So I am on FaceBook the other day and I say…
Talk about stirring up a hornets nest. All these gluten avoiding friends of mine did not like at all what I was implying. That most people who think they have gluten sensitivity or a gluten intolerance don’t. In fact the actual figure in not just most, it’s startling 86%. Yes 86 percent of people that think they have gluten sensitivity DO NOT.
A recently published study in the journal Digestion found that:
“Eighty six percent of patients reporting gluten-related symptoms have neither NCGS [Non-celiac gluten sensitivity], nor CD [celiac’s diesease], nor WA [wheat allergy]. Self-perceived gluten-related symptoms are rarely indicative of the presence of NCGS.”
They studied 392 patients complaining of gluten-related symptoms for a period of two years and found 86% of patients that essentially thought they had a gluten-related problem did not respond negatively when gluten was reintroduced into their diet. They did not have a gluten-related problem. You won’t take my word for it? Here it is…
Digestion. 2015;92(1):8-13. doi: 10.1159/000430090. Epub 2015 May 30. Clinical Trial
And if that wasn’t enough..
• Gluten Sensitivity and The Nocebo Effect
“The Nocebo Effect ( a close cousin to the more familiar Placebo Effect) is when a negative expectation of a phenomenon causes it to have a more negative effect than it otherwise would. A nocebo effect causes the perception that the phenomenon will have a negative outcome to actively influence the result. Mental states such as beliefs, expectations and anticipation can strongly influence the outcome of: disease; experience of pain; and even success of surgery.”
In 2011 Dr. Peter Gibson at Monash University in Australia conducted an experiment in which he found that gluten-containing diets can trigger gastrointestinal problems for people who didn’t have celiac disease (the autoimmune disorder that is accerbated by gluten effecting approximately 1 out of every 100 people ) and they called this new disorder Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity.
Doctors everywhere then began to access and diagnose this Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity in patients and found that NCGS also effected about 1 out of every 100 people.
August Aug. 30, 2011 cardiologist Dr. William Davis published Wheat Belly and it became No. 1 on The New York Times Best Sellers List for many weeks. In this book Davis asserted or made the claim that the modern wheat we all eat is toxic and addictive just like so many drug and it drives the people that consume it to eat more and more food thereby creating the obesity problem we have today.
While the book was extremely popular with the general public it was not backed by any peer reviewed research and was subject to criticism in the medical and scientific communities You can read some of criticism of Dr. Davis and the book Wheat Belly here: Wheat Belly or belly up? | Camistry & Wheat Belly, Busted.
But what Dr. Davis’ book and the media around it did was popularize the public’s conversation about wheat and also the new boogeyman gluten. We saw talk about gluten on Dr. Oz and as Vox health writer Julia Beluz writes “The gluten-free craze continues in the United States, fueled by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and well-debunked books like Wheat Belly.“(link)
Six years later now Dr.Peter Gibson reports he has done another follow up study in which he looked at 37 self-identified gluten-sensitive patients with the keyword for me there being “self-identified”.
Analyzing the data, Gibson found that each treatment diet, whether it included gluten or not, prompted subjects to report a worsening of gastrointestinal symptoms to similar degrees. Reported pain, bloating, nausea, and gas all increased over the baseline low-FODMAP diet. Even in the second experiment, when the placebo diet was identical to the baseline diet, subjects reported a worsening of symptoms! The data clearly indicated that a nocebo effect, the same reaction that prompts some people to get sick from wind turbines and wireless internet, was at work here. Patients reported gastrointestinal distress without any apparent physical cause. Gluten wasn’t the culprit; the cause was likely psychological. Participants expected the diets to make them sick, and so they did. The finding led Gibson to the opposite conclusion of his 2011 research:
“In contrast to our first study… we could find absolutely no specific response to gluten.” — from Ross Pomeroy May 14, 2014 Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity May Not Exist | RealClearScience
And Ross Pomeroy again (the emphasis is mine…
The data clearly indicated that a nocebo effect, the same reaction that prompts some people to get sick from wind turbines and wireless internet, was at work here.
