are people with actual allergies to wheat gluten, that is different than celiac. Yes there are lots of people experimenting with removing gluten from their diet for various reasons. Many claim they feel better. There is also some evidence for certain auto-immune disorders that not eating wheat will help those conditions. I find it ironic how many people seeing that industry is out to sway public opinion didn't even seem to blink at repeating that exact same thing.

              http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandsty...

              http://www.jimmunol.org/content/169/1...

              This and not eating wheat is something many cultures had done for quite a long time until it was introduced there by trade. There isn't any unique benefit to eating wheat vs. other grains etc. But I am sure that won't stop all those amateur internet doctors trying to insist that anyone turning down wheat is a whiney hipster looking for attention. :-)

              31 Replies
              1. re: blackpointyboots

                If gluten-intolerance were most common among peoples who traditionally did not eat wheat or barley - Native Americans, Southeast Asians perhaps - I'd buy a genetic component. But a lot of the people who claim to be gluten intolerant have ancestors that have used wheat and barley for millennia, namely Europe and the Middle East. I suspect it's a small percentage actual intolerance and a larger one jumping on the bandwagon.

                We could, I suppose, get large representative samples of people from specific genetic backgrounds and experiment on them, but that's frowned upon.

                1. re: tardigrade

                  I said nothing about a genetic component in a population that didn't traditionally eat wheat. There are plenty of cultures where wheat was not typically consumed or native and people were not suffering from the lack of it.

                  There seems to be some weird notion with some people that not eating wheat is somehow an abomination or something? It certainly isn't required for a healthy diet and there are other options if you are trying to add some sort of grains into your diet.

                  1. re: blackpointyboots

                    The problem with gluten free isn't that people are should not be free to choose what they eat its the unscientific justification for it and that they make so much fuss.

                    Many of those "allergic" to gluten simply get gas, so on that basis 100% of men are allergic to beer. The fact is its not a allergy at all, it doesn't harm them, its simply a diet preference. Allergic responses are pretty specific and a bit of bloating isn't part of it.

                    What people choose to eat is their business, but when "gluten intolerance" develops into an evangelical crusade based on pretty sketchy evidence is what irritates people, especially when the downside of eating gluten isn't that serious and most of the extreme stores are anecdotal and not backed by serious research.

                    And that's the problem, the backlash from irritated people can make it harder for the people with genuine issues like those suffering from Coeliac disease.

                    1. re: PhilD

                      So exactly how do you tell who is making it up and being insufferable about it vs. someone with an actual medical condition? Do you quiz people in the supermarket line because you see a box of gluten free something in their cart? Do you ask for people's medical history at restaurants as they order?

                      I have lots of people ask me about eating gluten free because they are curious and because it has hit the health guru circles. I usually tell them to try eating a low carb diet first for a while and see if they feel better unless they have a doctor telling them to do it. Some people simply feel better by cleaning up their eating habits a bit.

                      Celiac isn't the only disorder with a documented tie to gluten. Hashimoto's can have a gluten component as does Duhring's disease but there is some relation to Celiac with these two.

                      1. re: blackpointyboots

                        Usually the ones being insufferable about it are in their late twenties or early thirties; the height of their coolness. They can be found wearing skinny jeans, flannel shirts, and thick rimmed glasses. The males will go to great pains to ensure that facial hair looks unkempt.

                        http://www.portlandhipster.com/

                        1. re: jpc8015

                          Your posts pretty much make this thread worth reading.

                          1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                            I see you have done a fair amount of posting in the PacNW boards. You must be familiar with the species Hipsterius Portlandia.

                              1. re: jpc8015

                                Some old Oregonians like myself consider that an invasive species.

                            1. re: jpc8015

                              They do kipping pull ups instead of real ones.

                            2. re: blackpointyboots

                              Semi serious answer - I would think there is a correlation with how vocal they are about it.

                              But a serious point, I am not certain people are making it up consciously. They will believe they have the symptoms, the problem is isolating the NOCEBO effect that seems to be evident. Similar to the MSG effects that are proven time and time again to be in the mind. The body can exhibit real physical effects caused by by this. I would hazard a guess that as the trend fades so will those with real symptoms.

