Modern Food Dogma

Apr 14, 2015

By Alan Levinovitz

(Adapted by the author from his forthcoming book “The Gluten Lie: And Other Myths About What You Eat“)

Final-Gluten-Lie-Cartoon

Jhatka. Kosher. Halal. Food taboos and sacred diets are a part of virtually every religious tradition, from Jewish prohibitions on pork to Mormon prohibitions on coffee. But many healthy eaters think they’ve left behind divinely ordained dinners. After all, their food choices now depend on scientific studies rather than holy texts, interpreted by people in lab coats instead of priestly robes. Reliable data on longevity have replaced anecdotes about long-lived prophets. Doesn’t that mean the way most of us eat is free of religious doctrine, superstitions, and myths?

Not even close. Just ask Paul Rozin, a bearded, no-nonsense psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. Rozin is best known for coining the phrase “the omnivore’s dilemma” — which food writer Michael Pollan popularized as the title of his 2006 best seller — and he has written extensively about the influence of superstition on how we perceive what we eat.

“It’s an immense problem,” Rozin tells me, with the exasperated air of someone who must repeatedly explain a self-evident truth. “Love of nature — it’s like a religion. You can show that natural pesticides, whatever that means, are more dangerous than artificial ones, but it doesn’t matter. No one will believe you.”

The mythic narrative of “unnatural” modernity and a “natural” paradise past is persuasive as ever. Religious figures like Adam and Eve are no longer plausible protagonists, so diet gurus replace them with Paleolithic, pre-agricultural, hard-bodied ancestors who raced playfully through the forest gathering berries and spearing wild boar, never once worrying about diabetes or autism. The foods that belong to that culinary past are good. The products of modernity, by contrast — MSG, grains, high-fructose corn syrup, genetically modified organisms, fast food — these are the toxic fruits of sin, the tempting offerings of a fearsome deity known as Big Food.

Scientific rhetoric disguises the unscientific roots of modern food fears. Saying we aren’t evolved to eat gluten or processed sugar sounds more factual than saying that God has forbidden them. But using the language of science doesn’t guarantee access to the insights of science. In the case of unfounded dietary advice, it merely provides a new vocabulary with which to rewrite unscientific myths.

Paradoxically, our confidence that science has all the answers makes it difficult to identify and dismiss lies about nutrition. Food seems simple to study. If we can put a man on the moon, transplant a heart, and manipulate DNA, then surely we can unpack the relationship between eating vegetables and living longer. There’s no obvious difficulty in figuring out if wine decreases the risk of heart disease, or if red meat increases the risk of colon cancer. Simply look at people who drink wine or eat red meat, and then compare them to those who don’t. Easy, right?

In fact, there is probably no branch of medicine more difficult or complicated than nutrition science, a complexity that plays out in the endless controversies about what — and how much — we should eat. High-quality studies of dietary practices are incredibly hard to design. How do you make a placebo piece of steak for your control group? Studies on the effect of diet and lifestyle in large populations are no less difficult. They depend on recollection and self-reporting, notoriously unreliable data. And even if that data were accurate — well, just tweak an equation, exclude a set of data points, isolate a different factor, and suddenly vegetarianism goes from increasing longevity to decreasing bone density.

In dealing with these intractable problems of study design and analysis, nutrition scientists who study “ideal diets” have made surprisingly little progress since biblical days. According to the Hebrew Bible, the prophet Daniel and his fellow Israelites were once held captive by the king of Babylon. Loyal to Moses’s dietary laws and afraid of defilement, Daniel requested what is almost certainly the first recorded trial of an elimination diet.

“Please test your servants for 10 days,” Daniel said to his guard. “Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.”

The guard agreed. At the end of the 10 days, Daniel and his friends “looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.” (It doesn’t specify that their acne cleared up, but we can assume it did.)

Pre–20th century vegetarians cited Daniel as evidence of their diet’s superiority. Nowadays they invoke people like Dr. Dean Ornish, a well-known advocate of veganism and meditation. Ornish has published studies in prestigious medical journals on how his regimen prevents cancer and heart disease. News outlets and TV shows tout his approach as a scientifically proven way to “reverse aging.” They trust that his diet works, because unlike monks and biblical prophets, Ornish is a scientist and a doctor. But Ornish’s studies, despite their author’s pedigree, suffer from the same fundamental problems as Daniel’s study: a lead investigator highly invested in the success of his experiment, the absence of a placebo control, and lack of replication by other researchers. In both cases it’s impossible to distinguish between the actual power of vegetables and the effect of believing in the power of vegetables.

Eating in moderation has been the humdrum recommendation of common sense for thousands of years, and to that sage dietary advice, religion and science alike have added virtually nothing that stands up to rigorous scrutiny. People who tell you otherwise are, at best, exaggerating evidence — and remember, in science, exaggeration is a flat-out lie.

These lies aren’t just misleading. They’re bad for our culture and our health. In hopes of escaping death and disease, we fawn over dietary evangelists with megawatt smiles and six-pack abs, each one promising a different, revolutionary, “science-based” route to perfect health. We embrace one food taboo after another, a habit that clinical psychologists condemn as conducive to disordered eating.

The truth is that the real dietary demons are not so-called toxic foods: They are powerful persistent fictions that we treat as truth. The latest set of gurus pollutes our culture with new versions of the same timeless falsehoods. Gluten belongs to the fallen present, not paradise past. If you eat fat, you will become fat. Processed sugar is “unnatural.” These falsehoods produce paralyzing anxiety about food and a constant stream of contradictory claims about what we should eat, which in turn erodes public faith in the enterprise of science itself.

Enough is enough. In order to heal our culture we must counteract the standard American diet of food myths with healthy helpings of history and skepticism. These ingredients may taste unusual at first, but don’t worry—it won’t be long before you feel like a brand-new person, capable of laughing at the latest nutritional dogma and eating your dinner in peace.

 

IMG_0185Alan Levinovitz is assistant professor of religion at James Madison University. His academic work includes a focus on the intersection of religion and medicine. His writing has appeared in Slate, Wired, The LA Review of Books, The Believer, and The Millions, as well as academic journals. He lives in Charlottesville, Va.

 

91 comments on “Modern Food Dogma

  • The business of gluten is SO easy to test for yourself. Just avoid it for a week and see what happens. There is no reason to assume that what happens to others will happen to you. There is almost no downside to the experiment.

    After decades of being pinned to my apartment with diarrhea and nausea I can now move freely. I tried everything medical science had to offer. Two supposedly “flaky” things made all the difference, avoiding gluten and eating heavy duty probiotics (VSL#3). Both these things I tried at the urging of my roommate. There was no major downside to trying an experiment. She also convinced me to use ginger for sporadic nausea which turned out to be far the most effective medication.

    I have HIV and obviously am not a typical person. It is likely true these techniques will not do anything for the average person, but they could be lifechanging for some. Whether or not there are silly claims should not discourage a personal experiment. It is not like an onerous experiment that requires you to live on raw cabbage or join Islam.



