When Gluten-Free Is Not a Fad
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When Gluten-Free Is Not a Fad

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Gluten intolerance is “fake”—at least according to many recent news stories. But what does scientific research have to say on this topic? Is going gluten-free just a crazy fad? Is gluten intolerance over-hyped as the media claims, or is it a legitimate condition that may be even more common than currently recognized?

gluten tinnitus
How does removing gluten from your diet really affect your health? pepj/istock/Thinkstock

Over the last year or so, we’ve seen a glut of stories in the popular media suggesting that non-celiac gluten sensitivity (i.e. people that react to gluten but do not have celiac disease) is a myth:

Even late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel weighed in with a segment that got a lot of attention in both popular and social media.

Just after these stories were published, I wrote an article (“Is Gluten Sensitivity Real?”) showing how the authors grossly misinterpreted and misrepresented the research they claimed to be reviewing.

You can read my article to get the details, but here’s the takeaway: the study those stories were based on in no way disproved the existence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), nor did it overturn the large body of evidence that links NCGS to a variety of health problems ranging from type 1 diabetes, to allergies, to schizophrenia, to autism spectrum disorders. (1, 2, 3, 4)

Research shows gluten intolerance is real—and “science journalists” are clueless.

What struck me about those stories—aside from how embarrassing they are as examples of so-called “science journalism”—is how eager the general public seems to be to prove that gluten intolerance is an imaginary or fake condition. I’m not exactly sure why this is. Maybe it’s because gluten-containing foods and beverages like bread and beer have played such a central role in our culture for thousands of years. Or perhaps people simply distrust anything they perceive to be inauthentic or “faddish”.

What the Science Really Says about Gluten Intolerance

While I can relate to an aversion to fads (don’t get me started on Hipsters), and the gluten-free diet could in some ways be described as a fad, the consensus in the scientific literature is that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a bona-fide condition with numerous—and potentially serious—manifestations. According to a recent review paper called “Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: The New Frontier of Gluten Related Disorders”:

…a rapidly increasing number of papers have been published by many independent groups, confirming that GS [non-celiac gluten sensitivity] should be included in the spectrum of gluten-related disorders. (5)

Observational studies have linked gluten intolerance with a shockingly diverse range of symptoms and conditions, including:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (6)
  • Fibromyalgia (7)
  • Dermatitis and other skin conditions (8)
  • Multiple sclerosis (9)
  • Peripheral neuropathy, myopathy, and other neurological disorders (10)
  • Schizophrenia (11)
  • Depression (12)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (13)
  • Ataxia (14)
  • Type 1 diabetes (15)
  • Autism spectrum disorders (16)
  • Ménière disease (17)
  • Endometriosis (18)
  • Insulin resistance and inflammation (19)

I could go on, but I think you get the point. If the authors of the “gluten intolerance is fake” articles had spent even five minutes examining the research, they would have seen numerous papers supporting the existence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

And they aren’t just observational studies; some of them are randomized clinical trials (RCTs), which are considered to be the gold standard of medical evidence. In fact, just last month, a new RCT was published that validated NCGS as a legitimate condition. (20) This was a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, and it had the additional benefit of a crossover design (which I’ll describe below).

The researchers enrolled 61 participants without celiac disease or wheat allergy, but with self-identified gluten intolerance. Subjects were then randomly assigned to two groups; one was given a capsule with 4.4 grams per day of gluten (roughly the amount in two slices of white bread), and the other was given a placebo capsule containing only rice starch. After one week of a gluten-free diet, participants then “crossed over” into the other group (those that received the gluten capsules during the first round got rice starch, and vice versa). Crossover studies are advantageous because each crossover participant serves as his or her own control, which reduces the likelihood of confounding variables influencing the results.

The researchers found that intake of gluten significantly increased symptoms—both intestinal symptoms like bloating and abdominal pain, and extra-intestinal symptoms like depression, brain fog, and canker sores—compared to placebo.

As you can see, despite the rash and uninformed claims you may have seen in the popular media, gluten intolerance is indeed a real condition and not just a figment of the imagination. (Of course, if you happen to be one of the people that suffers from gluten intolerance, you didn’t need me—or any study—to tell you that!)

Why Gluten Intolerance Is Likely More Common Than Currently Estimated

Estimates for the prevalence of NCGS vary widely, ranging from 0.5% on the low end to 13% or higher on the high end. (21) However, there are three reasons why I believe NCGS is much more common than currently estimated:

  1. Current commercially-available tests (with one or two notable exceptions) are extremely limited and miss many people with gluten intolerance. Most conventional tests for gluten intolerance only screen for antibodies to a specific fraction of the gluten protein, alpha-gliadin. But we now know that people can (and do) react to several other components of wheat and gluten—including other epitopes of gliadin (beta, gamma, omega), glutenin, WGA and deamidated gliadin. I reviewed this subject in more detail in my previous article, 50 Shades of Gluten Intolerance
  2. Even the best serological (blood) testing is not 100 percent accurate. An elimination/provocation challenge, where gluten is removed from the diet for 60–90 days, and then reintroduced, is still the gold standard for diagnosing gluten intolerance. However, many physicians are unaware of this and thus do not suggest it to their patients.
  3. Many physicians and patients only suspect—and therefore test for—gluten intolerance when digestive symptoms are present. However, both gluten intolerance and celiac disease can present without any gut symptoms, and only extra-intestinal symptoms like ataxia, schizophrenia, dermatitis, or neuropathy. In fact, the majority of patients with neurological manifestations of gluten sensitivity have no gastrointestinal symptoms! (22) In the case of celiac disease, which has been better studied than NCGS so far, about 30 percent of newly diagnosed patients do not have gut symptoms, and for every new case that is diagnosed, there are 6.4 cases that are undiagnosed—the majority of which are atypical or “silent” forms without gut symptoms. (23, 24)

When you put all of this together, it is almost certain that NCGS is far more prevalent than the current estimates suggest it is.

