Science Shows Gluten-Free Food Isn’t Actually Any Healthier for Most of Us

Gluten or not to Gluten? That is the question.

Gluten or not to Gluten? That is the question.

   I found this article by Tom McKay in Mic very interesting.   Any comments?

Bread-eaters, beer drinkers and eating enthusiasts alike now have something to rub in the noses of their gluten-free comrades:

There’s yet more scientific evidence that a gluten-free diet may do little for one’s health.

A recent George Institute for Global Health scientists study has found no evidence that the nutritional value of gluten-free food differs significantly from baseline food products, except they offer less dietary protein.

While those with celiac disease are certainly in their own category, the study found those otherwise eating gluten-free food for their “health benefits” may be grasping at straws.

The science: The research team, whose findings were published in the British Journal of Nutrition, compared over 3,200 foods in a variety of categories, including both staples of a healthy diet and junk food like potato chips. The results revealed gluten-free foods contained less protein, but were otherwise mostly identical in levels of sodium, sugar and other nutrients.

“Gluten-free foods are essential for patients who suffer from celiac disease,” Jason Wu, the study‘s lead author, told Mic via email. But, as almost anything labeled “gluten-free” becomes increasingly popular on grocery store shelves, Wu said these products are becoming more of a staple for people who do not necessarily need them but simply associate “products that are gluten-free as being healthier.”

However, when these products are actually examined through a careful scientific lens, any such claims of elevated health properties mostly go out the window.

“We found that many products are now labelled as gluten-free, even amongst junk foods that are typically high in sugar, salt and saturated fat,” Wu told Mic. “Our results indicate that there is in fact little difference in the overall nutrition profile between gluten-free and non-gluten-free products across both core foods (e.g. bread and pasta), or junk foods (e.g. processed meats and cakes).”

Debunking gluten-free food: Claims gluten-free food is healthier have doubtless fueled skyrocketing sales of gluten-free food, which research group Mintel says rose 63% from 2012 to 2014 to $8.8 billion.

Avoiding gluten is very important for the relatively small but growing proportion of the population with celiac disease, which causes gluten to damage the intestines.

However, some gluten-free advocates go further, claiming gluten is responsible for inflammation in the dietary tract in gluten “intolerant” individuals who do not have celiac disease, as well as say gluten-free diet has beneficial impacts on gut flora. Some doctors believe increased consumption of synthetic and processed foods has led to increased gluten sensitivity.

But David S. Seres, director of medical nutrition and associate professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center’s Institute of Human Nutrition, said these claims lack scientific validity.

“Just like a vitamin making non-claims such as ‘supports heart health,’ people have it in their heads that gluten-free food will improve gut health,” Seres told Mic via email. “I think the food industry is simply riding the tide of hype and frenzy.”

Research from Peter Gibson at Monash University in Melbourne has suggested a specific group of dietary sugars known as FODMAPS typically found in higher quantities in gluten-containing foods is the most likely culprit of many supposed cases of gluten intolerance.

The bottom line: Simply put, there is “no evidence that a gluten-free diet is best for the general health-conscious public,” Seres told Mic, except for those individuals who have been diagnosed with celiac disease by a doctor or who otherwise have a “strong reason” to suspect their symptoms are directly tied to gluten consumption.

“There are numerous people with non-specific GI symptoms who claim to feel better on the diet. For these, there are possibly people with celiac disease but with negative tests,” he said. “But for most others, it is as likely to be a placebo effect as not.”

So if you really think gluten is behind your digestive woes, get a formal medical diagnosis. Otherwise, if the food itself isn’t even any healthier, then it probably isn’t worth shelling out extra for it.

The Good Lie

the-good-lieSheila and I watched the movie “The Good Lie” this afternoon. You can do things like that when you’re retired.  The film is effective but short on context so let me offer a little for you.

The Sudanese Civil Wars spanned 1955 to 1972 and 1983 to 2005, The central government in Khartoum battled the rebel forces in the rest of the country. Million died and displaced millions more. Human rights abuses and slavery became rampant.

Sudan (now two countries) historically consisted of two main demographic groups. The north spoke Arabic, were mostly Muslim, and controlled the government. The sub-Saharan south spoke English and tribal languages, were mostly Christian, and felt disenfranchised by the government. In the 19th century, the British treated the north and south as two separate administrative entities.  In 1946 the north and south became a single administrative unit with Arabic as its official language. In 1956 Sudan became an independent country which ignited the nascent grassroots rebellion in the south. The Sudanese Liberation People’s Army eventually emerged to spearhead opposition to government control.  Now back to the movie.

A group of young children are innocently playing in a rural African village. Suddenly, a helicopter hovers overhead ominously followed by the arrival of gun-toting soldiers. Without any discernible provocation, they begin shooting wildly, burning huts, pillaging, and taking prisoners. Several of the village’s children escape the onslaught. They embark by foot on a 735-mile journey to a refugee camp in Kenya. Flash forward 13 years when four of them, Mamere (Arnold Oceng), Jeremiah (Ger Duany), Paul (Emmanuel Jal), and Mamere’s younger sister, Abital (Kuoth Wiel), still languish in the refugee camp.

Through some process not explained in the movie, these four are granted asylum in the USA. The boys end up in Kansas City, Kansas. Their sponsor is a church group but their representative can’t make it to the airport. Enter Carrie Davis (Reese Witherspoon) who we first see is rolling around in a motel room bed with some seemingly random guy. Carrie is not some altruistic do-gooder. She is simply doing her job, which is to fill job vacancies and African immigrants are a readily exploitable work force for minimum wage jobs. There is a surprising amount of humor in the film’s depiction of these young Sudanese villagers adjusting to US culture. They experience fast food, supermarkets, cell phones and even electric lights for the very first time. Their journey to become Americans without losing their cultural identity and values provides the plot for the rest of the film.

Even though predictable “The Good Lie” still affected me greatly. The title comes from Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn”. Huck lies to protect Jim from slave trackers. The lie is unselfish and told to protect another even at the liars peril. Hence it is a good lie. See this movie and I think you’ll agree that it is well named.  (Google Huck Finn – I’m not doing all your work for you)

This is way-to-goa flawed film in some ways, but I give it my watch it with a friend vote! 

What do you think?

Image from: http://www.youthapologeticsn

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