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  • @OP – Scientific rhetoric disguises the unscientific roots of modern food fears. Saying we aren’t evolved to eat gluten or processed sugar sounds more factual than saying that God has forbidden them. But using the language of science doesn’t guarantee access to the insights of science. In the case of unfounded dietary advice, it merely provides a new vocabulary with which to rewrite unscientific myths.

    It is well known and well proven, that some people are gluten intolerant, and some societies are lactose intolerant.
    Bundling all these topics together with food myths, just shows posturing ignorance of scientific work.



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  • Alan Levinovitz is assistant professor of religion at James Madison University.

    So where are his qualifications for judging nutritional science? I’d be the first to admit that there is much myth out there about nutrition packaged in scientific sounding terms and even a lot of preliminary science touted as proven fact.

    However it sounds very much like this man doesn’t have much to actually offer other than people other than the religious fall for the same nonsense. I’d also agree that it is very hard to get good solid science around nutrition. This is why people should look at any one study with a certain amount of skepticism. But what it the alternative that he suggests the Bible? Good luck there. Exactly what was the average life expectancy back then? What ever problems we have now you wouldn’t base any medical system on the type of advice in the bible.



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  • However it sounds very much like this man doesn’t have much to actually offer…
    But what it the alternative that he suggests…

    This, perhaps?:

    @Op – Eating in moderation has been the humdrum recommendation of common sense for thousands of years, and to that sage dietary advice, religion and science alike have added virtually nothing that stands up to rigorous scrutiny.



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  • 5
    old-toy-boy says:

    I thought being human (in comparison to other primates), we had very recently evolved the ability to digest grain foods and also milk products into our adult life. (from around the time agriculture was invented).. I read it a long time ago in a science mag. (Are there any evolutionary scientists out there who could express an opinion?)



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  • Hi Doug,

    This, perhaps?:

    @Op – Eating in moderation has been the humdrum recommendation of common sense for thousands of years, and to that sage dietary advice, religion and science alike have added virtually nothing that stands up to rigorous scrutiny.

    No common sense is not much use or there would not be an obesity epidemic. The amount of sugar and salt in everyday foods (including many diet foods) is very high. He appears in the article to be suggesting that the bible offers good dietary advice.

    eg. here

    According to the Hebrew Bible, the prophet Daniel and his fellow Israelites were once held captive by the king of Babylon. Loyal to Moses’s dietary laws and afraid of defilement, Daniel requested what is almost certainly the first recorded trial of an elimination diet.

    “Please test your servants for 10 days,” Daniel said to his guard. “Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.”

    So we might take this little bit of advice and say yes that compares to the advice of some modern dieticians therefore it is in the bible and science has come no further. But why did he choose this and not don’t eat pork (also in the bible), or banning fish without scales, or shellfish etc. Insects are in by the way – which is probably okay. What is he using to compare and contrast his choices? The bible is useless, he must therefore be doing his comparison based on appropriately carried out science. My point is I’d agree there are a lot of food myths, but taking my dietary advice from a theologian is about on par with taking it from a bus driver. Random. Anything he is saying that makes any sense is therefore going to have to come from good science or why should I listen?



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  • Not an evolutionary biologist but wheat was a hybrid that because of the size and nature of the grain cannot be spread by wind. It and our consumption of it are therefore linked. This doesn’t answer if we are or are not suited to it, however as far as gluten goes there is a test you can take to find out if you are gluten intolerant people with crones disease are not able to eat a great deal of foods. However where this guy probably has a point is many out there assume that because some people are intolerant we all are. Lactose is broken down into two smaller molecules I believe by an enzyme that some people do not produce so again some populations are lactose intolerant. Hopefully someone can correct me if I’m wrong on this I’m going from memory not a full understanding.



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  • Lactose is broken down into two smaller molecules I believe by an enzyme that some people do not produce so again some populations are lactose intolerant. Hopefully someone can correct me if I’m wrong on this I’m going from memory not a full understanding.

    As one that is lactose intolerant, and given my genetic heritage, I should be able to tolerate lactose. Descendants of northern Europeans are only 5%. At the other end of the spectrum are Asians with 98% lactose intolerance. The speculation is that Europeans have had around 10,000 years farming cows and drinking their milk, so have evolved a tolerance, while Asians, who have no culture of drinking cows milk have almost zero tolerance for milk. I haven’t had time to check the validity of this reference, but it is accord with other information I have researched previously. There is a bit about the science behind it as well.

    http://nutrigenomics.ucdavis.edu/?page=information/Concepts_in_Nutrigenomics/Lactose_Intolerance



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  • Not generating the enzyme lactase is the problem. Without it the lactose (a galactose and glucose disaccharide) is not split into the simple absorbable monosaccharides. The sugar stays in the gut and so ferments generating hydrogen and methane. It also turns acidic drawing water in from the gut walls, resulting in a fearsome and increasingly unfunny spray gun effect.

    Lactose resides in solution and so dairy products that dispense with the whey are mostly safe (particularly hard cheeses). Yoghourt is often drunk by lactose intolerant folk in areas like Mongolia (I think). Not only does it have reduced whey content but in live cultures it generates lactase or lactase-like substances some small fraction of which makes it across the acid barrier of the stomach.

    Lactase is available in tablet form.



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  • 10
    Aquambulus hirsutus says:

    The cover page and the clumsy and unfunny cartoon don’t inspire much confidence. However, following the link hiding at the bottom of the cartoon, you can read some excerpts from the book. So far, I can’t find any evidence that Levinovitz lumps together genuine food allergies with those caused by pseudo-scientific drivel (as I gather from Alan4discussion’s comment), nor that he considers the Bible a source of sensible nutrition advice (Reckless Monkey).



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  • @OP link – For readers suffering from dietary whiplash, The Gluten Lie is the answer. Scientists and physicians know shockingly little about proper nutrition that they didn’t know a thousand years ago, even though Americans spend billions of dollars and countless hours obsessing over “eating right.”

    In this groundbreaking work, Alan Levinovitz takes on bestselling physicians and dietitians, exposing the myths behind how we come to believe which foods are good and which are bad—and pointing the way to a truly healthful life, free from anxiety about what we eat.

    .Alan Levinovitz is assistant professor of religion at James Madison University. His academic work includes a focus on the intersection of religion and medicine.

    “Levinovitz brings science back into the picture in an eye-opening way.” — Brian Wansink, PhD,

    .Brian Wansink is the John Dyson Professor of Professor of Marketing and Consumer Behavior at Cornell University, where he directs the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. The mission of the Lab is to “To discover and disseminate transforming solutions to eating problems.”
    http://dyson.cornell.edu/people/profiles/wansink.php

    So we have a Professor of religion “taking on the Scientists, physicians, dieticians and nutritionists”!

    But hey! He “brings the science back into the picture” – according to the endorsement from a Professor of MARKETING!

    That’s not ignoring the fact that there are lots of myths about dieting which have been promoted over the years, by marketing organisations!



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  • For the gluten intolerant, evolution certainly does forbid them from eating grains!!!!

