Let’s take a little break from vaccines and COVID-19 and focus on a food fad that lacks scientific support — gluten-free diets. If you listen to the quacks on the internet, apparently organic, GMO-free, gluten-free diets will fix all that ails you and your kids.
Except it won’t unless you suffer from very rare medical conditions that make you very sensitive to gluten.
Like a lot of food fads, such as avoiding fats or carbohydrates, gluten-free diets seem to have a basis in real science and medicine, but it has exploded far beyond what real science-based medicine would recommend, and that would be to a very tiny patient population.
There are many food and nutritional fads floating around the internet that have limited scientific or medical evidence supporting their nutritional usefulness. One of them is the gluten-free diet that has become one of the most prevalent, and annoying, food crazes.
Although this blog focuses on vaccines, there are really so many myths and tropes on the internet that are based on the misunderstanding of science, on pseudoscience, or just plain ignorance. One of those myths is that human meddling in plant genetics, which led to modern wheat, is the root cause of all gluten sensitivity, including celiac disease.
Of course, the quack medicine world has vastly overrated the “dangers” of gluten – those with real gluten issues, with properly diagnosed celiac disease and wheat allergies, represent less than 1% of the population. The internet quacks also have no understanding of real gluten sensitivity – it’s an on/off switch. With some relatively rare exceptions, gluten causes significant symptoms in those with gluten sensitivity, not vague feelings. And there’s no dose-response curve – a tiny amount has almost the same effect as a large amount of gluten.
Although I doubt it will have any effect on these anti-gluten food fads, a new peer-reviewed paper in a respected journal clear shows that that modern wheat is not responsible for celiac disease. Gluten from 2018 probably is the same as the gluten in wheat when it was first domesticated 12,000 years ago.
Let’s wrap our mind around that – genetically modified gluten. I’m sure that won’t be problematic for those who have medically diagnosed issues with gluten. They’re going to be thrilled that they can eat real bread, pizza or pasta. I’m sure they’re not going to be concerned with any label that says “GMO foods here.”
On the other hand, I’m certain (but I have no scientific evidence) that the Venn diagrams of those who buy into the nonsense about GMOs also buy into the pseudoscience of gluten. Those people might fall over from confusion.
The only benefit of the low gluten diet is that today a lot of products are labeled “gluten free.” Thus, the few individuals who have real gluten sensitivity have an easier time shopping for safe foods.
Although it may seem like I write only about the lies and ignorance of the antivaccination cult, I truly despise all kinds of pseudoscience. It’s just that refusing vaccines that prevent real diseases, based on antivaccine misinformation (OK, lies), relates directly to the health of real children everywhere. Most (but certainly not all) other pseudosciences are not that dangerous, just terribly annoying. The sudden onset of gluten sensitivity across the world is one of those annoying trends.
With respect to ridiculous health beliefs and fads, I declare 2014 to be the Year of Gluten. I swear that there are more popular discussions of gluten than organic food, though I suppose that organic, GMO-free, gluten-free food would be the next billion dollar idea.
Like avoiding carbohydrates, fats, GMOs, and whatever else, gluten-free diets have some relationship to real science and medicine, but it has exploded into a fad that has far exceeded the real medical issues surrounding gluten sensitivity.
A recently published study in Pediatrics, Early Vaccinations Are Not Risk Factors for Celiac Disease by A Myléus et al., concludes that “early vaccinations within the national Swedish program were not associated with celiac disease risk, nor could changes in the program explain the Swedish epidemic.” As background, between 1984 and 1996, the incidence of celiac disease in Swedish children under the age of two increased by four times. The increase ended just as abruptly. The cause of the increase and sudden end has been a mystery to researchers ever since.
Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes an abnormal response to gluten digestion, results from certain gene variants, but the disorder seems to be expressed as a result of unknown environmental factors. One of the factors that has been blamed in the past has been vaccines and were considered a culprit in the case of the Swedish children. However, no studies have ever shown a causation between vaccinations and expression of celiac disease, and this study dismisses any link in this particular situation.
Myléus et al. actually found that the introduction of pertussis, or whooping cough, vaccines corresponded with a decline in the incidence of celiac disease. They continue to research the causes of the spike in celiac disease, since it might help with prevention of the expression of the underlying gene variants. For example, Myléus et al. believe that high wheat formulas used in Sweden at the time may hold the answer to the question.
But at this time, the anti-vaccine lunacy can quit blaming celiac disease on vaccines.