Is Removing Gluten from Your Diet Dangerous?

A common objection to gluten-free diets that we often hear from conventional dietitians and physicians is that they are somehow unsafe or dangerous. This is presumably because foods that contain gluten contain some magic ingredient that humans cannot live without.

The most glaring problem with this argument is the simple fact that humans have only been consuming gluten for the past 11,000 years or so, which represents a tiny fraction of our evolutionary history. That’s about 367 generations, compared to the 66,000 generations we evolved in an environment without gluten or cereal grains.

The second problem with this argument is that even whole grains are not very nutrient dense. In fact, when compared with other foods like organ meats, fish, meats, vegetables, and fruits, whole grains are at the bottom of the list. (25) As you’d suspect, refined grains (like flour) are even lower. This is significant because 85 percent of the grain consumed in the US is in the highly refined form, and refined flour accounts for approximately 20 percent of calories consumed by the average American. (26)

Finally, studies that have assessed the nutritional quality of gluten-free diets have, not surprisingly, found that they are not lacking in any necessary nutrient. (27) If anything, people on a gluten-free diet are more likely to increase their intake of essential nutrients, especially if they replace breads and other flour products with whole foods (rather than with gluten-free flour alternatives).

Final Thoughts

In my book, The Paleo Cure (previously published as Your Personal Paleo Code), I argued that there are three categories of response to gluten:

  • Tolerance
  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity, aka “gluten intolerance”
  • Celiac disease

I don’t believe that gluten is responsible for all chronic illness in all people, as some have seemed to suggest. But I think the research clearly supports the existence non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and if anything, it is significantly under-diagnosed.

One of my favorite alternate titles I considered for this article was “Gluten Intolerance Is Not Fake, But Science Journalists Are”. It was disheartening to see so many sensational and poorly researched news stories making the claim that gluten intolerance is not a legitimate condition. Not only were those authors wrong, they were irresponsible and failed to do even the most basic background research about the subject they were writing about. This should be yet another reminder to take what you read in the popular health media with a large grain of salt.

Now I’d like to hear from you. Are there “gluten intolerance deniers” in your life? How do you respond to them? What has your experience been with this issue? Let us know in the comments section.

236 Comments

Join the conversation

  1. Gluten is not myth,it effects everyone stops nutrients from absorbing and causing problems in everyone gut overtime.You know nothing about health.

  2. Hi, I have been eating Gluten free bread for about one year and generally feel better. But I was wondering if the substitute starch used to make these breads are themselves healthy or not? Some of the ingredients seem odd and I am not sure if they are ok to be consumed every day, what do you think? This image is the label for the gluten free hamburger buns I eat:

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1s1Xwot2CcqMTVqRVllM0NYZlJKbmNMeGNDZWtQUURVYUtv/view?usp=sharing

    Thanks for your help
    Alex

  3. The majority of those studies have nothing to do with gluten causing the condition that you listed. For instance, the type 1 diabetic study talks about a specific antibody in people who are ALREADY type 1 diabetics that makes them sensitive to gluten. This in no way implies that gluten causes type 1 diabetes. I must have been the first person to actually check your sources. Before you “educate” others on false claims, it’s best if you back your own claims up. I also find it hilarious that you imply that foods containing gluten are pushed for economical reasons when you are, in the same article, pushing your own book.

    • Exactly; I noticed the exact same wanton use of bogus sources, had my eyes rolling a few paragraphs in, especially at the fact that I know this is going to be the article somebody leans on in debate. The connections between the claims & consequences do not at all justify taking a position on either side. I get you write to live Chris, but zealotry for traffic is despairing to me, shameful for you.

    • hi, did you read the same article, Chris cited? No 15? If yes, please re read, it has some totally different outcome to your kind opinion on this topic:)

  4. As a mortician. I am always surprised how many experts miss the forest for the trees.

    Eg….. Ask your Dr how the digestive system ages.

    If you do not know how your bodies parts / functions age. How can you modify your lifestyle accordingly.

  5. Hi Chris,
    My husband is a non believer about NCGS but I just ignore him and make my own gluten free foods. (Some of which he eats happily).

  6. Dear Chris,
    Thanks for this article. Can you confirm if young wheat grass has or not gluten? Given that this considered a healthy addition to our diets, I would like to know if I can have it…. the information I find online is very confusing. Please advice?