    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002194.htm
    If you have celiac disease, it is very important that you receive counseling from a registered dietitian who specializes in celiac disease and gluten-free diets. An expert can tell you where to buy gluten-free products, and will share important resources that explain your disease and treatment.

    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/lactoseintolerance.html
    Lactose intolerance means that you cannot digest foods with lactose in them. Lactose is the sugar found in milk and foods made with milk. After eating foods with lactose in them, you may feel sick to your stomach. You may also have

    Gas
    Diarrhea
    Swelling in your stomach

    Your doctor may do a blood, breath or stool test to find out if your problems are due to lactose intolerance.

    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/foodallergy.html
    Food allergy is an abnormal response to a food triggered by your body’s immune system.

    In adults, the foods that most often trigger allergic reactions include fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts, such as walnuts. Problem foods for children can include eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and wheat.



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  • Your excerpt is incomplete. The first sentence:

    In dealing with these intractable problems of study design and analysis, nutrition scientists who study “ideal diets” have made surprisingly little progress since biblical days. According to the Hebrew Bible…

    And the last sentence:

    At the end of the 10 days, Daniel and his friends “looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.”** (It doesn’t specify that their acne cleared up, but we can assume it did.)**

    This is criticism.



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  • Aquambulus hirsutus
    Apr 15, 2015 at 5:12 am
    So far, I can’t find any evidence that Levinovitz lumps together genuine food allergies with those caused by pseudo-scientific drivel (as I gather from Alan4discussion’s comment),

    Hav a look at the medical links i have provided.

    @OP link –Gluten. Salt. Sugar. Fat. These are the villains of the American diet—or so a host of doctors and nutritionists would have you believe. But the science is far from settled and we are racing to eliminate wheat and corn syrup from our diets because we’ve been lied to. The truth is that almost all of us can put the buns back on our burgers and be just fine.

    This whole paragraph smacks of vague rambling allegations against the professionals and ignorance or avoidance of any specifics. Most of the public can safely eat buns, but on their “healthy” junk-food burgers?

    The public have certainly been lied to, – by marketing organisations rather than scientists and medical professionals. In the case of gluten intolerance, (and probably salt), much of the science IS settled, with tests available to identify those affected. – This is of course is a minority – not the whole population.
    The whole article, starting with the cartoon, stinks of strawman assertions of posturing pseudo-science, pretending it can debunk real scientific research.



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  • Doug
    Apr 14, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    This, perhaps?:
    .. . . . . . . .. ..
    @Op – Eating in moderation has been the humdrum recommendation of common sense for thousands of years, and to that sage dietary advice,

    That “gem” is hardly worth writing a book about!
    For most of those years struggling to avoid starvation has been a regular issue for the many, while gluttony has afflicted only a few elite..

    religion and science alike have added virtually nothing that stands up to rigorous scrutiny.

    Religion has added nothing of significance on diet, but the claim that modern science has added nothing is arrant nonsense and ignorance or denial. – as my Medline+ links show!

    That of modern pseudo-science marketing, posturing as “science” in the popular press, is another matter – one which hinges on the individual’s ability to recognise scientific studies, to avoid conflating them with trashy articles written for the gullible by journalists and advertisers.



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  • 17
    Ripsitntwistsit says:

    If you think diet and food choices are complicated, try studying the immune system!

    This book hasn't been out long enough for anyone to review it and Richard Dawkins is plugging it on his site. Because its "skeptical"? I'm skeptical. But not about gluten. Its really bad for me- whether its an allergy, a celiac thing, an IBS thing, or whatever- its no fad. Gluten sucks.

    Pizza, bread, pastries, bagels- over-rated and I'm fine with refusing them. Not worth the swelling, the pain, the bleeding, etc. What a "skeptic" perceives is a perfectly healthy looking individual who eschews gluten. Seeing no problem, they suspect a delusion, when in fact the REASON there is no problem is the HABITUAL AVOIDANCE OF GLUTEN. And I've found you cannot convince them otherwise- and it annoys them to no end to have to consider someone's food preferences when cooking, considering menus, or restaurants, or what-have-you. You see, your business is their business (somehow), whether selling snarky food and diet books (like this grifter) or being uncomfortable with other people making their own choices.

    This author has no other published books according to Amazon. His bio says he likes "fake cheese". He's an "assistant professor" of religion- again, in what way is this guy qualified to have his ideas on nutrition or immunology profiled in an secular, supposedly scientific athiest forum ??



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  • > Ripsitntwistsit
    Apr 15, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Welcome to the discussion

    > This book hasn’t been out long enough for anyone to review it and Richard Dawkins is plugging it on his site.

    Nope! That's not how things work on this site. Articles put up for critical discussion are not endorsed. They are put up for analysis and review – with pseudo-science and quackery usually getting some well researched heavy put-downs in the comments!

    > Because its “skeptical”? I’m skeptical. But not about gluten. Its really bad for me- whether its an allergy, a celiac thing, an IBS thing, or whatever- its no fad. Gluten sucks.

    Sorry to hear that you are one of those affected by gluten.

    Celiac disease can be confirmed or discounted, by a biopsy test examining the length of the villi in the small intestine.

    <a href="http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/celiac-disease&quot; rel="nofollow">http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/celiac-disease</a&gt;
    Celiac disease is a common disorder. Its prevalence has been estimated at about 1 in 100 people worldwide.

    The risk of developing celiac disease is increased by certain variants of the HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1 genes. These genes provide instructions for making proteins that play a critical role in the immune system. The HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1 genes belong to a family of genes called the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) complex. The HLA complex helps the immune system distinguish the body's own proteins from proteins made by foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria.

    I think you will agree that some comments here are certainly not plugging or endorsing the book, and those reading this discussion thread may take the points and criticisms on board.

    > This author has no other published books according to Amazon. His bio says he likes "fake cheese". He's an "assistant professor" of religion- again, in what way is this guy qualified to have his ideas on nutrition or immunology profiled in an secular, supposedly scientific athiest forum ??

    I suspect that if the assistant professor reads this discussion, he is going to wish he not had his lame ideas and sloppy digs at scientists posted here!



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  • 19
    Aquambulus hirsutus says:

    Hav a look at the medical links i have provided.

    Thanks, but to clarify, I don’t doubt the existence of gluten and lactose intolerance. What I gathered from your first comment on this thread, is that you think Levinovitz confuses genuine allergies and psychosomatic afflictions. From reading the article on here, and the excerpts from the book, I don’t get that impression.