                        2. re: tardigrade

                          the wheat that was eaten by our european and middle eastern ancestors is not the same wheat as the wheat that is farmed today. actually, the wheat grown today isn't even the same as that grown 60 or so years ago. hence wheat allergies and other intestinal issues. thank you, monsanto.

                          1. re: Vidute

                            Celiac has been around much longer than Monsanto...
                            I believe the first Doctor who made the correlation of wheat proteins being a culprit was the Dutch pediatrician, Dr. Dickie. He noticed his Celiac patients improved during the wheat shortages during WW2 and their symptoms returned once wheat returned to their diet.

                            1. re: meatn3

                              true, celiac has been around longer than monsanto; however, there seems to be an explosion of allergies since gmos became the norm... peanuts, strawberries, dairy, etc. we not only eat the end food product, we, also, eat what our food consumes, gmo crops, antibiotics, i grew up in the seventies and peanut butter was always a staple for most of my friends in school. now, not only is peanut butter banned in many schools, but a ballpark is banning peanuts from its premises:

                              http://www.wcpo.com/sports/florence-f...

                              1. re: Vidute

                                However, if you really take the covers off peanut allergies you find the data really doesn't support the amount of press it gets. Certainly some people suffer (I do) but its a very hyped up issue with very little basis. This is a good example: http://www.news-medical.net/news/2006... the initial speculative stories are still on the web despite the new information.

                                1. re: Vidute

                                  But people are not usually allergic to the main GMO crops, things like corn, soy and canola. In the USA the most common allergies are to things like seafood, peanuts, and dairy. And wheat isn't a GMO crop.

                                  http://www.fda.gov/food/resourcesfory...

                                  And for some reason celery is a major allergen in Europe
                                  http://www.eufic.org/article/en/artid...

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    monsanto grew test fields of gmo corn in the use for several years. last may, eight years after monsanto shut down the test fields, gmo corn was found growing in a farmer's field. also, monsanto is looking to bring gmo wheat to market within the next ten years.

                                    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/bus...

                                    a harvard study, published may 9, 2014, attributes bee colony collapse disorder to neonicotinoids — insecticides that also act as nerve poisons and mimic the effects of nicotine. Scientists specifically looked at how low doses of two neonicotinoids — imidacloprid and clothianidin which are used on gmo corn. an italian study conducted a couple of years ago, reached the same conclusion and these poisons were banned. since the ban, the bee colonies have recovered.

                                    http://www.businessinsider.com/harvar...

                                    http://www.bulletinofinsectology.org/...

                                    weeds are becoming resistant to roundup, and the crop of gm corn is decreasing so newer, more toxic pesticides, herbicides and fungicides will be needed along with new gmo crops resistant to the new pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. and so on...

                                    it's funny... we're told to thoroughly wash our produce to remove these toxins, but, how can we remove them if they're inside?

                                    1. re: Vidute

                                      i had meant to say test fields of wheat. late night after a long day.

                                  2. re: Vidute

                                    GMOs do not cause allergies, and there is not general agreement that there is an epidemic increase in peanut allergy:

                                    http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/ar...

                                2. re: Vidute

                                  Evil corporations making food available to all...we'll get you.

                                  1. re: jpc8015

                                    i know that you're being facetious with your reply, jpc, but you have no idea how correct your remark is. animals forcefed antibiotics to promote fast growth have led to antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains in humans, considered a crisis by the centers for disease control and the world health organization. the correlation between antibiotic use in animal feed and the effect is has on human antibiotic resistance has finally been acknowledged by the fda,

                                    http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consu...

                                    1. re: Vidute

                                      Does Michael Pollan know about this? Someone should tell him.

                                      1. re: Vidute

                                        There are enough problems with factory farms that making associations like GMOs and allergies that are unfounded take away from the truths.

                                  2. re: tardigrade

                                    Regarding celiac disease specifically - one study that was done comparing two villages on the Russia/Finland border that used to basically be one village, shows that the increase of celiac disease has to do with increased income/quality of life. This study doesn't draw any major conclusions, but does show two previously similar populations that now differ based on income level show different levels of celiac. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/opi...

