This week, a large number of articles related to food and gluten-free diets have come across my RSS and news feeds. These articles are of interest because my wife is celiac and gluten-free, and we know a number of friends and relatives that need to be gluten-free for similar reasons. We’ve often discussed the growing “gluten-free fad” (which has now become the butt of comics), and whether it is good for Celiacs — on the one hand, there may be more places where it is safe to eat; but on the other hand, if they view it as a fad and not a medical necessity, they may not be as clean in their handling and true Celiacs will get poisoned.
Let’s start with the grown of gluten-free. An article came out this week on Vox looking at the growth of the number of Americans who say they are gluten-free vs. the number that are actually Celiac. The article noted:
The number of Americans who say they are gluten-free has more than tripled from 2009 to 2014.
But the number of Americans who have celiac disease, or the inability to digest gluten, has stayed pretty much same.
This means more people are simply choosing not to eat gluten, even when there is no good scientific evidence to support cutting grains from their diets.
New research in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that the percentage of Americans practicing a gluten-free diet rose from 0.52 percent in 2009 to 1.69 percent in 2014. But the percentage of Americans with celiac disease actually declined slightly from 0.70 percent in 2009 to 0.58 percent in 2014 (although the study said this decline wasn’t statistically significant).
USA Today had a similar report, derived from the same research:
About 2.7 million Americans avoid gluten in their diet, but 1.76 million have celiac disease, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine this week.
Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys showed from 2009 to 2014, participants who reported having celiac didn’t exceed 0.77%. During the same period, participants who didn’t have the disease, but avoided gluten more than tripled.
A study released in July, said those without celiac who experience abdominal pain, bloating and fatigue after eating wheat and related products could have a weakened intestinal barrier, another reason they might go gluten-free.
Why could this be? Why are people who don’t have Celiac seemingly feeling better off gluten? Here are two more articles that might bring the pieces together. First, there is a report that birth by Ceasarian section appears to increase obesity risks, seemingly because such newborns are not exposed to bacteria in the vaginal tract. Next, there is a report that a common bacteria is showing promise for treating Celiac disease. Now, add into that mix the info in my previous post about soap — namely, that the FDA is requiring manufactures to pull common anti-bacterial agents out of soap — and you might have the answer.
Our Microbiome, and more specifically, how we are screwing it up.
Consider this: There has already been research showing how the intestinal microbiome can influence our mood and our tendancy to obesity (or our ability to lose weight). We’ve also seen the growing use of antibiotics everywhere — not just as prescribed medicine, but in soaps and animal feed. We’ve seen more and more people trying to correct things with pro-biotics. I think it is conceivable that we’ve mucked up our guts, and created — through damage of the microbiome — guts that do better on a no gluten or low gluten diet. This would explain why more and more Americans are going gluten-free and feeling better while doing so, while those diagnosed with an actual disease haven’t increased.
How is society reacting to the increased desire for gluten free? Not always in the right way — no big surprise there.
- Doing it right is Kent State College, which has opened an entire gluten-free dining hall. The cafe was certified by the Gluten-Free Food Services Certification Program, which is a nationally-recognized food safety program. They did this to serve the students, more and more of whom are indicating a gluten-intolerance.
- Doing it wrong is the White Moose Cafe, which is now demanding a doctor’s note from gluten free diners. As my family said when I mentioned this: a doctor’s note isn’t required when you order sugar-free because you are diabetic. A rabbi’s note isn’t require to order Kosher food. So why a doctor’s note here?
As I said: a collection of GF related articles. Something to certainly chew on (unless you’re sensitive to the subject).