    @OP link -Gluten. Salt. Sugar. Fat. These are the villains of the American diet […]

    Did you get this quote from one of the sites selling the book? The quote doesn’t appear in either the article, or the excerpts from the book. I’m sure you agree that quotes from a sales pitch are about as reliable as headlines in the Guardian, or documentary titles on Channel 4 🙂



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  • I appreciate reasoned argument. However you seem to misunderstand the excerpt and the book. I don’t deny the existence of celiac. I don’t recommend the Bible as nutritional advice. As for the scientific community, including noted researchers on sugar and salt? Here are their opinions of the book:

    “A factually accurate and highly entertaining work. It provides an effective counter to the fearmongering and false promises purveyed by sensationalists masquerading as scientists. This book should be essential reading for anyone who contemplates following a restrictive diet and for all health practitioners who use diets as the central platform of their therapeutic approach.” (Peter Gibson, MD, Director of Gastroenterology at the Alfred Hospital and Monash University)

    “In the world of food fears, this is a landmark book. Levinovitz brings science back into the picture in an eye-opening, punchy, and entertaining way that will change many of the single-sided conversations about food. The Gluten Lie will put a lot of minds at ease, and bring a lot of balance back into diets.” (Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Slim by Design and Mindless Eating)

    “Levinovitz shows us how to stop being afraid of food. Everyone truly interested in nutrition should read this book and get back to the joy of eating.” (Philip Zeitler, MD, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine)

    “The cure for Dr. Oz-itis and Oprah syndrome. Well researched, easy to read, and incredibly informative.” (Jen Gunter, MD, author of The Preemie Primer)

    “Stop poisoning your friends and family—with junk science nutritional claims. Feed them The Gluten Lie instead and enjoy lunch again.” (Hank Campbell, founder of Science 2.0 and co-author of Science Left Behind)

    “With a thorough and incisive investigation into what science really tells us about gluten, fat, sugar, and detox, Levinovitz argues persuasively that we can stop worrying about what we ‘should’ eat and concentrate on enjoying food that appeals to our palate. Well-written, entertaining, solidly referenced, and perhaps the best debunking of popular diet myths ever.” (Harriet Hall, MD, Associate Editor, Science Based Medicine)

    “A fun and evidence-based inoculation of clarity into an area permeated with confusion and controversy. It is a must-read for anyone fed up with all the noise surrounding nutritional advice.” (Tim Caulfield, Research Director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta, and author of The Cure for Everything)

    “A fascinating read. Professor Levinovitz uses the saga of gluten sensitivity as one of several compelling object lessons.” (Nortin M. Hadler, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine & Microbiology/Immunology UNC, Chapel Hill and author of The Last Well Person and Worried Sick)



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  • 22
    Lorenzo says:

    I think that the human body needs a certain amount of calories and “building blocks” to run and repair itself… and I think it doesn’t matter all that much where they came from once they are in -as long as some toxins aren’t in the mix!

    The problem is, though: our stomachs are sized to take in enough fuel for doing something more than sitting all day. So get on your bicycles, folks. And not the electric one.



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  • Aquambulus hirsutus
    Apr 15, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    @OP link -Gluten. Salt. Sugar. Fat. These are the villains of the American diet […]

    Did you get this quote from one of the sites selling the book?

    I got it from the OP link as stated: http://shop.reganarts.com/products/the-gluten-lie-and-other-myths-about-what-you-eat-by-alan-levinovitz

    What I gathered from your first comment on this thread, is that you think Levinovitz confuses genuine allergies and psychosomatic afflictions.

    Levinovitz makes the claim which I quoted earlier in my comment below this one and yours: [Alan4discussion
    Apr 15, 2015 at 6:35 am]:-

    For readers suffering from dietary whiplash, The Gluten Lie is the answer. Scientists and physicians know shockingly little about proper nutrition that they didn’t know a thousand years ago

    This is a vague smear against the medical professionals in general, from a person unqualified in the subject, and is totally ridiculous if we look at the detailed modern medical diagnoses and treatments of dietary allergies and complaints, – some of which I have linked.

    I think the term “dietary whiplash” indicates the author’s level of understanding and his capabilities in presenting medical information.

    To sensationalise a title “The Gluten Lie” without refernce to the real problems associated with gluten, is recklessly irresponsible when it is directed at food-fadists and the public, who may need proper medical treatment for themselves or children who suffer from allergies – especially when it is denigrating reputable medical advice from professionals.



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  • I love the Dawkins newsletter but I don’t know how grateful I am to have this drivel dragged across my computer screen.

    Oh, where to begin? First of all, I never comment because so far there has always been someone who has presented the comment I would have made. But this one really got me mad and I did not see “my” argument anywhere.

    First of all, what the heck does an associate prof of religion know about science? How much more opposite can two things be??? (Can you say arrogance, boys and girls?) How can anyone take this guy seriously let alone buy his book? It reminds me of a book my born again sister gave me ages ago called (seriously!) What Would Jesus Eat? Each chapter was devoted to a staple food and described how it would benefit the faithful. It was pretty benign until it got to the chapter on soy where the author posited that IF soy had been around in Palestine in J’s time, Jesus would have eaten it. (And he knows this HOW?) That’s when I put the book down. (So how come, BTW, are xians allowed to eat figs???)

    So back to the point, I am a six-year + adherent to the paleo diet and have benefitted enormously from its logical science-based arguments. Based on the paleo guidelines I gave up gluten (all grains as well) even though I have no obvious adverse reaction to it. Based on the contention that the immunological reaction the body has once the toxins in grains (and legumes and dairy) cross the gut barrier they cause harm in the body which can result in a number of modern complaints including arthritis and diabetes without us necessarily being aware of our body’s reaction to it. (Diabetes runs in my family so this was the big draw for me.) Anecdotally I can tell you that my joints ache the next day after I have a sandwich or a piece of birthday cake. Definitely not scientific, but it clinches it for me.

    The thing I really want to point out is that the aversion to pork and shellfish is much older than any bible teaching. (I don’t remember where I learned this but it may have been that World Religions class I took in college.) The origins for not eating pigs or lobsters (et al.) has to do with what they eat. These animals will eat anything. Like possums, they clean up the world for us. Just by observation it was clear to ancient people that something that would eat garbage and any dead animal or human flesh might not be good to eat. Maybe there was some concept of “you are what you eat,” but not eating pigs or shellfish (most likely) existed long before Judaism. Combine that with a climate where eating rotten meat would make people sick (but not pigs). This also goes for shellfish—any carcass dragged up out of water (or otherwise observed) would have been crawling with crabs or other shellfish.

    This wisdom would have been passed down thru the generations as a health measure as would the myriad other things parents pass down to their offspring. This might be in the form of “Because I said so!” in order not to redo all the science for every single child.

    So once religion comes on the scene, what does it do? It coopts everything that will be of use to it (think xmas and easter and any other cherished belief that will make the imposition of a religion more palatable). All of a sudden god commands that you will not eat pork or shellfish, which is the way it has come down to us in the 21st Century. If we peek behind the curtain and go back a few more thousand years before Jesus or Abraham, all is revealed.

    By the way, it is interesting to note that both Judaism and islam have this prohibition (I bet the missionaries going up into Europe hit a brick wall trying to get the tribes to give up pork, so as required, xianity adapted and evolved…). In fact, it was not long ago (could it be 10 years by now?) when the muslim brotherhood in Egypt insisted on having all the pigs in Cairo slaughtered because they were so offensive to islam. Pigs were kept in order to control the garbage problem and this slaughter resulted in a serious health threat from the build up of rotting garbage in the city. (Could it have been Christopher Hitchens who reported on this for VF?)