                                    Beyond that - if someone chooses to avoid gluten because it helps in their general digestion (as PhilD mentions, relieving gas and other digestion discomforts) - I hardly see why to write folks off in a pejorative way. Fair enough, if people are crusading about the evils or virtues of any kind of diet - that will always be irritating. But if people feel better when they cut out gluten...?

                                    I'm an American and lived in Jerusalem for 5 years and "ate everything". My digestion had never been 100% awesome, but nothing life disrupting. Upon returning to the US for about two months my digestion woes got increasingly worse. While trying to figure out what was going on/what was wrong I was put on a gluten free, dairy free diet. I know I'm not allergic to either substance, but my lived reality is that I feel much better on this diet.

                                    Trendy, bandwagon, or whatever - I feel a lot better.

                                    1. re: cresyd

                                      "Beyond that - if someone chooses to avoid gluten because it helps in their general digestion (as PhilD mentions, relieving gas and other digestion discomforts) - I hardly see why to write folks off in a pejorative way."

                                      When people relate their personal experiences on an elimination diet as you do above, anecdotally and without making any illogical conclusion, that's one thing.

                                      The paranoid evangelists, however, who are fomenting an anti-gluten moral panic based on shreds of evidence backed up by conspiracy theory are about as noxious as Jenny McCarthy on vaccination or the "toothers" who are waging war on fluoridated water.

                                      1. re: JungMann

                                        Jenny McCarthy is an idiot...but painfully attractive.

                                          1. re: JungMann

                                            Noxious or "obnoxious"?

                                            I know that gluten-free foods are more common now, but do you really think it's somehow making gluten-full foods hard to find?

                                            Not eating gluten because some random person tells you not to is as asinine as not vaccinating your kid because Jenny McCarthy said not to.

                                            1. re: LeoLioness

                                              I wouldn't say foods containing gluten are hard to find, but I was irked to see that Chex cereals, with the obvious exception of Wheat Chex, went gluten-free some time ago. Not alongside the original formula, but replacing it entirely.

                                              So, I tried the GF Rice Chex and found it basically unpalatable, never buying it again.

                                              1. re: LeoLioness

                                                Noxious because they contribute to an epidemic of scientific ignorance. Noxious because their expectation to be pre-screened for dislikes, sensitivities and other preexisting conditions places more burdens on a dinner party host than on an insurance company. Noxious because I'm tried of being preached to about gluten more often than I've heard from Jehovah's Witnesses. At least they knock on your door and ask before they launch into their sermons.

                                                I am sympathetic to those who have real sensitivities and allergies and I know the very real problems faced by those with celiac, Crohn's and digestive disorders. I have some myself. But actual sufferers get a bad rap because of people who just enjoy a feeling of control: over themselves or others.

                                              2. re: JungMann

                                                Who are these crazy evangelists? They must run in different circles than I do :-)

                                          1. Well, sure.

                                            I got the memo just the other day:

                                            "Dear American citizen,
                                            You are hereby instructed to make fun of gluten intolerance.
                                            Best,
                                            The Wheat Council"

                                            Didn't everybody?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: chowyadoin99

                                              Plus a seriously fat check from the e-e-evul wheat council....

                                            2. so far, I haven't read a single word about this conference of "dietitians" that *hasn't* made my teeth itch.

                                                1. re: jpc8015

                                                  It's not the gluten making people sick - it's all the other crap in the food they are eating - they stop eating gluten in doing so also stop eating many processed junk foods and shockingly feel better.

                                                  1. re: JTPhilly

                                                    Are you saying that it is not the flour tortilla making me sick when I eat Jose Ole frozen quesadillas? Nonsense.

                                                  2. re: jpc8015

                                                    If anything I think all the gluten attention is good just in terms of bringing science to look more at our "guts" in general. Going slightly off topic, so many gastric distress ailments just get dumped as IBS with no real idea of what's going on.

                                                    So if anything occurs from the increase of people who think they're gluten intolerant - if people end up eating less processed food and scientists do more gut research - that wouldn't be the worst result.

