Gluten hysteria is just that

Published January 12, 2012 by livinggraciously

In the long quest to find The Answer To All Diets, people rush from one fad to the next, one year embracing cabbage soup, the next eating nothing but bacon and steak. One year gulping down juice fasts, the next eschewing fruit entirely. We want the golden ticket, the easy fix. And every guru who comes down the road with proclamations of the One True Way leads people in his or her path, the newest Pied Piper.

Eventually people grow tired of eating in the prescribed way and drop out of the parade, feeling like failures. Then the voices of science and reason begin to penetrate the insanity, and most people return to their previous weights, discouraged and cynical, but waiting for the next bandwagon to jump aboard.

Currently, that bandwagon is gluten. Gluten is the Great Poisoner of People. We’re told that the staff of life is EEEEEVIL, and that we can all be thin if we just stop eating bread. People are swearing off gluten left and right. Gluten-free substitutes crowd the grocery shelves.

I admit that I have a personal interest here. I am, after all, a bread baker. It’s dismaying to read that this food I love is the Cause of All Fatness. It’s also very suspicious to me, because people have been eating bread for centuries. Our obesity epidemic is a recent phenomenon. So the assumption that bread is the root of all evil doesn’t make much sense to me.

Now, there is no doubt that certain medical conditions preclude the ingestion of gluten, particularly celiac disease. But for people without that disease, scientists are now warning that gluten avoidance may be bad for their health. This article from the Atlantic Monthly warns that cutting gluten out of our lives may lead to other deficiencies. And that there is no scientific evidence proving that gluten ingestion causes weight gain.

I concede that some people DO lose weight on a gluten-free regime, but that appears to spring from a general improvement in their diet: less fast food, more fresh fruit and veggies. The elimination of bread isn’t the key.

So once again, it’s sensible eating that makes the difference. Not some secret ingredient. There’s no magic bullet.


4 comments on “Gluten hysteria is just that

  • …unless you have the allergy. I don’t have celiac, but I am definitely gluten intolerant. When I stopped eating gluten, I lost 15 lbs, stopped feeling sick and looking puffy all the time, and every time I have it by accident, I notice. It’s frustrating when publicity/awareness of a real thing leads to overhype, which leadsto people being dismissive of the real thing.

  • I find myself bumping into this issue a lot. Most of my friends are quite fit, not me though. We engage in martial arts, adventure sports, etc… We’re also history nerds and are fascinated by how people used to exist. Several of my friends are huge fans of Paleo. And I admit that the diet has legs. But the notion of cutting out bread, among my favorite things to eat, is off putting. I’ve long argued that we should eat the way our ancestors did. That is to say avoiding ingredients that had to see a factory or a lab before they saw your table. I’ve been eating that way a while, but it definitely is not a weight loss plan — I do feel better though.

  • I love this post! The first paragraph says it all. Americans are fat because they’re spoiled and lazy. Sacrifice and hard work are the secrets to weight loss.

    Death to Honey Boo Boo!

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