    Yolanda

  7. A few quick points.
    I was on a study of rheumatoid arthritis and diet by Gail Darlington in the U.K. about 35 years ago, and I found that gluten was one of my problems. The specialist wrote a book about her results and she included information on leaky gut that long ago!
    I also developed Hashimoto’s because I used to cheat occasionally. But after finding out that the antibodies to gliaden stay in the system for 3 months, I am completely wheat free, and I have cut my thyroxine down from 100 mg to 25 mg.
    Before I knew about the wheat problem, I found that when I lived (in Iran) or traveled in hot countries (India) – where the wheat is “soft” and did not make European style bread, my symptoms vanished. This may explain why our ancestors could eat grains without too many problems – our wheat has been highly bred for maximum gluten.
    As an aside, this is the same for me with milk. I and my mother and sister are allergic to cow´s milk – again cows have been intensively bred and have a type of casein that is not common. But our family can eat milk products from sheep and goats. Modern agriculture has a lot to answer for.

    • Health conditions dropped as soon as humans adopted agricolture, thus grains themselves are to be blamed anyway…said that, it’s true that things got really worse since we selected more and more gluten rich wheat…Creso wheat contains much more gluten than ancient wheat, with the obvious result to make people sicker sooner. The higher quantity of gluten the more problems…unfortunately this is being misunderstood by many…

  8. I stumbled on this only this weekend. It explains the unbelievable increase in gluten intolerance in the last 15 years. I had no idea that farmers in North America are dousing the wheat in Round Up just before harvest! I looked at government testing of wheat and glyphosate (Round Up) and it is NOT tested for, and the correlation between amount of round up used has followed exactly the incidence of Celiac Disease. It is truly shocking! Round Up has many consequences for human physiology included causing a surge in gut serotonin (causing diarrhea) to interference with memory (through glutamate receptors) and a whole host of other problems. This unregulated use of toxic substances in our food has got to stop. All of us are paying the price.

  9. Do you have any more info on the nutrient density of different foods/food groups? The article you linked to in this post is not digesting well. 🙂 However, I did find this quote, “Overall, starches and grains had very favorable nutritional quality-to-price ratio. These foods appear to be a good choice, particularly whole or unrefined staples, which provide adequate nutrition at a moderate cost.”
    This seems to contradict what you stated in the article pertaining to whole (or even refined) grains and nutrient quality. There’s a podcast suggestion for you, nutrient profiling of different foods. For the science nerds who care.
    Thanks!

  10. “In fact, just last month, a new RCT was published that validated NCGS as a legitimate condition. (20) This was a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial,”

    “The researchers enrolled 61 participants without celiac disease or wheat allergy, but with self-identified gluten intolerance.”

    “The researchers found that intake of gluten significantly increased symptoms—both intestinal symptoms like bloating and abdominal pain, and extra-intestinal symptoms like depression, brain fog, and canker sores—compared to placebo.”

    …………………….

    The study itself didn’t validate NCGS as a legitimate condition. Participants self-identified themselves as gluten intolerant which could explain why they felt the symptoms listed after eating gluten (nocebo effect).

    You simply can’t take that RCT and claim it validates NCGS as legitimate condition.

  11. Gluten intolerance is real. I myself has suffered and discovered that I am one of those that cannot digest gluten.

    Being a Filipino/Asian, I grew up eating rice even for breakfast. When I started working in an offshore oil rig, that’s when the symptoms started showing up. Everyday at work, the only choice for breakfast are all wheat-based: bread, pancakes and cereals. Rice is only made available during lunch and dinner. And so, while at work for about 4 weeks, I am eating bread during breakfast. During my 1st year, I did not notice any problem with it but after that, I began to experience IBS, gas/bloating and joint pains. I ignored those because they disappear when I am home/vacation. My shift is 4 weeks ON/OFF. When I am at work, after a week, I began experiencing symptoms again, then they’re gone during my field break, which I thought is just fatigue or stress at work.

    Also, in one of my shifts, I tried to replace rice with pasta during lunch and dinner, and this resulted to my weight gain of about 7 kilos – which lead me to started investigating which is better between rice and pasta and found out about gluten. After reading articles about gluten (from this site and other sources) and its effects on the gut, I believed that I myself have experienced it, hence, I followed your advise to eliminate gluten for about 30 days and my IBS, gas/bloating and joint pains disappeared. When I re-introduced bread, I begin to experience the discomfort after 3 days which means that before I cannot easily blame the bread because I suspected that the immediate food was the culprit.

    Since Nov 2013, while at work, I am 100% gluten-free and maybe could not feel any better if I continued eating bread during my shift. By the way, my usual breakfast now is 4 eggs with olive oil in it and I follow the Paleo diet where and when possible. Back at home, I consume Virgin Coconut Oil (put in my coffee ala bullet-proof) and stick to LCHF diet as much as possible. Why is that? Because my wife and 2 kids are still craving for pizza and pasta once in a while, though they don’t experience such symptoms. It’s not easy for us to be totally 100% gluten-free for now. What is important is that we know gluten may cause some health problems – my teenage kids knows that after eating gluten, their pimples starts showing up while my wife experience gas and fullness of stomach.

    Thank you Chris for providing us helpful information that are life-saver.