                                                    1. re: cresyd

                                                      The downside is that when the people who are not celiacs hang on to this gluten intolerance label, it discounts the reality of real celiacs.

                                                      1. re: jpc8015

                                                        I really don't see that.

                                                        I think more people are aware of gluten and as a part of that celiac disease, how can that be a bad thing? There may be more "eye rollers" who say/think about celiacs that they're "faking it". But that's far more informed than just being clueless.

                                                        My mom keeps "kosherish". I know it's not real kosher. She knows it's not real kosher. Is she spreading misinformation to others when she uses the term kosher? Probably. But for those serious about kashrut - they know not they have to rely on a higher standard. As do celiacs. And while some people who talk to my mom may not really learn what kosher is, they get more education than if they'd never had that conversation.

                                                        1. re: cresyd

                                                          Here is a scenario for you...a "friend" shows up at my mothers house for dinner. This friend says she has a gluten sensitivity so she can't eat the pasta that is being served. But when the chocolate cake comes out for dessert she has a small piece because "she just can't help herself".

                                                          Now fast forward six weeks and another guest comes for dinner, this one with real celiac disease. Mom remembers the last person who said they couldn't eat gluten eating that cake so she goes ahead and dredges that beef in the stew in flour. That one small mishap may have a celiac turning themselves inside out through their anus and it was because the "gluten intolerant" person diminished the perceived seriousness of the real illness.

                                                          1. re: jpc8015

                                                            But I would say that the person who does have celiac and has never eaten at your mother's house is probably aware of how the disease isn't always truly known/understood and to strongly cover their dietary concerns.

                                                            Going back to my kosher example - observant Jews do not "just trust" even non-observant Jews to actually know what "kosher" means. That even someone raised in a Jewish community, if they're not keeping kosher - most likely they're not to be 100% trusted regarding food. And so clear emphasis on what is/is not ok need to made.

                                                            If you have serious eating restrictions - be they religious, moral or medical in origin - you don't just trust people you don't know well with food.

                                                            1. re: cresyd

                                                              Agreed. My one friend who has Crohn's and has had much success with a completely gluten-free diet would never accept a dinner invitation from a stranger. She won't accept them from friends unless they are the type of people who will go over the menu/prep/ingredient list with her to assure her it's gluten-free. Being that she is a reasonable person, she doesn't accept many dinner invitations in people's homes.

                                                              On the other hand, I have other friends who avoid gluten but are human and have certain weaknesses, like chocolate cake. They may pay for it afterwards, but....

                                                              1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                Yup.

                                                                I think there's also something to be said about how some people feel easier saying "I can't eat gluten" versus "I'm on a diet and this helps me manage my weight/stay regular".

                                                                I understand how my whole "this is what I eat, why, and when" song and dance may sound super pretentious or precious to someone. But if instead of the full story I say "I can't eat dairy and gluten", it's more likely to stop the conversation.

                                                                For lack of a better term, 'diets of choice' often make people feel very invited to present their whole world view on what they think of that diet. Rounding up to "I'm gluten allergic" can often just serve to avoid someone else's lecture.

                                                                1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                  I avoid most socially mandated eating events (weddings, funerals etc) and usually decline dinner type invitations. It is much easier than either a) ending up sick for a couple of days of b) watching everyone else eat while I don't c) making the host feel bad because I am sitting there not eating because everything has some form of wheat in it in significant quantities. For those who really have these documented medical problems I can tell you it is a total pain. I miss French bread. Traveling is an unbelievable pain trying to find something to eat. I survived a symposium on coffee and oat bars. Those that are doing it out of trendiness would likely not actually adhere to it religiously or give up on it eventually.

                                                                  1. re: blackpointyboots

                                                                    They will give up on it eventually. I imagine that now this is getting so much press it won't be long either. Being gluten free is no longer cutting edge.

                                                    2. I am not sure that people are any more susceptible/gullible to Wheat Board influence than the influence of the Wheat Belly book, and so on. People are being influenced on both sides, as well as forming their own opinions. Mine is that gluten "intolerance" (not celiac) is what dairy was 20 years ago. Some people surely have lactose intolerance but many who jumped on that bandwagon are off now.