Indeed, the rise in non-celiac gluten sensitivity seems predominantly driven by consumers and commercial interests, not quality scientific research.
In other words most people suffering from Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, The 86% percent of people that think they have gluten sensitivity but don’t really have it, have been coaxed and convinced into it by marketing. PERIOD.
In one of the best examples of science working, a researcher who provided key evidence of (non-celiac disease) gluten sensitivity recently published follow-up papers that show the opposite. The paper came out last year in the journal Gastroenterology .
• If People Feel Good About Their Gluten Free Lifestyle What’s The Harm? What’s The Harm In A Fad Diet?
I have a personal problem with people believing things that just aren’t true or that are scientifically invalid, a problem with the general publics denial and/or disrespect for expertise and scientific denialism in general that goes way beyond the scope of this polemic of mine on the Gluten-Free fad so I’ll leave that to another post and the recommendation of a few books. The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters by Thomas M. Nichols (due out on Feb 2017) and the classic Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives by Michael Specter. Misconceptions about gluten are a subset of this much larger problem of Science Denial and the denial of professional expertise.
RationalWiki wrote: “A danger to genuine celiacs is that if gluten-free is perceived as a “lifestyle” choice then many food preparers may not educate themselves or treat the condition with the seriousness that it deserves, e.g. not bothering to prepare food separate from sources of contamination that won’t harm people on some GF fad diet but can cause serious harm to a celiac sufferer. Because of this, gluten-free labeling is regulated in many parts of the world. In addition if the fad implodes as it did with the Atkins diet, then genuine sufferers are back to square one and left to deal with the misinformation fallout.”
And we should not for a moment fool ourselves into thing that the food companies are doing all this labeling and promotion of gluten free products out of concern for the heath of the 1% of people that have celiac disease or the less than 1% of people that actually have a real Non-celiac gluten sensitivity. It is about the food industry exploiting and opportunity, exploiting a fad, and creating an invented phony health benefit that they can use to sell more premium products to people who otherwise would never purchase them. Sales of gluten-free products are a big deal at around $15 billion in 2016. And while only around 1% of people need to buy gluten-free products 18% to 30% do.
• What do people really know and understand about gluten? Apparently not too much…
Gluten is the word we use for two very naturally occurring protiens, gliadin and glutenin, that occur in wheat, spelt, rye and barley that give foods containing those grains their texture and elasticity that we enjoy that together we call gluten. Again they are naturally occurring and we do not add them to enrich anything.
There are no known risks to consuming Gluten or at least none that we have discovered in the ten thousand of years that we as humans have been consuming gluten since the dawn of agriculture but…
…gluten is being blamed for a plethora of pathologies, including dementia, depression, obesity, autism, and ADHD. Some people also insist that abstaining from gluten can actually help with weight loss — a major reason acolytes avoid grains in their diets. Science, as you might expect, suggests the relationship between gluten and health is much more complicated than that. Julia Beluz The gluten-free craze is out of hand. Here are 8 facts to counter the madness. – Vox
None of the supposed threats to our health from gluten are supported by any scientific research. None of them (outside of the 1%± that have CD or really do have NCGS)
So what exactly is gluten?
Why Is Gluten Helpful (In the Kitchen)
J.P. Sears makes hard hitting but very very funny satirical points about the people that are part of the gluten intolerance fad.
The book by A. J. Levinovitz: The Gluten Lie: And Other Myths About What You Eat
“An incendiary work of science journalism debunking the myths that dominate the American diet and showing readers how to stop feeling guilty and start loving their food again—sure to ignite controversy over our obsession with what it means to eat right.”
The real side effect of a gluten-free diet: scientific illiteracy – Vox: Julia Belluz interviews Alan Jay Levinovitz the author of The Gluten Lie.