    Upshot: Don’t pay attention to a religion teacher telling you about diet or about anthropology (or any other science).



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  • That “gem” is hardly worth writing a book about!

    That may be true, but I wasn’t suggesting that is all the book has to say on the question. Not having read the book, I am not prepared to pass judgment on its worth.

    All I was trying to do was help answer @RecklessMonkey’s question from the information available in the post above:

    But what i[s] the alternative that he suggests[,] the Bible?

    For what it’s worth, I tend to agree with your other comments.



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  • Alan
    Apr 15, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    I appreciate reasoned argument. However you seem to misunderstand the excerpt and the book.

    While I would applaud work to debunk quackery, pseudo-science, dietary hype getting things out of proportion, and naturalist fallacies, and you seem to be able to quote favourable comments from people who have credentials, it is unfortunate that the extracts in the OP link do not reflect this.

    I am always suspicious of vague general criticisms directed at scientific professions, rather that dealing with flawed work of specific individuals or teams. It is also known for quacks to criticise other quacks for the “wrong sort of quackery” to boost the credibility of their own claims – Apologies if the books turns out to be genuine debunking of quack diets, with respect for reputable scientific work.

    I don’t deny the existence of celiac.

    I would stand by my criticism that the book title and cartoon are recklessly irresponsible, where they fail to point out clearly the risks to celiac patients of taking these claims at face value. There is no point in “not denying the existence of celiac”, when the book title leads the casual observer to the opposite conclusion.



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  • Hi Doug,

    This criticism of study design and analysis.

    Yes I agree it is criticism and I did see the second bit, but that is putting a lot of genuine science on the same level as this little experiment in the bible (by the way not written until about 400years after the alleged events took place – hardly worthy of comparison to peer reviewed science, at least poor studies like he mentioned have some way of being refuted his little story from the Book of Daniel does not).

    To say that modern science has come no further than this is to directly insult many hard working scientists who are working in a difficult field. Yes it is hard to tease out results from the noise of signals but food scientists have made much more progress than don’t eat pigs because they are unclean before the Lord (which makes you wonder why he made them in the first place!). As stated above you can test for numerous conditions and you can get treatment for some and some require significant changes in diet, crones, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease and numerous others. Science tells us why these people need specific diets and can if people bother to get properly tested generally tell you if you need to worry about this or not. Science may be a way off being able to cure these but they are miles ahead of where they were and just relaxing and disregarding this as science is foolish. This may not be his intent, he may just be calling out actual food myths, but without qualifications in this area lumping all of nutritional science in the same band wagon as loopy fringe hucksters and suggesting that the bible is as good a source of nutritional fact is a bit rich coming from a theologian. When I say what does he have to add to the debate, my intention is, what does he have to offer the debate that is of any value. Anything he does have to say of value must therefore be referenced by those who have relevant qualifications, the very people he is accusing of not having made any progress in the last 2 millennia. This strikes me as extremely arrogant, but perhaps I’m misreading, perhaps he is not being quoted well but I’ve not intention of reading his book based on what is written in the article above, I want facts not pontificantion by someone who seems intent on using science to back up his claims that the science is useless, and instead wishes to claim the bible as a source of nutritional information.

    Regards



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  • Alan,

    A couple of things please.

    Please explain to me how your qualifications in theology have any bearing on this subject.

    I don’t doubt you have done some research in doing this book but from reading the excerpts in the article such as stating that nutritional science has advanced little since the time of the bible I would like to know how you have come by this information. If you have done so on the back of scientific research then it strikes me you are attempting to bite the hand that is feeding you (informing you). Of course the synopsis of the book might be mis-characterising your position if so you should understand this is how it reads to a couple of us here at least (obviously not everyone here). I’d make common cause with you about quackery and over zealous Ophra driven diet fads and myths and the likes of on screen doctors who use their qualifications to lie. But if you are going to go around bagging the very people who are doing the science to refute these claims I’d be very careful how you word it. Especially if you have no more qualifications to comment than the people responsible for the myths in the first place.

    Regards



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  • And me! (I suggested I quite fancied a Reckless Bike too.) I blame my knee, but the 22mile round trip tells me how old I’m getting…Younger at the flick of a switch, whats not to like?



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  • The business of gluten is SO easy to test for yourself. Just avoid it for a week and see what happens.

    It’s not necessarily that easy. I have celiac disease, and I am one of those who do not feel that much discomfort (sometimes none) if I were to ingest gluten…but damage to my digestive system still occurs whether I feel something or not. Also, one week is not enough to start feeling better; at least not in my case.

    All that said, it’s not a bad idea to avoid certain types of food for a period of time, in order to see if things seem to improve.



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  • Hi,
    It’s difficult to tell because we can’t go back and check it out, but there’s one aspect of this reasoning that leads me to doubt it: if milk and grain were non-edible 5000 years ago, and were not tolerated by most people, then why was primitive agriculture developed to obtain milk and grain?

    The way I see it, grainy plants and milk must have been already part of what hunters-gatherers had for lunch, and were considered edible before the “cradle of civilisation” times. If these foods were bad for people, then they would have been put in the “not edible” category from the start and agriculture would have focussed on other food products.

    BTW, I’m not a scientist in any way 🙂



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  • 36
    jonstarr says:

    As a practical matter, if you want to give up gluten because doing so for a short while seemed to help you, that’s great. But that is a far cry from helpful for science. Aside from ignoring every criteria of valid experimentation, including the placebo effect of your belief you are doing something good for yourself, you really have no idea whether it’s gluten or something else in wheat that is bothering your system. To come closer to understanding if it’s gluten getting to you, you would need to ingest pure gluten after a period of gluten-free living to see what happened–best to get a significant other to hide it in your food once over the course of several days so that you can minimize the placebo effect. And best to try this several times. Whenever you start to think nutrition is SO easy it’s a good bet you’re missing something.



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  • Denis
    Apr 16, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Note: the first sentence of my previous post was supposed to be a quote.

    If you put a > at the beginning of the first line and a double line-space at the end of the quote, it will be highlighted, as in the heading of this post.



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  • jonstarr
    Apr 16, 2015 at 9:51 am

    Aside from ignoring every criteria of valid experimentation, including the placebo effect of your belief you are doing something good for yourself, you really have no idea whether it’s gluten or something else in wheat that is bothering your system. To come closer to understanding if it’s gluten getting to you, you would need to ingest pure gluten after a period of gluten-free living to see what happened–best to get a significant other to hide it in your food once over the course of several days so that you can minimize the placebo effect. And best to try this several times. Whenever you start to think nutrition is SO easy it’s a good bet you’re missing something.

    That would be a seriously bad idea for anyone with gluten intolerance damaging their intestines.