  12. A friend worked at a local restaurant as a waitress. She mentioned that her manager had been making fun of gluten intolerant people as just wanting to get attention. First of all, I avoid that restaurant. Second, wrote a bad review for them warning off other gluten free families. Third, I make sure I let others know to avoid them.

    Finally, if I wanted attention, I think I could easily find more profitable ways to get attention. Being gluten free is expensive, time consuming, and disheartening, especially around the holidays. No one in their right mind would go gluten free and stay gluten free, giving up holiday after holiday of your childhood favorite treats, just to get attention. People make the sacrifice to stay on the diet, because if they don’t they suffer miserably. And that suffering is not something we would want someone to notice. Would I really want an audience when I’m doubled over in the bathroom. Do I really want to share all the details at lunch with co-workers when they ask how it makes me feel to get gluten. No! I don’t even share because the details are so embarrassing. Trust me, if I wanted attention, I’d have been a stripper. I would have made money instead of spending it.

    • You know the only real reason I dislike people who claim they’re gluten free? Because they like to use the term “gluten free” no less than three hundred times every time they go to a restaurant. No one cares. Just order gluten free items. If you don’t know what gluten free is and feel the need to brag about it– educate yourselves. As a waitress I can’t stand the “[email protected]@$#@E” type.

      • Misha, I wonder if you had coeliac disease or a close friend of yours had it whether you would be so disparaging of your customers requirements. It is very difficult to have a normal social life with this condition. Imagine that every time you wanted to eat out with friends or family that you would fear the consequences (in my case symptoms such as bone/joint pain, stomach cramps, bloating, nausea, depression and diahrroea/constipation amongst other things for a week or more after eating out). Imagine that this happens week after week (if you eat out) and you can get a feel for life as a coeliac. I rarely eat out anymore because I don’t want to risk becoming ill and I don’t want to cause a fuss and draw attention to myself – in addition to that there is always the contamination issue in a restaurant that handles gluten. I am sure that there are some customers which annoy you with their constant questions but they just want reassurance – nobody wants to get ill after eating out. I understand that ‘no-one cares’ and I don’t expected them to – it doesn’t affect them – but please try to put yourself in their shoes to see it from their point of view sometimes.

  13. My husband has been on a gluten/wheat-free diet for the past 15 months due to a yeast infection. The infection is now gone but we both continue to follow the diet. I’ve read and have been using the Paleo diet during this time. The problem now is that my husband’s cholesterol levels have gone up even though he is taking Crestor (which I’ve been told/read is a statin and is no good)…but the doctor does not want him to stop.

    Do you think this has to do with the Paleo way of eating?

    • Oh my,
      Dear Madeleine Mantha,

      Please please watch the documentary Statin nation, to save your husband. Please also read these articles and special report: http://chriskresser.com/the-diet-heart-myth-cholesterol-and-saturated-fat-are-not-the-enemy
      http://chriskresser.com/heart-disease

      there is so much great information on why cholesterol and saturated fat are not the cause of heart disease.
      Then get him on Enzyme co q 10 to repair the damage of statins. They are useless, they are dangerous, and high cholesterol at the levels you’re told is high is NOT a danger, this has been proven.

      To answer your question, YES, and it’s not a bad thing.

      All the best!

    • My cholesterol level was borderline (after a few months of not eating well). My dr wanted to put me on statins. I said absolutely NOT! Just because the dr “wants” him to stay on them, doesn’t me he has to! It’s his life and his body and he has the right to refuse his drs advice! Do your own research and decide for yourself if you think statins are safe. (Hint- they’re not) My mother took statins for years until my brother found out and immediately took her off them 9 years ago. She will be 99 years old in 3 weeks and is just fine!

  14. Chris – Is there a good gluten-free app for dining out that you would recommend? Bringing food from home everywhere I go is not always feasible, and tonight I ate out and inadvertently had gluten in my meal. I had a steak salad, which I thought would be fine, but it turns there were fried onions in it. I only realized it after I looked up the food allergy chart on the restaurant’s website. It’s incredibly frustrating to have to do a detailed google search of every food place I consider eating at, not to mention the paranoia is probably not doing my health any good.

  15. Hey Chris,

    It was interesting to see Ménière disease mentioned, as my mother is currently suffering with the debilitating effects. Have you treated Ménières patients successfully? Any tips besides gluten avoidance?

    Thanks again for being such a great resource over the years.

    • I had permanent tinnitus and often dizziness (which I assumed was from years of personal stereo and Ipod listening) until I gave up gluten. I actually stopped eating gluten foods hoping to improve my migraines.

      Three months in and my tinnitus has gone… the dizziness 90 percent better and the migraines are on the mend. I am no longer eating any grains now and generally follow a paleo diet.

      The biggest improvement is mental clarity. It is like coming out of a trance.

      I wish your mum well.

  16. Chris,

    While I haven’t made up my mind on this issue because when you look at ALL of the evidence – including the article linked below – it’s just not conclusive yet. I agree that one cannot ignore the wealth of evidence suggesting that something is going on with gluten, or more aptly, the many foods that contain gluten. I respect how willing you are to adjust your opinion in light of empirical evidence (something many in the alternative diet/medicine community seem to staunchly oppose). I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on Gibson’s suggestion that FODMAPs may actually be the culprit, not gluten, but that they are conflated in the research because they are both often present in the same foods (though not always).