A. J. Levinovitz himself recommends yet another book describing it as “a non-revolutionary, non-miracle-promising book of genuine science by Dr. Peter Green, director of Columbia University’s Celiac Disease Center, and medical writer Rory Jones.” (The new book Gluten Exposed is a nuanced explanation of science—you won’t find that in many medical best-sellers.)
My Gluten-Free Topic Bibliography & Suggested Reading List:
- Gluten – RationalWiki
- Gluten-free – RationalWiki
- Nocebo – Wikipedia
- Placebo – Wikipedia
- Hawthorne effect – Wikipedia
- Nocebo Phenomena in Medicine
- Ross Pomeroy May 14, 2014 Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity May Not Exist | RealClearScience
- Think You’re Sensitive to Gluten? Think Again | Eat + Run | US News
- Most People Shouldn’t Eat Gluten-Free – Scientific American
- Is demonizing wheat and gluten justified? | David Quick | postandcourier.com
- The gluten-free craze is out of hand. Here are 8 facts to counter the madness. – Vox Julia Belluz
- The real side effect of a gluten-free diet: scientific illiteracy – Vox Julia Belluz
- 20 percent of Americans try to eat gluten-free foods. That’s ridiculous. – Vox Julia Belluz
- A French blogger perfectly captured the ridiculousness of the gluten-free craze – Vox
- These vintage ads touted gluten as an amazing superfood – Vox Julia Belluz
- 5 reasons why anecdotes are totally worthless | The Logic of Science
- It’s Hard To Know Where Gluten Sensitivity Stops And The Placebo Effect Begins | FiveThirtyEight
- Gluten-free diet may not be good for healthy kids – The Boston Globe
- Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity among Patients Perceiving Gluten-Related Symptoms. – PubMed – NCBI
- Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity: piecing the puzzle together
- Fewer People Are Sensitive To Gluten Than Commonly Believed | The Huffington Post
- What if your gluten intolerance is all in your head? | New Scientist
- Gluten Sensitivity Put to the Test | NutritionFacts.org
- Scientists who found gluten sensitivity evidence have now shown it doesn’t exist – ScienceAlert
- Gluten Intolerance May Not Exist
- Science Proves Gluten Sensitivity Isn’t Always Real
- Australian Study Finds 72% Of ‘Gluten-Sensitive’ People May Not Be And Need To See A Doctor | Business Insider
- Characterization of Adults With a Self-Diagnosis of Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity – Apr 16, 2014
- Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity May Not Exist | RealClearScience
- The new book Gluten Exposed is a nuanced explanation of science—you won’t find that in many medical best-sellers.
- Gluten Free Diet & The Food For A Healthy Brain – Dr. Perlmutter
- The Problem With David Perlmutter, the <i>Grain Brain</i> Doctor By Alan Levinovitz
- The Smoke and Mirrors Behind Wheat Belly and Grain Brain
- eDiets.com | Quacks Who Duck Science And Spread Fear
- Fact Checking a Perlmutter Interview – nutsci.org
- Book Review of Grain Brain: Extraordinary claim not backed up by evidence | Whole Grains: Delicious & Nutritious
- This Is Your Brain on Gluten – The Atlantic
- What Is Gluten? – Scientific American
- Celiac Disease, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity or Wheat Allergy: What is the Difference? – The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America
- Well, Perlmutter’s Gluten Claims Are Better Than Wakefield’s Vaccine Autism Research
- Gluten sensitivity: new epidemic or new myth?
- The Gluten Nocebo Effect | When a photon lives forever
- Is Gluten Intolerance the New MSG Intolerance?
