Julia Llewellyn Smith has caused a predictable storm with her article in yesterday’s Telegraph, The Great Gluten-free Scam. In essence she is saying (backed by coeliac nutritionist, Ian Marber) that gluten is being demonised. It is not the cause of every ill from which you suffer. Bloating, pain, diarrhoea, fatigue etc could be caused by the yeast in the bread, the manufacturing process, the other foods that you eat, your life style or half a dozen other culprits – all of which is perfectly true. (See the very interesting research carried out some years ago by the University of Surrey which showed that 50% of those who complained of having a food intolerance got better when put on a healthy-eating diet for two weeks.)
She also points out that gluten free food is more expensive (which it is, but usually with perfectly good reason – see my blog last week) and that it is not healthier than non gluten-free food – indeed quite the opposite. This is certainly true of some, but not all, g-f foods.
However, she wraps all of these perfectly valid points in some rather inflammatory prose:
Novak Djokovic, who attributes his gluten-free regime to transforming his tennis, now has his dog following it (though Andy Murray who beat him in this year’s Wimbledon final says the same diet made him “lose strength”.) (Not strictly true as, if you can be bothered to read the book, going gluten-free was only one of a whole range of healthy eating and living measures that Djokovic adopted.)
Tesco peddles a heart-warming story of how its former chief executive Sir Terry Leahy appointed the mother of a child who suffered from several food allergies to set up his “free-from” range, after she wrote to him complaining about the lack of suitable foods available. (As it happens, true, although the mother in question, Patricia Wheway, was already a buyer at Tesco, so not quite as heart-warming as it sounds.)
Predictably, there has been a flood of more or less peeved (and amusing) rants from the coeliac/gluten-free community focusing on Ms Llewellyn’s Smith’s more inflammatory comments. They would make good morning coffee reading for those who are interested. Try:
The Happy Coeliac (quoted by Alex)
The Gluten Dude (quoted by The Happy Coeliac….)
Fuelled for Fitness (not quoted by anyone…)
I was just about to post this when a link to an article on the Huffington Post plopped into my in-box:
Gluten Allergies Don’t Exist, Says Specialist Doctor – and the UK’s leading charity, Allergy UK agrees!
“It was shocking to me, the amount of misinformation that is available to the general public,” said Dr Stukus, an allergist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University. At the top of his list is people claiming to be allergic to bread…….”
Oh dear….. I know that it is frustrating, as a professional, to have everyone constantly using the terminology of your trade incorrectly, but why can’t medics just lighten up a bit!!
When the average man/woman in the street talks about an ‘allergy’ they are using the term in the way in which it originally was conceived – an inappropriate response to a perfectly harmless substance. They are not remotely interested in whether it is immune mediated, involves IgE antibodies, has an immediate response or a delayed response – they only know that when they eat/breathe/touch certain things they don’t feel well.
So please could the medical profession just focus on their ill health and what might have caused it rather than wittering on endlessly about whether or not they are calling it by the right name!
If you are up for more discussion of the subject, check in to Alex’s Food Allergy and Intolerance Ink blog here.