    Here’s a link to the article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23648697

    Even though you don’t cite this paper in your article directly, one of the articles you linked claiming the gluten sensitivity is a myth does cite this as a major source. It seems to me that this finding is an important one…

    Thanks!
    Nick

    • Indeed it’s not only about gluten, but also about FODMAPS and all the other bad stuff you can find in grain, why? Because grains are not the proper food not only for we sapiens, but for any other mammal as well. We have to start to talk about food, more than gluten, fodmaps, carbs, protein and fat..we are made to eat meat, fish, veggies and fruit, not for grains, we are not birds. We are not made for flour and any other refined stuff because it’s not natural, you can’t pick them up and eat without being processed. We should start from here, not with the attempt to find how we can make grains good for us. How silly it’s to avoid gluten and eat another non species specific food..let’s restart from our true nature

      • I get where you’re coming from on this Alessio, but I don’t think this approach makes sense. By this rationale, we shouldn’t live in any climates that we can’t survive in naked since, by definition, we cannot survive there. We necessarily need to process animal hides and fur in order to survive there, and while what we wear doesn’t affect our body chemistry, the cold most certainly does.

        OK, that might be a silly counter example, but it illustrates the point that this kind of reasoning doesn’t lead anywhere productive.

        Want something a bit more concrete? OK. We shouldn’t eat any meat we cannot catch with out own bare hands because naturally, we were not “meant” to use tools to catch our prey either, nor were we “meant” to cook the meat we can catch with out hands, since this is, again by definition, processing our food out of its natural state.

        I assume most people would counter that this is different from grains, but I challenge that assumption and ask: why is it different? Why is using tools and processes to obtain and process our food OK when it comes to meat but not when it comes to plant life? In essence, there is no difference. We take naturally occurring grains, harvest and process them with tools, and then cook them so we can extract sufficient energy out of them. And mind you, this is not any different with meat or other vegetables – cooking specifically is a process that makes it easier for us to digest and extract nutrients from our food sources.

        What we should really be basing the discussion on is *empirical evidence*, of which we have plenty. We know, indisputably, that many people tolerate gluten and FODMAPs perfectly well, and I’m sure Chris would agree with that statement. In fact, for people who do not have issues related to the ingestion of FODMAPs, they actually provide many many benefits by contributing a microbiome in your digestive tract that improves nutrient absorption – eliminating FODMAPs from your diet if you are not sensitive to them would actually be detrimental to your diet. Aside from that, there is a whole variety of plants that have no gluten that do contain FODMAPs, like peas, beans, leaks, cabbage, cauliflower. Should these all be eliminated from our diet as well?

        Lastly, what all of this totally overlooks is that, the human digestive system is among the most advanced and versatile digestive systems in the animal kingdom. It can handle a variety of foods that is almost unrivaled in the animal kingdom. One of my main gripes with the paleo diet is that it assumes all paleolithic era humans ate a similar diet, but to the best of our knowledge that simply isn’t the case, diets varied greatly, not only between different peoples, but by the same people during different times of the year. Nor is it the case that humans didn’t start eating grains until about 10,000 years ago, we have evidence leading back to over 100,000 years. What changed 10,000 years ago is that we started farming, using agriculture to expand our food supply. What also happened at the same time? We literally started wallowing in our own waste, which we had previously left behind when we moved on to the next area as nomads. I think the connection between living in your own waste and disease is much stronger than the one between the food one eats and disease, especially when those same foods did not cause disease for the 90,000 years preceding that time.

        All of this is to say that the only effective way we have of answering any of these questions is by applying the scientific method and basing our knowledge off empirical evidence. I can’t see individual atoms or electricity, but I know they exist and have a good sense of how they work. The same goes for what we empirically know about food, it is no different. And I commend Chris on his marshaling of evidence in his articles and arguments – he is one of the few individuals who supports paleo diets etc. who actually does.

        • You arise a point and then contradict yourself, if you just told that lions need meat it means that there’s a natural order, otherwise every living beings could do whatever he wants. This is the absurdity of your thought.As Lisa pointed we can’t go turn back time but we can do the best according with what we have now at our disposal. I can be biased or not but I act according to the best theory for me that follows the evidence around me, without necessarily following the blind official dogma, the same that says that bees can’t fly according to our engineering, the same that believed that the sun was rotating around the earth, and apples have not been falling from a tree until Newton didn’t elaborate the gravity theory.If you are good with your grains I’m very happy for you, I am for freedom of choice, I wish the best for your open mind, good luck.

          • My last thought, people who manage to get rid of dogmas and think at an higher point of view are always blamed to be subversive, to be blind, to be exremist, not to follow “science”, to be biased etc.. but on the other side, it takes a bogus study like the china study and others to legitimate in those blaming minds a theory that it’s nothing else than an apparent demonstration of the lack of causation. It takes far less than a clue to legitimate a theory that is useful to keep the business of the lords of the world and on the other side in front of a hubris of evidence they deny until death. Who is actually indoctrinated?

