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Is gluten really that pollutin’?

by Denis Faye | September 22, 2010


Fellow Fitness Nerd Steve Edwards knocked one out of the park today with his post regarding gluten. Granted, most of you already read Steve’s blog, but I felt it deserved special attention today:

For some reason we love to find scapegoats for our problems. Instead of admitting that we need to re-focus on total image we prefer to allow obtuse minutia to sidetrack us. Perhaps it’s because we feel better if something we don’t understand is causing our health problems instead of the obvious, like we’re eating bad and not exercising. Whatever the reason, society is always on the lookout for the next thing to blame, bringing me to our latest victim: gluten.

It’s amazing how humankind so desperately needs a boogyman. Governments need to prop-up foreign despots as threats to keep the masses under control. If it starts smelling in the elevator, someone’s got to be accused of farting. And if people are unhealthy, there’s got to be one, specific food that’s tearing our insides apart. Sometimes, as was the case with trans fat, there’s some truth to the claims, but most of the time, it’s just a way to sell books and new, fancy, “health” foods. From Steve:

Gluten is basically protein found in grains like wheat, rye, barley. Two decades ago it was championed as a superfood and was the mainstay on the menus of most organic hippie restaurants. Now it’s a vilified to the point where consumers look for “no gluten” labels like they’re the key to eternal happiness. Given the latest research shows between .5 and 1% of wheat eating populations suffer from gluten sensitivity one wouldn’t think the market would be so invigorated. But it all comes down to one thing: $

Steve’s observations actually come from a larger conversation he and I are having about grains in general. I’ve read up on the various anti-grain arguments, and I’m having a hard time finding one that rings true. Are grains really the death seeds many popular diets make them out to be? I dunno. It seems to me that everything “wrong” with grains is also “wrong” with legumes and nuts – and no one makes them out to be evil.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just heard a bunch of Paleo Diet supporters howling and running from their caves. I need to take cover before they start throwing sticks and pebbles.

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8 thoughts on “Is gluten really that pollutin’?

  1. Anonymous

    “It seems to me that everything ‘wrong’ with grains is also ‘wrong’ with legumes and nuts – and no one makes them out to be evil.”

    Well, not “no one.” Check out Dr. Doug Graham and fellow LFRVers (low fat raw vegans). They say that across the board, complex carb foods are nutritionally inferior to fruits and veggies and that grains and legumes contain too much protein (over the upper limit of 10%) to be eaten in quantity. “We do not have the digestive enzymes to break down the oligosaccharides in beans, nor the polysaccharides in grains and starchy veggies, a sure sign that they are not designed for human consumption. . . . Even when soaked and raw, grains are acid forming in a body that needs to be slightly alkaline.”

    Not quite sure yet what to think about the “80/10/10 Diet” (minimum 80% carbs from sweet fruit and leafy greens/maximum 10% protein from same/and maximum 10% fat from same plus a miniscule amount of overt fat from nuts, seeds, and avocados once in a while). It seems pretty radical. Not to mention I am extremely skeptical about the conversion rate of ALA to to EPA to DHA . . . but, that is another story.

    That said, the glut of gluten-free products does seem like a big marketing scheme. Those packaged products promoted as gluten free look to be the evil steptwins of the low and no-fat crap out there. Something’s got to added for taste, and usually it is something not so great, e.g., sugar and fat, which equal more calories. Yes, there is that .5-1% of the population with true celiac disease (and I am all for overt labeling), but so many more that are diagnosed by naturopaths or the internet as “gluten intolerant” because they have symptoms of fatigue, “brain fog,” and the like. Those looking for the next diet fad in gluten free may be sorely disappointed when all they feel is tighter waistbands and lighter wallets . . .

    /michm

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Part I:

    “It seems to me that everything ‘wrong’ with grains is also ‘wrong’ with legumes and nuts – and no one makes them out to be evil.”

    Well, not “no one.” Check out Dr. Doug Graham and fellow LFRVers (low fat raw vegans). They say that across the board, complex carb foods are nutritionally inferior to fruits and veggies and that grains and legumes contain too much protein (over the upper limit of 10%) to be eaten in quantity. “We do not have the digestive enzymes to break down the oligosaccharides in beans, nor the polysaccharides in grains and starchy veggies, a sure sign that they are not designed for human consumption. . . . Even when soaked and raw, grains are acid forming in a body that needs to be slightly alkaline.”

    Not quite sure yet what to think about the “80/10/10 Diet” (minimum 80% carbs from sweet fruit and leafy greens/maximum 10% protein from same/and maximum 10% fat from same plus a miniscule amount of overt fat from nuts, seeds, and avocados once in a while). It seems pretty radical. Not to mention I am extremely skeptical about the conversion rate of ALA to to EPA to DHA . . . but, that is another story.

    To be continued . . .

    /michm

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    Part II:

    That said, the glut of gluten-free products does seem like a big marketing scheme. Those packaged products promoted as gluten free look to be the evil steptwins of the low and no-fat crap out there. Something’s got to added for taste, and usually it is something not so great, e.g., sugar and fat, which equal more calories. Yes, there is that .5-1% of the population with true celiac disease (and I am all for overt labeling), but so many more that are diagnosed by naturopaths or the internet as “gluten intolerant” because they have symptoms of fatigue, “brain fog,” and the like. Those looking for the next diet fad in gluten free may be sorely disappointed when all they feel is tighter waistbands and lighter wallets . . .

    /michm

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    And now that you have the fringe vegan point of view, it is also true of paleo/primal & I’m pretty sure of the GAPS and SCD diet. They all eschew legumes & grains due to the anti-nutrients as well as the possible problematic digestion problems. Nuts to a lesser extent though some do due the excessive omega-6 giving macademia nuts a free pass.

    It’s a fact that there are toxins in legumes that if not prepared properly can cause food poisoning. Lectins are not good, but in small quantities don’t seem to cause a problem for most people. The same holds true of phytic acid in grains such as whole wheat. That is why traditional peoples who rely on them as staples prepare them by fermenting & sprouting.

    Reply
  5. screwdestiny

    “Even when soaked and raw, grains are acid forming in a body that needs to be slightly alkaline.”

    But if all we’re eating are alkaline foods then the body becomes to alkaline, so the pH is still out of balance and harmful to the body, am I right?

    Reply
  6. D Faye

    Hmmmm… I’m not totally sold on the idea that lectins and phytic acid are that much of a threat. Here’s something I noted on Steve’s blog:

    “First off, there’s not much phytic acid in wheat compared to most nuts and legumes, including soy, so if you want to wipe it out, you’d have to ditch those too – and if you honestly don’t believe in the massive nutritional value of legumes and raw nuts, well…

    Phytic acid may be an antinutrient in that it binds to some minerals and prevents absorption, but you have to have an incredibly nutrient-poor diet for that to be an issue – like third-world poor.

    Also, there are a host of positive things about phytic acid you seem to have missed. It’s been shown to ward off osteoporosis. It’s an antioxidant that has prevented cancer in animal tests. It’s been shown to lower glucose response in diabetes patients.”

    Reply
  7. Anonymous

    Dear Prima ballerina (aka miss smarty pants),

    There’s a little thing called cross-contamination. Happens all the time. That’s why seemingly unrelated food will have allergy info on it (ie, made in a facility that also processes nuts).

    That is also why celiacs can have a hard time eating out. The restaurant might cut bread than use that same knife to cut something else transferring the gluten.

    Reply

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