Going Gluten Free: Yay or Nay?
My take - hope you enjoy!
While I generally really enjoy your articles I have to say this was one of the most disappointing. The writing quality was good but the science in it is very very bad. Things like linking gluten and autism have zero backing froms science. What parents "feel" about their children and what holds up under scientific scrutiny in this case are two very different things.
Now I am open to being wrong on this, but from the scientifically backed articles I have read on the issue the only people who should avoid gluten are those with genuine celiac (around 1% as you wrote), and any of those with a legitimate sensitivity to it - which is a very disputable number and is difficult to test for because of so many other things that can complicate matters when it comes to matters of diet.
Asking people if they "feel" better is a very very poor way to get scientific results done.
Going gluten free can be costly and (from talking to a friend of mine who has celiac disease) a REAL pain in the butt in terms of avoidance, and to suggest that people should do so simply isn't supported by scientific evidence at this point outside of those who have very specific health reasons.
I think you have a knack for writing, but writing about complicated issues like this often takes a LOT of research to do well. I think you can do a lot better down the road in that regards.
A good place to start (and I say start because the best way is to dig up the actual studies themselves) is from places like http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/ who tackle these types of issues a lot and do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to digging up the studies and research.
Keep it up, I read whenever I see you post a link!
Thanks for the feedback. The science may me inconclusive at this point, but I think that has just as much to do with the lack of research done (especially over a long period of time).
My blog/writing isn't meant to be super scientific - I want to present general fitness/nutritional issues. I don't think I pushed for or against it either way, I simply presented my results while eating a diet low in gluten. And while "feeling better" is difficult to quantify scientifically, it isn't impossible. It just ihasn't been done yet.
I don't think going gluten free is any more costly at all. I don't spend any more on groceries than I used to. It "can" be, depending on what you buy. If you are loading up on special "gluten free" products, than sure, chances are you are spending more money. And the avoidance issue is one that is improving rapidly - more and more restaurants are offering gluten free alternatives. It still isn't where it needs to be though.
And yes, there isn't a ton of factual/hard evidence that going gluten free for the average person has health benefits, but that doesn't mean that there is no connection between gluten and lethary, poor sleeping, etc. Because something hasn't been proven yet doesn't mean it never will. I think I touched on the difficulty in testing for sensitivity - cutting out gluten and taking note of how you feel may not be worthy for an academic journal, but if you feel better, does it matter?
Great article Angus - its becoming more and more relavant.
I recommend reading the "Wheat Belly" by William Davis.
Here is bit from the Cloud 9 Bakery in Vancouver (http://www.cloud9specialtybakery.com...uten-free.html)
"Gluten-free diets aren't just for celiacs or those with wheat allergies. Eating wheat, even whole wheat can actually do more harm than good. it is estimated that up to 50 percent of the population may be intolerant to the high-gluten content in wheat being produced today. That is why it must be listed as one of the top 10 allergens.
The reason is that we don't completely digest all of the wheat, leaving the undigested portions to ferment. Wheat is also pro-inflammatory which means it's easily converted to sugar, causing a rise in insulin levels and cellular inflammation. Wheat can be found in so many foods that we do not expect to find it in.
Because wheat is found in so many foods, most people only discover their intolerance to gluten when they go gluten free and their overall health improves dramatically."
Sure, there could be health benefits to avoiding gluten, and maybe more study would reveal that. But the best science we have to date doesn't suggest that. If it does at some point in the future then I would be one of the first on that bus for sure.
At this point gluten is just one of the more popular "buzz terms" out there aside from those with significant health issues.
I do think that it is dangerous to take it a step farther and make any connections between autism and gluten when this has been studied and found to have no significant connection.
There is a reason why simply feeling better is not a good way to judge the efficacy of something.
A parent starts to phase out gluten from their child's diet and over the course of 6 months finds that their child is showing a noticeable difference. They attribute this to the diet change.
On the surface this seems great, however without controls in place there is no way of actually knowing why this child felt better. Maybe it was something in a particular food unrelated to gluten. Maybe it was a lifestyle change that went along with the diet. Maybe it was a gradual improvement in the child due to simply getting older and having better coping mechanisms (quite common actually!). There are all sorts of things that could be true but because there are no controls in place the parents makes claims that gluten-free was the answer.
Now there is an added burden for the parent of juggling dietary restrictions that might not even be needed, along with everything else that have to deal with on a daily basis.
These things are tricky but I believe offering good health advice to individuals is an incredibly important matter that needs to be handled correctly and with the best evidence we have available. Making claims that are completely factually incorrect (such as the autism link for one, but there were others) is doing a disservice to those who might be reading.
I KNOW that wasn't your intent, but I would simply encourage you to take some of the claims made in the things you linked and examine them in light of the actual evidence that exists. That's your way of doing things in areas that are hockey related (your article on Semin comes to mind for me) and I think you could do an even better job in the area of personal fitness and health as well (you already do good stuff there).
This is one area that I care a lot about since my wife works with individuals who have autism (among others) and we see parents making desperate attempts at changing things that cannot be changed, rather than spending their efforts in areas that are proven to work. Things like avoiding vaccines and spending time/money on gluten free diets are not helping their kids and actually have the potential to do harm. The least we can do is point them in the direction of sound science and avoid scaring them with things that are not true.
Definitely - as I said, I appreciate the feedback. And obviously it is an important issue and one you are more well-versed in than the average person.
Anyway, thanks for the discussion. The fact that more people are talking about it is a great start. And you are right - there are often other reasons for improvements, and in real life/real world scenarios it is hard to isolate one variable as the sole factor/cause of something.
Interesting article , thanks.
Yesterday Dr. Ozs' show was about wheat and how bad it may be for us.
I didn't have time to watch it all but the 1st 5mins had me listening.
I'm sure the show can be Googled , for those intersted.
Dr Oz is potentially the very last person I would EVER send someone to for advice.
He believes in homeopathy among other things (so essentially fairy magic)
Unless you have celiac disease, there's no need.
I liked the article too, Jeff.
As I was reading though, I sort of perked up at the mention of an association of autism and gluten. Now, after reading doulos' post, I won't beat a dead horse, but there are two issues I'd like to point out:
1. The claim that EVERY parent is misleading in that it leads the reader to think that each and every parent that ever took their autistic child into a spe******t (or doctor?) found benefits from being gluten free. I don't think that claim can be made.
2. There have been claims of associations with Autism before. If you recall there was a British researcher who falsified studies to link Autism with vaccinations. I'm not claiming that findings are falsified, just that making unsubstantiated associations is very misleading.
Sorry to nitpick, but I thoroughly enjoyed your article. Even though you don't want to be too scientific, you should base your writings/information in fact and not heresy.
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