          • Alessio – you’ve given yourself away with that bee example. That is another example of conventional wisdom being based on pure pseudoscience. Don’t believe me? Read up on it here…

            http://www.snopes.com/science/bumblebees.asp

            Look, at this point it’s obvious that you’re not actually basing what you say on science and empirical evidence, or at the very least, you’re not really researching your claims before you make them, otherwise you wouldn’t have cited the bee example. As such, I don’t see any point in continuing a debate.

            • Nicholas.
              The only people I know who read snopes (this is not an insult or attack but rather a compliment) are only the smartest people I know. I have a friend (snopes reader) who has an IQ close to Einstein’s who I can barely keep up with. She is lucky enough to have found someone to marry who is almost as high IQ as her. She doesn’t have a large number of friends, and they are very select, because again, she can only have certain conversations with certain people because of the high level at which she can communicate. You remind me of her in a way. You are so adept at picking up on the most minute flaws of every nuance of every casually mentioned example and are able to expertly tell us why it doesn’t support the argument and therefore renders the argument invalid. You have many talents for debating and i’m sure you have won many debates in the past. There is no physical trophy but it would seem you’ve won, fair and square according to the rules of debate. Thanks for playing.

            • Nick, good strategy, you fight to be right, to win a debate, not to find the truth. It’s a good strategy to seek for any marginal fault that has a little to do with the main point just to dismiss the person rather than the theory. It’s just a pathetic attempt when someone is out of arrows to face the main point.

    • Nicholas, I think we have to distinguish when animals have to survive and when they are thriving. Any animal species can adapt for a short time to a different food in order to survive, but it doesn’t mean that they evolve to this diet. Saying that grains have been part of our diet for 100 thousands of years is not right, though they could have eaten them occasionally it doesn’t mean that it’s a proper food for sapiens. Second, another proof that we can’t adapt so well is coming indeed from the fact that the more we move far from our habitat, the more we struggle to survive, not to thrive. Eskimos lost a lot in terms of well being, and despite the attempt of our body to put up with the lack of sunlight, what we see is more surviving than thriving. The fact that cooking and processing food is gonna turn any stuff into a proper nourishment is not logic. Indeed we also have other prooves, when we cook food we loose a lot of stuff, vitamins etc.., the more we process them the more we loose. When you cook meat well done at very high temperatures, you’re gonna change the structure of proteins and you have etherocyclic amines that can provoke cancer. Further, the theory of increasing nutrient density cooking food and brain capability is fascinating but inaccurate because our brain has been increasing at such rate far before we started to handle fire, and what we have in our hands now suggests that it’s more about increasing the meet intake itself rather than cooking. Look at the panda bear, it started to eat bamboo millions of years ago but he never totally evolved to his new diet, indeed it would be extinct if we didn’t intervene. A lion can survive eating pasta but it doesn’t thrive with it. If you read research of paleoantropology at the beginning of agriculture you can see the evidence of the loss of health. Our digestive system is set to survive as any other living beings, but it doesn’t mean that we can thrive.

      • With this I’m not claiming that we shouldn’t cook, but it makes more sense to me thinking that the proper food for a species is the food that can ideally be eaten without any technological process and this evidence is supported by research as soon as we go to analyze the food. Any further research enlights a new problem with grains and legumes…OTOH, How many people are there with read meat intolerance?
        Despite the attempts to blame red meat, there is no single evidence that relates grassfed beef with any single issue.
        For me the best way to eat is about raw veggies and a steak just seared on both the sides, of course some starchy plant can be added, honey and fruit. Our body speaks for us, when I eat like that I am like a tiger, I squat 200 kg without problems, when I eat grains or legumes I’m not well at all, though I don’t have any apparent intolerance. If someone has a more reliable theory that overcomes the hubris of evidence we have against such food that relates the chronic pandemic illness we have around, I’ll be happy to embrace it.

        • Alessio – I’m having trouble with several of your claims.

          First, how are you distinguishing between thriving and surviving? Given the explosive population growth humanity has experienced since the paleolithic era, it is very difficult to say that humanity is not thriving. Your subjective experience of humans not thriving because they are not doing what *you feel* they should be doing is greatly add odds with the indisputable fact that if humanity were merely surviving, it would not be experiencing explosive population growth.

          Second, I question the assertion that eskimos are worse off that our ancestors. What are you basing this claim off of? Based on much of what you say, they should be better off given that their food source is much more ‘organic and natural’ than that of anyone in the developed world.

          As an aside, this is ultimately a debate about science and determining what is healthy via empirical means, not merely ideas not founded in empirical observation or experimentation. As such, proof doesn’t exist – you can only disprove claims in science, not prove them.

          Third, I never made the claim that brain size had anything to do with cooking food. Cooking food did, however, did free up time to engage in other ventures, such as tool-making, because we didn’t need to spend as much time eating food from which we didn’t draw as much energy and resources. Yes, it’s true that cooking some foods can diminish the amount of a certain nutrient, but that is completely beside the point. What matters is *how much can we extract* from the food, not how much is present in it. And from that perspective, cooking essentially pre-digests food for us so we don’t need to put as much time and energy into digesting the food to obtain the same level of nutrients. This isn’t an idea, it’s has been empirically demonstrated and is as close to fact as you can really get in science outside of physics.