                                                      1. The headline of this thread is misleading. The presentation does not appear to have been "about how gluten intolerance was just a fad." The link is to Mother Jones, an advocacy rag representing a particular point of view which, as one might expect, has cherry-picked statements made at the conference which can be used to promote its own agenda.

                                                        I could find no link to the actual paper presented at the conference in the Mother Jones article, but presumably it was "Wheat, Gluten and Health: The Science Behind Gut Health and Food Intolerances," presented by Julie Miller Jones, PhD. I haven't found the paper online, either, and the proceedings of the conference are probably not yet available. But I have found a set of visuals which gives a summary of what the paper was about when it was presented earlier:

                                                        http://www.sneb.org/documents/SNEBfin...

                                                        As can be seen by reading this, the paper was much broader than the Mother Jones article suggests, and based in science (which MJ is not).   

                                                          1. I really don't need a study or opinion to assist me with my dietary habits. I eat a certain way to feel good, I'm happy. If someone feels the need to be gluten free, fine with me.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. Well it is a fad, no questions about it.

                                                              14 Replies
                                                                  1. re: jpc8015

                                                                    sorry -- actual medical journals, please.

                                                                    Anybody can find something on the internet to support just about any opinion...not so much in actual medical journals. Reading more about those sources doesn't give me much faith in their veracity. (Brian Donovan makes his crumb as a comedy writer....)

                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                      actual medical journals are needed to prove it is NOT a fad - tons of internet junk science proves it is indeed a fad.

                                                                      1. re: JTPhilly

                                                                        You mean anecdotes don't count as scientific evidence? I'll alert the media.

                                                                      2. re: sunshine842

                                                                        There are plenty of references to medical journals and scientific studies in the Real Clear Science article.

                                                                        If you don't want to eat gluten, fine, then don't. But I will call out your hipster ass every time I see you drinking a can of PBR.

                                                                        1. re: jpc8015

                                                                          I eat gluten.

                                                                          But I also have friends for whom gluten avoidance is absolutely positively not a fad, and dismissing it out of hand negates their legitimate issues and minimizes their suffering.

                                                                          Kind of like saying that people who carry epipens are just being hysterical.

                                                                          Not good on a lot of levels.

                                                                          (and any site for whom the contact email address is @realpolitics.com isn't a legitimate source for medical information as far as I'm concerned)

                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                            Did you read the article about the Biesiekierski/Muir/Gibson paper "Is gluten a cause of gastrointestinal symptoms in people without celiac disease?".

                                                                            Its quite interesting as it highlights that the gluten is probably not the culprit instead they are something called FODMAP's (Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols). The foods high in these are beans, sprouts, onions, cabbage etc etc.

                                                                            They also include wheat, rye and barley so it is possible that your friends are not gluten intolerant but by eliminating gluten they also eliminate FODMAP's.

                                                                            I suspect its no coincidence that a lot of FODMAP's cause gas in most people, maybe Gluten intolerance is the new codeword for people who get a lot of gas...?

                                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                                              without knowing them, without examining them, and without knowing how much time and money they have spent with medical professionals of every discipline to ascertain their diagnosis, you're going to fire off a recommendation that they're wrong?

                                                                              Nope.

                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                Yep I am a skeptic. I have seen far too much anecdotal evidence presented as fact when their are other plausible reasons. I am also well aware that there is a lot of controversy amongst medical professionals about gluten intolerance. And medical professionals are not immune from jumping on bandwagons especially if there is a dollar to be made - some extreme (anti vaccine) some simply faddish (complimentary medicine).

                                                                                The paper does bring FODMAP's into the equation, it also mentions many previous studies couldn't control for many other potentially causal factors, and to the best of my knowledge there is still no generally accepted test for gluten intolerance.

                                                                                Exclusion diets don't pinpoint gluten they pinpoint things like wheat which has lots.....so much is blamed on gluten but it could be something quite different. Think back to the days people blamed peptic ulcers on all sorts of causal factors until it was proved the majority were caused by the bacteria Heliocobacter pylori....but even then many doctors were slow to change their beliefs.

