Since we’re talking wheat again, here’s more on gluten-free pros and cons

After two nasty reminders that wheat just doesn’t seem to do a body good, I’m cutting it back out of the diet. And so this New York Times piece on the growing anti-gluten “fad” is timely.

You can count us among those, embarrassingly along with Miley Cyrus, who have found anecdotally that we feel better with wheat out of our diet. Here is a key part to the Times piece:

For celiac experts, the anti-gluten zeal is a dramatic turnaround; not many years ago, they were struggling to raise awareness among doctors that bread and pasta can make some people very sick. Now they are voicing caution, tamping down the wilder claims about gluten-free diets.

“It is not a healthier diet for those who don’t need it,” Dr. Guandalini said. These people “are following a fad, essentially.” He added, “And that’s my biased opinion.”

Nonetheless, Dr. Guandalini agrees that some people who do not have celiac receive a genuine health boost from a gluten-free diet. He just cannot say how many.

As with most nutrition controversies, most everyone agrees on the underlying facts. Wheat entered the human diet only about 10,000 years ago, with the advent of agriculture.

“For the previous 250,000 years, man had evolved without having this very strange protein in his gut,” Dr. Guandalini said. “And as a result, this is a really strange, different protein which the human intestine cannot fully digest. Many people did not adapt to these great environmental changes, so some adverse effects related to gluten ingestion developed around that time.”

Now, keep in mind that we aren’t saying here that we have celiac’s disease. We instead are part of what I guess, judging from this story, is a fringe group who believe there is solid evidence that we shouldn’t be looking 10,000 years back when we think about our wheat consumption. We should look back less than 100, when hybridization altered wheat’s amino acids.

And here’s where I think we veer away from the gluten-free fad. We aren’t replacing muffins with gluten-free ones. We aren’t eating that stuff at all. From the Times:

Anecdotally, people like Ms. Golden Testa say that gluten-free diets have improved their health. Some people with diseases like irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis also report alleviation of their symptoms, and others are grasping at gluten as a source of a host of other conditions, though there is no scientific evidence to back most of the claims. Experts have been skeptical. It does not make obvious sense, for example, that someone would lose weight on a gluten-free diet. In fact, the opposite often happens for celiac patients as their malfunctioning intestines recover.

They also worried that people could end up eating less healthfully. A gluten-free muffin generally contains less fiber than a wheat-based one and still offers the same nutritional dangers — fat and sugar. Gluten-free foods are also less likely to be fortified with vitamins.

Our replacement of all these goodies are, mostly, vegetables. And I think a key is that we’ve cut processed foods out, including processed sugar.

So we aren’t urging a gluten-free diet — the fad one. It sounds a lot like when everything went “fat free.” It was still a lot of processed, awful stuff — just without the fat. That’s not the solution.

The answer for us has been: tons of vegetables (I figure like 20 servings a day); a little fruit; nuts and other grains; maybe some raw milk cheese occasionally as a treat; once or twice a month, maybe, homemade bread from heritage grains that pre-date the hybridization. And then, every now and then, a fun meal — one that doesn’t include wheat.

Posted by Steve