          Fourth, pandas are going extinct because of our intervention, not despite it. And no, they’re digestive tracts are fully capable of drawing all the nutrients they need from bamboo. Just like cows can draw all the nutrients they need from grass, and rabbits from timothy hay. Lions absolutely cannot survive of just pasta – cats, including lions, are *obligate carnivores*, they will not last beyond a few weeks without meat, much less a generation. Again, these aren’t ideas, guesses, or notions, these are all substantiated claims backed by a lot of scientific inquiry. To counter them, one would need some pretty strong evidence suggesting otherwise, can you point me to those sources?

          Fifth, there is a wealth of evidence that red meat can be harmful. Some red meat is ok, but eating too much red meat is harmful. Where is your evidence to the contrary? To much consumption of red meat leads to heart disease, again, it’s well established.

          Lastly, your personal experience with food is *not* representative of humanity’s ability to consume food healthily. You, by simple fact of mathematics, are statistically totally insignificant. Anything that works for you is just that, something that works for you, until you can verifiably demonstrate that it’s broadly applicable to humanity. There is also the simple fact that, since you believe you will not be well if you eat grains and legumes, that you will not be well because of placebo effect. The placebo effect is SO strong that all medical trials require *double-blind placebo controlled* studies to determine effectiveness of a drug because, if I give you a sugar pill and tell you it will cure your rash, for some individuals it will in fact cure the rash even though the is *no scientific mechanism related to the sugar at all* that has contributed to your rash disappearing. It was simply the will of your mind and the idea that the pill would help you that made the difference. It’s one of the most remarkable phenomena observed in biology so far and we have no explanation for why.

          All of this is to say that I believe the burden of proof for your claims falls with you. If you really want or need me to, I will substantiate every single one of my claims with a list of sources underlining my arguments. I challenge you to do the same – provide empiricial and objective sources that indicate what you say is true, and they should be credible, based on scientific inquiry, they cannot just be an article where someone wrote this or that, they need to have truly demonstrated that their claim is the case.

    • Nick,

      I addressed the FODMAP issue in my original response to the Gibson paper (linked to in this article), and elsewhere in the comments section. Gibson’s paper did not show that FODMAPs were the sole culprit in the population he studied, because they experienced improvement on a GFD diet while still consuming FODMAP foods like legumes, which are much higher in FODMAPs than wheat.

      Furthermore, even if his study population was sensitive only to FODMAPs and not gluten, how could that possibly disprove the existence of NCGS in other populations? That doesn’t make any sense, especially given the overwhelming amount of evidence supporting it.

  17. I shadow a doctor for something mostly unrelated to nutrition. However, any time the mention of grain- or gluten-free comes up with a patient, he always makes THE SAME (verbatim) “joke”: “Only 10% of people following a gluten- or grain-free diet need to do so. The rest need to see a psychiatrist.” It comes up at least once a week. And every time, I die a little inside. Since he’s not actually advising anyone specifically on nutrition, and since he will play a big role in my academic career, I don’t say anything but how I wish I could send him ALL of those studies you posted.

    Thanks for being a voice of reason in the scientific community.

    • I’ve been reading this back and forth between you Nicolas F and Alessio.

      I believe you misunderstood Alessio on a few points.

      The reasons for our population growth are not due to thriving, you missed the point. All the hungry people, sick people, rx drugs, cancer, MS, chronic diseases, autism etc is not thriving. Alessio did not need to define thriving because it’s obvious to me and probably a few others.

      You also misunderstood what he meant about Eskimos losing a lot, he was referring to what they lost when they lost their way of life – look at the health of the indigenous people since adopting the SAD diet (see WAPF for more). Your statement that “you can only disprove claims in science, not prove them” doesn’t mean Allesio is wrong and in fact he did not say anything that this community hasn’t already seen proven. If the placebo effect had worked so well in the first place, no one would would react poorly to wheat at all since their belief that nothing was wrong with wheat to begin with would not be disturbed by real symptoms. I personally was happy obliviously eating my pasta while slowly and gradually developing into full blown stomach and skin problems.

      If you would like to eat wheat yourself go ahead, there’s more to go around now that we’re not having any, so enjoy it. Maybe the placebo effect will protect you for the rest of your life and maybe you’ll live up to the point that the problems kick in. Just like dying of other causes before cancer eventually gets you. Sure placebo works with many things, certain things, but you’re overstating that the placebo effect works in every case to the same degree. It will not work against everything, nor are you qualified to tell anyone they should rely on it as you suggest with your reference to studies, or believe in it more, when those who are not diagnosed celiac (myself included) have been through/over/around every corner of experience testing/eliminating/introducing wheat to be sure it’s not something else.

      Right here on Chris Kresser’s site is a definitive article explaining why your ‘well established’ red meat studies need more explaining, and from you, closer attention. Don’t bother throwing the china study at us either, if you do you’re quite behind on your research. You can find it yourself by using the search tool here.

      You can also spend your time listening to Abraham Hicks instead of being here if you don’t want to learn the latest research, or if you are such an expert yourself, start a blog like Chris Kresser did and let us know what the website address is so we can check out your references for ourselves if we feel like spending our time with you more. I wouldn’t because you are dogmatic and you have one leaning and I can see that I cannot learn anything new and valid from you. When it comes to painful symptoms and a desire for better health people will generally choose the better safe than sorry approach, and we love to learn more.