                                                                              2. re: PhilD

                                                                                In the cited RealClear summary, nocebo was the culprit.

                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                  Agree. But didn't one of the authors also cite that the exclusion of FODMAP's prior to the trial was relevant?

                                                                                2. re: PhilD

                                                                                  "foods high in these are beans, sprouts, onions, cabbage etc etc"

                                                                                  So beans and cabbage make you gassy? Who knew? Science really is amazing.

                                                                                  1. re: JTPhilly

                                                                                    Did you miss the point? The main symptom of gluten intolerance is often cited as being bloated and gassy....but is it the gluten rather than other voids causing it. As PaulJ points out NOCEBO accounted for many of the patients in the studies symptoms.

                                                                                    So combine the psychological predisposition to believe in gluten intolerance plus well known gas producing foods and you get an epidemic and multimillion dollar industry.

                                                                    2. There's no way to avoid being totally political with this - but I think this coverage of the California Dietetics Association being catered only by McDonald's gives kind of an idea of the relationships that the food industry has with practioners/advocacy. http://www.motherjones.com/environmen...

                                                                      Essentially there are just loads of complicated bedfellows regarding industry and science on this issue (and others). That being said - I'm loath to trust a wheat sales man telling me about the health benefits of wheat in the same way I'd be loath to trust a cigarette salesman on the health benefits of tobacco. Doesn't mean any is lying or not - just not where I'm going to look to get my information.

                                                                      1. Working in the natural foods industry I've seen both sides of the coin.

                                                                        Even 10 years ago it was difficult to source foods which were completely gluten free. For those with Celiac or true gluten intolerance food shopping has become much easier.

                                                                        The downside is the customer who notices all the "gluten-free" labels and arrives at the conclusion that gluten must be bad. If I had a nickle for every conversation I've had with this type of consumer I would be very wealthy. They do not have the ability or inclination to educate themselves. Couple that with the tendency to self diagnose and the amount of press highlighting gluten issues and it begins to become the diet fad of the moment.

                                                                        Which makes it difficult. Those with celiac or true intolerance are met with skepticism. Restaurants and hosts who try to treat it seriously become frustrated when the gluten-free person orders that dessert or is observed eating the croutons from their table mates salad.

                                                                        I have a lot of compassion for those who truly have medical problems with gluten. I've worked closely with recently diagnosed individuals teaching them new ways to cook and helping them navigate the products in the grocery store. Some are angry but many are happy to finally have a diagnosis so they can take steps towards health. But I have found that the majority of those I have encountered in recent years claiming gluten issues are jumping on the faddish tails of a legitimate problem.

                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                        1. re: meatn3

                                                                          Very well-put, but I would disagree with the idea that fad-followers do not have the ability to educate themselves. In my experience, the most vocal anti-gluten crowd, or at least the most visible, is highly educated and aggressively cites research from such venerated sources as HuffPo and Facebook to validate their hypotheses. Typically the type of middle-to-upper-income, college-educated, urbane person who would be *most* able to educate themselves on the facts.

                                                                          Put another way, I haven't seen a low-income, poorly educated person yet try to tackle a breadless sandwich because he's "watching his gluten."

                                                                          1. re: JungMann

                                                                            "Put another way, I haven't seen a low-income, poorly educated person yet try to tackle a breadless sandwich because he's "watching his gluten.""

                                                                            Boy, I have. Because they think it's a "healthier" option or because they've gotten the idea that it's a weight loss strategy. It's all over those 90 second TV health bits, for one thing, even aside from the books, magazines, internet whatevers.

                                                                            Full disclosure I have no food allergies of which I'm aware. My brother has dozens (non-food as well). I have two celiac friends (diagnosed by an MD) and one wheat-sensitive friend (her sensitivity is related to her childhood asthma, i.e. her throat closes up but she doesn't usually have to go to the hospital).

                                                                            1. re: JungMann

                                                                              Working in this industry I see many of the extremes.