    The correct medical procedure , is a simple biopsy where a lab examines the sampled villi – as I pointed out in the post below.
    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/04/modern-food-dogma/#li-comment-175300



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  • Please check out the work of Dr. Nathaniel Dominy, Dartmouth Associate Professor of Anthropology. His bottom line is that throughout our history humans obtained the vast bulk of our calories from starchy foods like roots, tubers, and grains. Though humans were always “opportunistic” in acquiring calories, animal foods played only a small roll because that source was undependable and also infrequent. It is the vast quantity of animal based foods in western diets of today that is the anomaly.



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  • @OP – Scientific rhetoric disguises the unscientific roots of modern food fears.

    Science of course uses evidence and deduction and does nor use “rhetoric” in published reports.

    Saying we aren’t evolved to eat gluten or processed sugar sounds more factual than saying that God has forbidden them.

    The science is indeed complicated which is why amateurs have difficulty in distinguishing the proper use use scientific terminology, and its misuse by quacks. The facts nevertheless are, that some people (1%) are gluten intolerant, and consuming large quantities of processed sugar foods is damaging to your health.

    But using the language of science doesn’t guarantee access to the insights of science.

    And amateurs and non-specialists frequently have no idea what the terminology means, even if they find peer-reviewed literature.

    In the case of unfounded dietary advice, it merely provides a new vocabulary with which to rewrite unscientific myths.

    True, – and in the case of amateur readers, if they have no understanding of the vocabulary, they have no idea whether the advice is unfounded or not.
    The best option is to use trusted expert medical databases, of professional medical and scientific bodies, such as the Medline references I liked.



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  • @OP – News outlets and TV shows tout his approach as a scientifically proven way to “reverse aging.” They trust that his diet works, because unlike monks and biblical prophets, Ornish is a scientist and a doctor.

    It is well known that the sensationalist media, will hype the work of any maverick or fanatic (such as anti-vaxers). The incompetent, and misleading campaigns should not be confused or conflated with reputable science.

    The truth is that the real dietary demons are not so-called toxic foods: They are powerful persistent fictions that we treat as truth. The latest set of gurus pollutes our culture with new versions of the same timeless falsehoods. Gluten belongs to the fallen present, not paradise past. If you eat fat, you will become fat. Processed sugar is “unnatural.” These falsehoods produce paralyzing anxiety about food and a constant stream of contradictory claims about what we should eat, which in turn erodes public faith in the enterprise of science itself.

    These are largely irrelevant rhetorical strawman arguments, which have little relevance to understanding diet.

    Enough is enough. In order to heal our culture we must counteract the standard American diet of food myths with healthy helpings of history and skepticism.

    Nope!
    What is needed is an education in genuine understanding of the scientific basis of dietary requirements.
    Debunking myths is all well and good, providing that we don’t confuse issues like gluten intolerance with “myths”, but what is needed, is a genuine understanding of the need for people to take responsibility for their own health, starting with making an effort to understand the levels of nutrition and exercise required.
    Knowing what is a normal body mass and matching calory intake to expended energy, also helps avoid the well known walrus figure in Bermuda shorts derived from undisciplined comfort eating!



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  • 43
    System Marked Down says:

    The amount of sugar and salt in everyday foods (including many diet foods) is very high

    Ah, so you feel for it too. The spectre of high sugar and salt. What about fat? Protein? Why have you ignored those?



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  • 44
    System Marked Down says:

    His bottom line is that throughout our history humans obtained the vast bulk of our calories from starchy foods like roots, tubers, and grains.

    Where, though? If you are northern European, you won’t have those foods available to you in winter. You have to turn to other sources. Animals tended to be around all year, so perhaps it actually wavered between two extremes: mostly vegetarian in the mild months, mostly animal in the winter. Does Dominy discuss that?



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  • I tested myself with grains not the gluten nonsense i cant even digest grains where the gluten is removed from I still get the same crappy effects. So I no longer eat grains at all, we are all different but this gluten campaign is all bullshit. They are not looking at all the effects of what the new age grains do to some of us. I dont have the issues i used to anymore, no more heartburn, no more bloating and no more water gain. Eat what works for you as we are all different, reason why we have an obesity problem is also because we have become lazy as humans.



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  • Stand on any street corner in America and observe. It is clear that there is something fundamentally wrong with what we believe “healthy food” to be. A vast array of dietary claims and fads overwhelm the topic of nutrition such that only the most tenacious followers of nutrition science have any hope of understanding what is real. Anecdotal claims from Paleo to Vegan and everything in between, claim to have “the truth”. Dr. Levinovitz takes on a good fight in trying to bring some sanity by dispelling various dietary “fads”. But he fails utterly to locate and utilize published science and in the end just implies people should go ahead and eat anything they want but do so only in “moderation”.

    The human body is always trying to heal. A scratch on the hand of my 89 year old mother healed just days before her death. It is estimated that 70 to 80% of our health care expense is in the treatment of “chronic” diseases. My mother’s scratch was not a chronic disease but an acute one, due to a single injury to her body. Chronic diseases are due to repeated injury, day after day, month after month, and the healing processes eventually cannot keep up. Most of these have already been identified as dietary caused diseases. The key to a health promoting diet is to identify the source of repeated injury and eliminate those damaging substances. Moderation as we often hear and as Dr. Levinovitz is promoting, makes no sense. Do you advise the smoker to merely cut down on the number of cigarettes to promote good health? No, only completely removing the harmful activity will allow the body to recover (as much as is possible). Just like breathing or drinking, humans have satiety mechanisms that signal when we need to eat and when we have eaten enough. Those satiety mechanisms evolved in a very different food environment than what we experience today. But which foods are health promoting and which are harmful?

    It is beyond the scope of this discussion group to review all the relevant nutrition science. But consider that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has just completed such a review albeit under the close scrutiny of the food industry. Their conclusion advises Americans to consume MORE fruits, vegetables and whole grains (i.e, more PLANT foods) and to reduce processed foods and saturated fat (that means MEAT (yes and shortening) for those who have been fooled by that term for so long!). Throughout the history of the dietary guidelines, the trend identified by the preponderance of the science is toward a diet higher in plant foods and lower in animal foods (although the dairy lobby is still strong!). That is based not only on the idea that only a “moderate” approach is suitable but also on what they believe people will actually DO. When Americans were told to go “low fat”, they were advised that 30% fat was considered “low” and it was “lower” than the estimated 37 to 45% of American calories derived from fat. The committee didn’t believe Americans would ever adopt the diets of the healthiest populations which experienced none of our chronic diseases – which are almost exclusively based on starchy foods plus fruits and vegetables and very little meat – so the committee “compromised” and recommend what they believed Americans might actually do. They withheld true health promoting information in the name of “moderation” (and of course, business interests). In this case, moderation kills.