- Unless You Have Celiac Disease, Gluten Sensitivity is in Your Head
- The Nocebo Effect: Are Your Beliefs Making You Sick? | Wellness | US News
- How the ‘Nocebo Effect’ Might Explain Gluten Sensitivity
- Neurologic and Psychiatric Manifestations of Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity
- The Gluten-Free Diet: Recognizing Fact, Fiction, and Fad – The Journal of Pediatrics
- Gluten-free diet may not be good for healthy kids – The Boston Globe
- Pedestrian Question – What is Gluten? – YouTube
- The Truth About Gluten | WebMD
- What’s Behind the Gluten-Free Trend? | WebMD
Who Are The Figures on the Other Side…
- Dr. William Davis, author of the book Wheat Belly is perhaps arguably the guy who really got the anti-gluten fad rolling at high speed. Why Gluten is bad for your health with Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly” To his credit Dr. Davis is not really exclusively or specifically anti-gluten. He advocated an abstention from all grain products which would therefore include eliminating gluten by cutting out wheat, barley, rye, and spelt in addition to corn and the other grains that don’t contain gluten. You can read criticism of Dr. Davis and the book Wheat Belly here: Wheat Belly or belly up? | Camistry & Wheat Belly, Busted
- Dr. David Perlmutter who picked up on the anti-gluten meme and really ran with it is perhaps it’s most “credible” leading advocate because he is a real doctor, a neurologist, but still a controversial one who is criticized heavy in the medical and scientific communties for his pop book “Grain Brain”.A critical review of which you can find here. His website is here.
- Gwenth Paltrow, ’nuff said but here ya go…Gwyneth Paltrow Shares How Going Gluten-Free Changed Life For Her Family – OK! Magazine
- Dr. Mehmet Oz, ’nuff said too but here he is too… The Right Way to Go Gluten-Free – Your Guide to Going Gluten-Free | The Dr. Oz Show
- One of the all time kooks with extreme expertise in pseudoscience and nonsense to his credit you have Jeffrey Smith who is a dance teacher who has made a career of anti-GMO activism and also wants to bring GMOs into the discussion about Gluten too which is sort of strange since there are no GMO wheat products 309 – GMO Food Allergies & Gluten Sensitivity – Jeffrey Smith If you can stomach it, its 1:11:00 of bullshit.
- Dr. Zachary Watkins is a Doctor of Chiropractic that has a YouTube Video entitled Why Is Gluten So Bad? The Science Behind Gluten Intolerance – Dr. Zac Watkins. Essentially a 43:00 lecture by this non-doctor. Yes, chiropractors are NOT real doctors. He uses buzzwords and tells us he’s talking about “science” but its not science I recognize. He mentions an epidemic of gluten intolerance a claim not born out by the medical and scientific communities.
- Dr. Edward F. Group is another not a real doctor Doctor of Chiropractic, a “natural healing methods” specialist, with a YouTube video called Everything You Need to Know About Gluten. More bullshit.
- The popular Dr. Josh Axe who is a Certified Nutrition Specialist, expert in Natural Medicine and another not a real doctor Doctor of Chiropractic who promotes bullshit statistics about gluten and gluten free woo. He got a video too, How to Go Gluten-Free.
- Dr. Peter Glidden is a naturopathic doctor (not a real doctor) who has a YouTube video that will tell you that Gluten is not good for you. He doesn’t know what he is talking about. Dr Peter Glidden – Against the Grain -Why Gluten is not good for us
- Dr. Adrian J. den Boer, WOW is this guy bad. I won’t even link to him but I watched a one hour plus video of his reckless and dangerous fear mongering that is just appalling. It turns out Dr. den Boer is a board-certified and licensed Naturopathic and Chiropractic physician. Go figure. Really go fricken’ figure. He does wear a white lab coat so he does look like a “Doctor”.
- And of course there are the leading purveyors of bullshit pseudoscience and snake oil such as Mike Adams (aka the “Health Ranger” and his Natural News website), osteopath Joseph Mercola and his wife Erin Elizabeth (Health Nut News), Vani Hari the FoodBabe, and David Avacado Wolfe but I won’t link to them correctly and give their sites hits they will boast about.