                                                                              More than once I've had a customer ask if there were alternative companies producing aluminum foil as opposed to the Reynolds brand we carried. Once they determined Reynolds pretty much owned that category they reached the conclusion that foil must be bad then....just wacky deductions based on bits and pieces of information.

                                                                              Our world seems to become more complicated by the minute. Food purchases can become a confusing puzzle of determining where it is grown, how it is grown, carbon footprint, gmo or not....I think some people become very overwhelmed with the whole thing. Some give up, some focus on the issues closest to their heart and others jump on the current bandwagon 'cos, hey, a zillion Facebook posts can't be wrong.

                                                                              They probably have the intelligence to learn. But the ability to reason and discern and question in a rational way seem to elude them.

                                                                              1. re: JungMann

                                                                                I hate to say "poorly educated" - but I know a couple of low income people (members of minority ethnic groups as well, if we are saying that only white hipsters are gluten free) that can't eat wheat without getting sick afterwards. Don't think they are true celiacs, but it is definitely not a fad for them.

                                                                                1. re: Lori D

                                                                                  Blame the media industries need to fill TV shows with content. Many of thee fads cross social boundaries due to the reach of popular TV. Oprah will be watched by a whole range of people from different backgrounds.

                                                                                    1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                      I hear it's a popular TV series but I am far too hip to have seen it.

                                                                                      1. re: PhilD

                                                                                        Oh, it's popular? Sounds way to mainstream for me.

                                                                            2. I've got a cousin who thinks she's dieting because she now avoids gluten ... this after formerly thinking she was dieting because she replaced meals with smoothies....

                                                                              But, I've also got a wife who can be sent to the emergency room by eating gluten ... gets sick from both ends and gets so weak and faint she can't lift her head off the floor.

                                                                              After a couple hospital stays, many specialists and tests, she's diagnosed with acid reflux, and certain foods (e.g. gluten, soda, other), and certain eating habits, like eating too late in the evening, can set her off

                                                                              Trust me ... nobody WANTS to have to deny themselves the gluttonous glutenous gloriousness of real bread, pasta, pizza, etc. for real, for life.

                                                                              1. The bigger problem the wheat industry has is that we went for decades with doctors telling everybody that hi-carb, low-fat foods (like wheat-based foods) were really healthy and to eat more carbs & less fat.

                                                                                Now we know all that was wrong, and the pendulum is swinging the other way. The "fad" part of gluten intolerance is part of the other end of the pendulum. The Wheat Council might be able to label some small group of people as extremists, but Americans are going to consume less wheat. After growing significantly from the 1970's to the late 1990's, wheat consumption in the US has been going down.

                                                                                The downward trend has the potential to accelerate because the gluten intolerance "fad" is part of a whole set of trends where companies are trying to help Americans eat healthier meals -- which means, in part, less wheat.

                                                                                8 Replies
                                                                                1. re: calumin

                                                                                  Can you explain why wheat consumption was at a low in the 60s?

                                                                                  Earlier in the 20th c bread was a major part of the American diet. In Europe, prior to the introduction of potatoes, wheat and related grains where the staff of life. In the Americas the colonists used more corn because wheat did not grow as well.

                                                                                  But does gluten-free really result in healthier eating? Gluten-free baking 'flour' is a mix of pure starches (tapioca, corn, rice) and gums (xanthan, flax, etc). It's only when people go 'paleo' that they cut out baked goods.

                                                                                  USDA overview of USA wheat consumption (over 2 centuries)
                                                                                  http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/...

                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                    The does gluten free = healthier eating has sort of evolved as more ready made gluten free products have hit the market. I was diagnosed long ago (over a decade) when this wasn't a common thing. So I had to make things from scratch and avoid lots of processed foods that had gluten in them in various forms. While it is nice to be able to grab gluten free bread at the store that doesn't taste like a shingle or a box of cookies these are NOT "healthier" because they lack wheat. They usually have plenty of sugar and other mystery ingredients. Some brands are better than others about food additives and chemical sets. The hubby is diabetic so I also look at the carb content on alternative flours and such. Many of the gluten free flours have higher carbs than wheat. I end up eating far fewer carbs in general since it is just easier and usually cheaper.

