My "Quick" Response to, "Being Gluten Free is Dumb - and Gluten Intolerance May Not Even Exist"

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It seems like the recent explosion in gluten awareness, growing gluten-free menus, and increasing options for those who would like to avoid toxic plant proteins is inspiring a backlash. These "gluten deniers" are vehemently opposed to the idea that gluten should be avoided by anyone who isn't bleeding out of their intestines (ie. has diagnosed Celiac's disease").

One such gluten denier named Casey Chan wrote a piece titled, "Being gluten free is dumb—and gluten intolerance may not even exist."

Posted on Sploid.gizmodo.com, Chan claims that "there's no reason to be gluten free," unless you have Celiac's disease.

"You're wasting your time," he says because "99% of the human population" is not affected by Celiac's.

Furthermore, he claims that "the father of gluten free" thinks that "it's bullshit" and that people who have gluten intolerance don't have a problem with gluten, they are just hypochondriacs, "Basically, it's the nocebo effect. People psych themselves out and start believing they're sick."

I try not to get into online arguments, but in this case, I felt the need to respond. To wit, I posted the following "quick" reply:

"Maybe do some research before calling things "stupid" and "dumb" ...

First, Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA) can make your gut "leaky": "At nanomolar concentrations WGA stimulates the synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines and thus the biological activity of WGA should be reconsidered by taking into account the effects of WGA on the immune system at the gastrointestinal interface. These results shed new light onto the molecular mechanisms underlying the onset of gastrointestinal disorders observed in vivo upon dietary intake of wheat-based foods." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1933208...

Whoa you say, WGA may be destroyed by heat! Well, gliadin, the other wheat protein is not, this one also makes your gut "leaky": "Based on our results, we concluded that gliadin activates zonulin signaling irrespective of the genetic expression of autoimmunity, leading to increased intestinal permeability to macromolecules." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubm...

Leaky gut matters because autoimmune disease is a big deal: " When the zonulin pathway is deregulated in genetically susceptible individuals, autoimmune disorders can occur. This new paradigm subverts traditional theories underlying the development of these diseases and suggests that these processes can be arrested if the interplay between genes and environmental triggers is prevented by re-establishing the zonulin-dependent intestinal barrier function. " http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2210989...

Wheat WGA also disrupts blood sugar: "Concanavalin A and wheat germ agglutinin are as effective as insulin in enhancing the rate of glucose transport and in inhibiting epinephrine-stimulated lipolysis in isolated adipocytes." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubm...

Opiate peptides that result from the digestion of gluten also jack up insulin levels (at least in rats so further study would be needed in humans to confirm this effect): "...orally and intravenously administered gluten exorphin A5 stimulates insulin release" http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubm...

Have your insulin jacked up for too long and say hello to diabetes (at least if you are a rat, again, further studies need to be done to confirm in humans): "In studies of BB rats fed defined semipurified diets, wheat gluten was the most potent diabetes-inducing protein source." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubm...

If that's not enough, gluten can make you lose control of your body (aka "spontaneous ataxia") even if you are NOT diagnosed with Celiac's: "Gluten ataxia responds to a strict gluten-free diet even in the absence of an enteropathy. The diagnosis of gluten ataxia is vital as it is one of the very few treatable causes of sporadic ataxia." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubm...

I could go on, but I think you get the point."

Here, however, I will go on, leaving you with the conclusion of 15 medical experts documented in a paper titled "Spectrum of gluten-related disorders: consensus on new nomenclature and classification"...

"It is now becoming apparent that reactions to gluten are not limited to CD, rather we now appreciate the existence of a spectrum of gluten-related disorders. The high frequency and wide range of adverse reactions to gluten raise the question as to why this dietary protein is toxic for so many individuals in the world. One possible explanation is that the selection of wheat varieties with higher gluten content has been a continuous process during the last 10,000 years, with changes dictated more by technological rather than nutritional reasons. Wheat varieties grown for thousands of years and mostly used for human nutrition up to the Middle Ages, such as Triticum monococcum and T. dicoccum, contain less quantities of the highly toxic 33-mer gluten peptide [65]. Apparently the human organism is still largely vulnerable to the toxic effects of this protein complex, particularly due to a lack of adequate adaptation of the gastrointestinal and immunological responses.

Additionally, gluten is one of the most abundant and diffusely spread dietary components for most populations, particularly those of European origin. In Europe, the mean consumption of gluten is 10 g to 20 g per day, with segments of the general population consuming as much as 50 g of daily gluten or more [66,67] All individuals, even those with a low degree of risk, are therefore susceptible to some form of gluten reaction during their life span. Therefore, it is not surprising that during the past 50 years we have witnessed an 'epidemic' of CD [68,69] and the surging of new gluten-related disorders, including the most recently described GS [44,62]. This review provides some rationale to explain these epidemiological phenomena and expands our current knowledge to gain more insights into gluten-related disorders."

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About Tony Fed

Tony is the host of the Paleo Magazine Radio podcast, author of "Paleo Grilling: A Modern Caveman's Guide to Cooking with Fire", and Cofounder of Powerful PT, an innovative information resource for Fitness Professionals. He has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio broadcasts and regularly hosts healthy cooking workshops and informational lectures. He is also a full-time Personal Trainer and Wellness Consultant who lives in Jacksonville Florida with his wife Jamie.
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