Nutrition Myth Busting – Is Gluten Bad for You?
There is a myriad of rumors that are perpetuated by old wives who should, frankly, mind their own business and an entire industry that exists for the sole purpose of selling you placebos. So, what do you do to find out the truth? You follow the evidence. Today, on Bek’s Bites, we are going to cover the topic of a hot-button topic: gluten.
I have heard rumors about gluten that range from something that sounds reasonable to the outright absurd. But, I am not apt to listen to the advice of a stay at home Facebook mom about something that she has researched for two seconds on Google. Instead, I am going to listen to the scientists that experiment, gather data, and replicate their results to find a definitive answer. Then, I will figure out the origins of this wheat-based panic.
What is Gluten?
Before I get into the origins of the rumors, I want to explain what gluten actually is. Gluten is not a starch. It is a protein that is literally inside the wheat. Even South Park got the information correct when tackling this issue at the height of its popularity. That’s right. A vulgar tv show actually did their homework about gluten.
However, there is more to this little protein than that. According to scientists, “It is the main storage protein of wheat grains. It is a complex mixture of hundreds of related but distinct proteins, mainly gliadin and glutenin. Similar storage proteins exist as secalin in rye, hordein in barley, and avenins in oats and are collectively referred to as “gluten.”
Live Science explains it plainly.”Gliadin gives the bread the ability to rise during baking. Glutenin is responsible for dough’s elasticity. ” If you want to further simplify it, you would say that gluten is responsible for the chemistry of baking certain types of wheat-based baked goods.
Does Gluten Cause Autism?
I am putting in an aside because I, the blogger have Asperger’s syndrome and hear all sorts of health mumbo jumbo regarding what causes autism. Correlation between gluten intolerance and autism was studied by scientists. Why the question was raised, possibly has to do with autistic children being abnormally picky to certain textures and tastes of food. It comes from texture sensitivities as well as hypersensitive taste. It is the reason black pepper is too spicy for me.
The conclusion of the study stated that “A subset of children with autism displays increased immune reactivity to gluten.”
A subset. That means not all autistic children in this study had that sort of sensitivity in the first place.
According to thespectrumnews.org, “Although this suggests a gut-brain interaction, we do not know the direction of this interaction.” While there might be a correlation, this does not equal causation.
All the studies tell us is that there might be a relation, but they don’t know how it works yet.
So AutismSpeaks, Amen Clinics, and other sites that exaggerated this result did a disservice to hopeful parents of autistic children by promoting a non-existent cure for profit. Don’t even get me started on vaccines…
Is Gluten Bad for You?
There are people with gluten intolerances, such as Celiac’s Disease, that is a literal allergic condition. Symptoms of Celiac’s disease include recurring abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea/constipation, tingling/numbness in hands and feet, chronic fatigue, joint pain, unexplained infertility, and low bone density.
However, this only affects 1% of the population. What’s more, this autoimmune disease is genetic, not caused by any outside source.
People who don’t have wheat sensitivities won’t gain anything from going gluten-free either. According to the Gluten Intolerance Group “The presence or absence of gluten alone is not related to diet quality. What’s important is the overall food choices made within the diet, whether it’s gluten-free or not”.
If you replace excess wheat with fruits and vegetables, your health will improve because you are making better food choices. However if you just replace those things with gluten-free versions, you will hardly be affected.
You might even be worse off since “many gluten-free processed foods are lower in fiber, vitamins, and minerals than their gluten-containing counterparts.” Really wheat, and by extension gluten, can be good for you.
How did the Craze Start?
This nightmare is a combination of bandwagoning and celebrity endorsement. “As book author Levinovitz told Vox, we were primed to hate gluten because of the earlier anti-carb movement. There was already the popularity of low-carb diets for people who want to lose weight,” Levinovitz explained. “The arguments against gluten hooked up with the fear of carbs.”
With the paranoia of carbs already priming the public, entrepreneurs realized they could make money. Two notable figures of the anti-gluten movement include Gwenith Paltrow, and Dr. William Davis, the author of Wheat Belly. Both figures used pseudoscience to reason their way around how eliminating starches will make you skinnier, and reduce disease when in fact, it does the exact opposite.
Simply put, unless you are allergic, gluten is okay.