      It’s an interesting (and tired) tactic there you used to shift the burden of proof to Alessio making him do your homework for you. If you have so many studies that can disprove everything, then direct us to your website. Also you could have asked him nicely to provide back up if you wanted to know more from him.

      I used to be like you. Quoting that old red meat stuff, talking about how the intestines are too long to digest meat, that our teeth are not like a wolf’s, that our stomach acid etc… my problem was that I confused blind faith with blind belief. I learned there is a difference.

      • Lisa, you perfectly caught my thought and well explained it, thank you very much. I suggest Nicholas to start to read the work of Cordain, Eaton, Kaplan, Lindeberg and others, read paleopathology at the origins of agriculture. If you visit also the websites of Cordain and Wolf you can find many interesting links to research and academic articles. But beyond that look at the evidence around you, is nature so malignant to want us ill? Or there’s something wrong with our lifestyle? In our society the norm is confused with the right thing, but logic suggest me that Nature’s rules are the reference point, thus the burden of the proof should be on who wants to “improve” nature, it has to be demobstrated that man made stuff is better, not all the other way round. We take for granted any man made product right away, but nature already prooved many times that its rules are not so easy to be overcome.

        • I’m not going to respond to any more individual points Alessio or Lisa have made because going through each would take an eternity and I simply don’t have time to sort through the copious scientific literature demonstrating the validity or invalidity of this or that claim.

          I will however close with this. My main gripe with most of the assertions both you make is that they are based on the false premise that there is some natural order to the world and a certain way that things should be. (We shouldn’t eat grains, we should eat meat, we should have the same diet as people 10,000 years ago*, etc.)

          For example, in your last post, you ask whether nature is so malignant to want to kill us. It’s an absurd question because nature does not have that kind of agency. Nature doesn’t care, nay, nature *cannot* care about our well-being because nature is not sentient and does not have any intentions. Nature, as such, is a human construct, a name that we have created and applied to what we observe as the natural world around us. When you forget about that, and engage in the line of reasoning that says nature should be this or that way, you draw a false distinction between natural and artificial, one that exists only in your mind but isn’t real. If I hold a match to oxygen and hydrogen gas, it will explode and create water, water that is in no way distinguishable from the water coming out of your tap (save for any impurities), or water produced as a result of a dehydration reaction in your cells or during cellular respiration. Regardless of whether one came from human intervention and the other from a so called “natural” process they are still exactly the same.

          Lastly, while I’ll check out the resources you listed, I won’t limit myself to them. I’m well aware of confirmation bias and can clearly see it at work in your recommendations. I keep an open mind, and more importantly, when I am presented with *strong empirical evidence* the conflicts with my beliefs, I change my beliefs because they been demonstrated to be false. From what I can tell, Chris Kesser does the same, as any self-respecting scientist does. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the majority of people in the alternative diet/medicine community, as they cling to their beliefs despite the evidence, not because of it.

          * One the note of eating the same foods we did 10,000 years ago – I think it’s worth pointing out that this is literally impossible. Humankind has intervened, bred, cross bred, and manipulated every single food source we consume to a degree that none of what we eat now remotely resembles how these foods would have “naturally” appeared 10,000 years ago or more. And ALL of that happened well before the advent of genetic engineering at the molecular level. Dogs were once wolves and are barely recognizable as such, and quite literally the same thing goes for our food.

          • I too don’t have time (or energy) for more debate on this, but to summarize, I will say sure we don’t have to throw away our modern ways and live exactly like cave men (which is as you said impossible, and I agree) but if you really feel that your hybridized modern wheat is better for human consumption than for example an ancient grain (never mind no grains) and if you feel there has been enough generational evolution to healthfully assimilate all of it better than those of the past, then by all means, bon appetite.
            It’s a personal decision we must respect for one another.

  18. Hi Chris, thank you for this article. For the last year I’ve been fighting psoriatic arthritis and lupus and also “fighting” my traditional rheumatologist on starting humira injections. I was a strict vegan for years and now have added healthy fish and “happy” pig, cow, chicken and eggs back into my diet slowly. My Integrative physician had me eliminate gluten from my diet starting last July. Originally I was skeptical knowing that my celiac test was negative and being a Western medicine trained Pediatric Nurse Practitioner to boot! But, I’m a true believer in non-celiac gluten sensitivity as a diagnosis because I’m a perfect example. I’m doing very well now — no longer have “sausage fingers” and am back at work now. I’ve also started my own business called All Cooked Up which teaches families how to cook whole food meals and how to cook meals for a diabetic or for someone who is gluten sensitive. I’m passionate about spreading the knowledge that “food is your medicine” through my new business. And, I appreciate people like you who are so thorough in your research and passionate about helping others through knowledge. Thank you!

    • Hi Sandy,
      I know I’m asking this question on an old thread, so you probably won’t see this, but I figured it’s worth a try. You refer to no longer having ‘sausage fingers’ – was this the ‘chronic’ form? I have arthritis and one of my fingers has been swollen for several years now, I’m wondering if there’s any chance of (AIP) Paleo curing it or if I’m just stuck with it for the rest of my life!

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