                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                      paulij - the decline in wheat consumption through the 1960's was mostly due to diversification in diets, as more types of food became available in markets. This was all before people started associating wheat with healthy dieting.

                                                                                      One interesting fact: in 1900, 90% of wheat consumption in the US was from home baking. with 10% from commercial sources. In 1945 commercial bakeries accounted for 60% of wheat consumption. By 1990, less than 10% of wheat flour was from home baking, with 90% from commercial sources.

                                                                                      1. re: calumin

                                                                                        There's an interesting book called 'White Bread' that gives a history of the shift from home baking (and artisanal/ethnic) to industrial baking.

                                                                                    2. re: calumin

                                                                                      yes, Americans eat too much refined processed wheat in the form of white bread, donuts etc - and wheat by-products are used in many other processed foods - this does not make wheat the problem - the food industry is the problem. The same food industry that is now pumping out endless highly processed gluten free products - products that lemmings of consumers are gobbling up as "health foods" - just as they were gobbling up sugar laden "low fat' products a decade ago and wondering why they did not loose weight eating boxes of snackwells and 0 fat yoplait.

                                                                                      Of course Celiacs and Wheat Allergy sufferes are real nobody denies this - there just are not that many of them. All of these imagined sensitivities and/or used to hide other issues like anorexia is a detriment to them because it makes people skeptical.

                                                                                      For the vast majority of human beings wheat is not only safe but healthful and has been an important part of our diet for millennia. Wheat products in the forms of bread, pasta and flours are part of almost every traditional western diet - I dont see the French suffering for their baguettes, the Italians for their pasta or the poles for the pierogi. Its not the wheat or the gluten its the way its being consumed.

                                                                                      1. re: JTPhilly

                                                                                        Or people in the Middle East from their pitas, or Indians from their chapatis, naans, and puris.

                                                                                        Thanks, paulj, for bringing up the "staff of life". It's telling that 2000 years ago, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, the prayer he taught included the phrase "Give us this day our daily bread", rather than our daily hummus. "Breaking bread" with someone was a way to get to know them; a traditional Polish welcome for guests is to offer them bread and salt.

                                                                                        Industry makes what sells, and advertising's goal is to find something that makes a product stand out, which is why we're seeing gluten-free labels slapped on things that never contained them in the first place, like peanut butter (and I swear I've seen gluten-free shampoo).

                                                                                        There are three other main differences I see between ourselves and our Western ancestors. First, we have access to a lot more calories, most of them processed foods, and especially to meat, which tends to be more completely digested than vegetable matter. Second, we have more sedentary lives. Our ancestors ate more grains but they worked them off. Third, we expect to feel good and healthy all the time. Upthread someone mentioned feeling gassy and bloated after consuming wheat: this is not uncommon with consuming plant matter, since our normal gut bacteria don't break it down completely (hence beans' reputation as the musical fruit). Maybe our ancestors were just more comfortable farting a lot!

                                                                                        1. re: tardigrade

                                                                                          The other difference between us and our ancestors is the high level of influence media and advertising has. So these fads occur and as demonstrated in the the latest research cited upthread symptoms are often down to the NOCEBO effect.....in other words it's all in the mind and the physical symptoms are caused by a belief not an external agent.

                                                                                          1. re: tardigrade

                                                                                            I know gluten free shampoo sounds wacky. But from my understanding (used to bring samples of products and answer questions about grocery items at Celiac events) gluten in body care products can be a problem for some. Same with supplements - some of the binder or carrier agents are wheat based. I'm not knowledgeable about all the details just remember hearing it in lectures and being surprised.

                                                                                      2. I read a person's blog who has celiac. He said while it's harder for him to explain because so many have jumped on the bandwagon, he won't complain because gluten free food now tastes so good. In the past, no one cared to make it good because there weren't as many people avoiding it.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                                          Good for them. But what do the food companies do to your food to take out the gluten.....are the things they add better or worse for you? And is it the same price, or are they surreptitiously raising the cost of food on the back of gluten free. I am happy to see the cup of tea I am enjoying is now gluten free ;-)