So, please tell me, why are you avoiding gluten? Humans have been eating wheat, and the gluten in it, for at least ten thousand years. For people with celiac disease—about one per cent of the population—the briefest exposure to gluten can trigger an immune reaction powerful enough to severely damage the brushlike surfaces of the small intestine. Are you one of the less than 1% that have celiac disease? Or, are have you been caught in the silliness of Wheat Belly gluten free fad which the big food manufacturers are loving all the way to the bank?
Sales of gluten-free products will exceed fifteen billion dollars by 2016, twice the amount of five years earlier. Food manufacturers and marketers are loving this.
Against the Grain
The New Yorker, November 3, 2014. Michael Specter: Wheat provides about twenty per cent of the world’s calories and more nourishment than any other source of food. Last year’s harvest, of seven hundred and eighteen million tons, amounted to roughly two hundred pounds for every person on earth. In the United States, wheat consumption appears to fluctuate according to nutritional trends. It rose steadily from the nineteen-seventies to about 2000, a reflection of the growing concern over the relationships between meat and saturated fat, cholesterol, and heart disease. Since then, the number of people who say that wheat, barley, and rye make them sick has soared, though wheat consumption has fallen.
Wheat is easy to grow, to store, and to ship. The chemical properties of flour and dough also make wheat versatile. Most people know that it is integral to bread, pasta, noodles, and cereal. But wheat has become a hidden ingredient in thousands of other products, including soups, sauces, gravies, dressings, spreads, and snack foods, and even processed meats and frozen vegetables. Nearly a third of the foods found in American supermarkets contain some component of wheat—usually gluten or starch, or both.
The most obvious question is also the most difficult to answer: How could gluten, present in a staple food that has sustained humanity for thousands of years, have suddenly become so threatening? There are many theories but no clear, scientifically satisfying answers. Some researchers argue that wheat genes have become toxic. Davis has said that bread today is nothing like the bread found on tables just fifty years ago: “What’s changed is that wheat’s adverse effects on human health have been amplified many-fold. . . .The version of ‘wheat’ we consume today is a product of genetic research. . . . You and I cannot, to any degree, obtain the forms of wheat that were grown fifty years ago, let alone one hundred, one thousand, or ten thousand years ago. . . . We have to restrict other carbohydrates beyond wheat, but wheat still stands apart as the worst of the worst.’’ Perlmutter is less restrained: “As many as forty percent of us can’t properly process gluten, and the remaining sixty percent could be in harm’s way.”
Although dietary patterns have changed dramatically in the past century, our genes have not. The human body has not evolved to consume a modern Western diet, with meals full of sugary substances and refined, high-calorie carbohydrates. Moreover, most of the wheat we eat today has been milled into white flour, which has plenty of gluten but few vitamins or nutrients, and can cause the sharp increases in blood sugar that often lead to diabetes and other chronic diseases.
If you don’t have celiac disease, then these diets are not going to help you. People seem to forget that a gluten-free cake is still a cake. Stop the fad diets and stop listening to the marketing of processed food makers. Become educated and eat your starches, vegetables and fruit.
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