    Dr. Levinovitz acknowledged the work of Dr. Dean Ornish who has published studies demonstrating the reversal of coronary artery disease but Levinovitz then claimed there was a “lack of replication by other researchers”. This is untrue. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn has also published long term studies of the halting and reversing of coronary artery disease in extremely sick patients and over a period of 12 to 20 years, with nothing more than a whole food (meaning un or minimally processed) plant based diet excluding all animal foods and oils. Similar science has been published by Dr. John McDougall and Dr. T. Colin Campbell and others. The science IS clear. The closer we adhere to a diet centered on whole plant starches plus fruits and vegetables and exclude all animal flesh and dairy and yes, even eliminate extracted oils, the lower our rate of chronic disease. This is not a popular idea for many reasons not the least of which is simple nutrition ignorance – that same ignorance that is visible to any observer on any street corner.

    And for LCT and his argument for Paleo, I would like to propose a friendly albeit long term wager. The same wager I made with another Paleo friend of mine a couple of years ago. He is a very intelligent (chemical engineer) and long time Paleo adherent who is a weight lifter and appears very trim and fit although he eventually admitted his total cholesterol had reached 335 and his blood sugars were elevated (which he blamed on eating “carbs” decades ago). He was 55 when we made the wager and I am 66. Which ever of us requests a prescription for Viagra first, loses! Being polar opposites in our nutrition “beliefs”, I would have no expectation that any information passed between us would ever alter either of our opinions. That said, I would suggest you check out a recently published article by Dr. Michael Klaper titled “My Problem With The Paleo Diet” and for the opinion of a professor of anthropology who studies the diets of prehistoric humans, search out Nathaniel Dominy and examine the evidence regarding what the real paleolithic diet was rather than that constructed from a male ego who wishes to consider himself as a top predator.

    As an aside, my wife is one of the truly gluten intolerant – a tiny crumb of gluten will give her explosive diarrhea within 45 minutes. I eat a large bowl of cooked wheat berries every morning and love them. Neither of these statements proves anything except that as the household cook, I need to be careful in the kitchen.



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  • Kudos on tackling a worthy issue. In our collective rush for the magic bullet–most of us don’t recognize that we’ve conflated a pre-rational claim and packaged it as post-rational–or simply made something up and anointed it with the language of science.

    However, being a student of vegetarian/vegan nutrition, I do have a bone to pick. You take Dr. Dean Ornish’s work and dismiss it by saying: “a lead investigator highly invested in the success of his experiment, the absence of a placebo control, and lack of replication by other researchers.”

    Firstly, do you really want to categorically state that science or any human endeavor is truly objective? I would think that all or most lead investigators have a stake in proving their hypotheses, and that more often than we think, the mental leap to solve a problem can come in the form of intuition. (And yes, I admit that Dr. Ornish has a spiritual perspective and has dipped into that tradition for inspiration.)

    Secondly, there can be no placebo control in eating because the placebo arm (those subjects being fed sugar pills or some neutral/inert substance) would die of starvation. The control cited by physicians and food researchers is exemplified by Dr. Colin Campbell’s China/Cornell/Oxford study–which looked at the diets of numerous Chinese towns/villages with different dietary patterns–percentage of protein from animal foods being the most important– and tracked disease prevalence over a number of decades). The new “Forks Over Knives” movement now champions the knowledge gained in this way.

    Thirdly, experimental replication has come precisely in the form of disease prevalence data and is cross-cultural. Researchers have noted lower rates of the “diseases of civilization” such as heart disease and cancers in cultures that are on the lower end of animal protein consumption. These hypotheses are verified when immigrants come to the United States and eat the standard American diet and soon take on the diseases of their new culture. Many contemporary physicians including Joel Fuhrman, Neil Barnard, John McDougall, Caldwell Esselstyn and Gabriel Cousens verify the salutory affects of a diet of mostly unprocessed plant foods. Indeed, Michael Pollan (not a vegetarian) boils his advice down to “Eat Food. Not too Much. Mostly Plants” in his classic book “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.”

    To the extent that this body of work that supports Dr. Ornish is ignored has more to do with the marketing of processed foods and pharmaceutical drugs. Thus, incomplete and bad experiments that isolate one nutrient or a type of food become dogma masquerading as science, and feed the fear that cuts off further inquiry.



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  • What does a “Professor of Religion” mean? How is he qualified to comment on science?

    And why is it essential to rule out a placebo effect, if you’re trying to determine if steak is harmful? Just measure the outcomes over a big enough sample. Maybe believing-steak-is-harmful is the harmful part of eating steak, but that’s a subsidiary question that doesn’t render the main question useless.



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  • Michael G
    Apr 16, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    Maybe believing-steak-is-harmful is the harmful part of eating steak, but that’s a subsidiary question that doesn’t render the main question useless.

    For many specific conditions there is plenty of soundly based scientific work.

    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/magazine/issues/winter12/articles/winter12pg20.html

    What Causes Gout? – Risk factors for over-production of uric acid and gout include:
    .Alcohol consumption – Drinking too much alcohol keeps the body from removing uric acid.
    .Diet – Eating high-purine foods can lead to gout flares or make them worse. These foods include anchovies, asparagus, beef kidneys, brains, dried beans and peas, game meats, gravy, herring, liver, mackerel, mushrooms, sardines, scallops, and sweetbreads (animal glands).



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  • 50
    aroundtown says:

    Stand on any street corner in America and observe. It is clear that there is something fundamentally wrong with what we believe “healthy food” to be.

    Your initial observation was especially poignant, Dane. I was reluctant to jump into the fray on this diet and nutrition post but I do share in some of the points of your post. I, like many, have been impressed by health claims of this or that diet so I changed my eating habits to see if it would improve my overall health. I’ve had success but it’s certainly been a bumpy ride.

    I watched a video documentary on the vegan diet and it’s suggested benefits so I pressed ahead with adopting the diet and this is what happened to me, after roughly 30 days I became so dizzy that I actually passed out and crumpled to the floor in front of my computer desk and awoke with my head bleeding. That was a substantial wakeup call that resulted in my quick perusal of the web to find out why – well it turns out many suffered this problem of dizziness and opinions were all over the place as to why – some thought it was iron deficiency and others thought maybe the body was detoxing, there were many other opinions but no clear cut advice that answered the question. I don’t want to get long winded but I found that once I included dairy and eggs the problem went away and that is the basic diet for me now, the overall moniker to define my diet would be an ovo-lacto-vegitarian and I’m quite happy with it now.

    I do want to add a small tidbit that could help someone like me though – although I found my blood pressure substantially improved and a general feeling of being more trim and healthy, I hit another snag before it all came together. I found that I was mildly lactose intolerant and although I could have small amounts of milk (lactose in fresh milk is substantial) I found I could process it, but barely. I did find that cheese, harder the better has less or no lactose, and could be consumed with no bloating or digestive rumble so that was a win for me. It may seem like a small thing but it was kind of hard to figure out actually.

    To conclude, this only worked for me and a control group would be needed with the same parameters to substantiate any or all of it so that needs said. I do not regret the endeavor to find a new diet and I think many of us are prisoners of the diets we acquire from our families, some like mine were atrocious so the hard work had to be undertaken. Not everyone has that problem and I admire those who escaped poor eating habits in the household. With that said I think in this day and age, with all the goofy diet advice out there, the road to a sensible diet is still difficult and the next unsubstantiated advice will continue to pop up. In my opinion and experience, personal experimentation is needed to see what works but I did find this in my journey inclusive to my experiences already described – adherence to regimented diets are recipes for failure and any weight loss will be back soon enough. A diet with some flexibility is key and the inclusion of what many know are healthy additions like fruit and veggies. There is no one size fits all diet IMO, genetics plays it’s part too, so many are going to find that a diet that works for the next guy or gal may not work for them. They say in for a penny in for a pound, but all of this is just my two cents really.



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  • Shallow fashion following Homo Irrationinalis on display.

    “I’m so cool. Look at me. Look at me. I eat gluten free. That’s a big word I use but I have no idea what it is but is sounds cool and it makes me cool because I’m different. I’m a wanker.”



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  • (Adapted by the author [Alan Levinovitz] from his forthcoming book “The Gluten Lie: And Other Myths About What You Eat“)“The mythic narrative of “unnatural” modernity and a “natural” paradise past is persuasive as ever. Religious figures like Adam and Eve are no longer plausible protagonists, so diet gurus replace them with Paleolithic, pre-agricultural, hard-bodied ancestors who raced playfully through the forest gathering berries and spearing wild boar, never once worrying about diabetes or autism. The foods that belong to that culinary past are good. The products of modernity, by contrast — MSG, grains, high-fructose corn syrup, genetically modified organisms, fast food — these are the toxic fruits of sin, the tempting offerings of a fearsome deity known as Big Food.”

    Levinovitz seems motivated to pillory and relieve the anxiety that people in modern society feel about eating the “right food.” He’s not writing an encyclopedia about food allergies and nutrition. He’s talking about the blowhard who corners you at parties with an infomercial on Dr. Gaswright’s new diet or lectures you on longevity-enhancing micro nutrients in vegetables until you pray for an epileptic seizure. He’s talking about the hysteria that causes people to obsess on eating only mystically “pure foods.” There’s not much wrong with the general nutritional science in the book, but his focus is on the pseudo-science of fad diets that take so many folks to the cleaners and keep perfectly healthy people awake at night worrying about polluting their bodies with “poisonous” foods condemned by the nutrition guru of the moment.

    If some foods – gluten, dairy, peanuts, strawberries, shell fish, et. al. make you sick, see a doctor. If you are otherwise healthy, eat a balanced diet and watch your intake of calories. Alan Levinovitz is well enough informed about the science for his purpose. He’s illuminating a psychological malaise that has descended on society in the form of silly and harmful preoccupation with the food we ingest The appeal of the work lies in satirical sociology relevant to our times. He writes with a lively delightful style enhanced with a quirky wit for human foibles. Entertaining, clever, eye-opening.



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  • He’s talking about the blowhard who corners you at parties with an infomercial ..

    Love the second paragraph. I’ve met this guy. That’s the people I detest. Shallow. Look at me. Irrational. Fashion over function. I’ve got to an age now where I don’t care what people think so if I get cornered by one of these Homo Irrationalis, I don’t hold back. “Does evidence support your position sir?”. When they try to cite pseudo evidence or can’t say anything except anecdotes, I smell blood in the water.



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  • If the science currently shows that two thirds of those who identify as gluten intolerant are entirely psychsomatic, but one third do indeed have a wheat sensitivity, then the “The Gluten Lie” is throwing in with the blowhards’ certainty. By throwing himself into the balance rather rather than standing at the pivot point he undercuts his (good!) intention….But a buck is a buck….



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  • Agree with almost everything you’ve said here except…

    If you are otherwise healthy, eat a balanced diet and watch your intake of calories. Alan Levinovitz is well enough informed about the science for his purpose.

    This too would be fine if he wasn’t criticising the very food scientists he must be using to refute the first.

    Regards



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  • Melvin
    Apr 17, 2015 at 1:43 am

    Alan Levinovitz is well enough informed about the science for his purpose.

    As many comments here point out, he is not!

    He’s illuminating a psychological malaise that has descended on society

    He is well informed on the silly fad-diets and myths, and can debunk the “low-hanging-fruit-of-diet-nuttery, but is insufficiently informed about the real dietary science to distinguish, the myths from the real issues and real science. Hence the disgraceful and misleading title about the real problem some people have with gluten.

    Dietary science, – particularly in places like the USA which have large immigrant populations, is complex because humans have evolved in different environments eating a diversity of diets in different environmental conditions.

    People whose ancestors lived on the American high Altiplano have particularly tough digestive systems because cooking is difficult, pastoral ancestry gives lactose tolerance, ancestral grain consumption can have built up gluten tolerance.

    One-size-fits-all diets do not suit everybody, and denial of allergies and adverse reactions affecting some sections of communities, helps nobody!

    As I said earlier debunking myths is fine – IF THEY REALLY ARE MYTHS, but amateurish debunking of diet advice without the scientific understanding of the complexity, simply adds to the confusion.

    As the links provided by Phil and myself, and others, show, this book title is ridiculous nonsense, and a danger to people with gluten intolerance.

    If some foods – gluten, dairy, peanuts, strawberries, shell fish, et. al. make you sick, see a doctor.

    If you are fortunate enough to live in a country with enforced laws about labelling ingredients, read the label and avoid foods containing products which affect you.



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  • > As many comments here point out, he is not!

    Nobody has pointed that out. They've asked how someone outside the field is qualified to talk about subjects from within the field. If the research is respected and supported by people in the field then it may be worthwhile and certainly can't be dismissed simply because it was done by someone from outside the field.

    > He is well informed on the silly fad-diets and myths, and can debunk the “low-hanging-fruit-of-diet-nuttery, but is insufficiently informed about the real dietary science to distinguish, the myths from the real issues and real science.

    You haven't read the book and don't know whether or not the conclusions he draws from his research are valid, or if he presents a reasoned case that would suggest competence in the subject beyond the ability to debunk "low-hanging-fruit-of-diet-nuttery".

    [Edited by moderator to bring within Terms of Use]



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  • “These lies aren’t just misleading. They’re bad for our culture and our health. In hopes of escaping death and disease, we fawn over dietary evangelists with megawatt smiles and six-pack abs, each one promising a different, revolutionary, “science-based” route to perfect health. We embrace one food taboo after another, a habit that clinical psychologists condemn as conducive to disordered eating.”

    I think many who suffer from food allergies commenting on this blog argue that that Levinovitz wrote the wrong book, a book different from the one he should have written. The superbly written passage above zeros in on his theme, a harmful obsession of our times that needs addressing. He was not obligated to write a treatise on, “The Science of Food Allergies and Nutrition” to deflect a perceived slight to those suffering from medically diagnosed conditions. Almost certainly (I have not read the book), Levinovitz surveys serious allergies and advises anyone who is sickened by ingesting certain foods to see a doctor without delay. “Low-hanging fruit?” Perhaps. There is nothing new under the sun but what’s the harm in waking up from your siesta walking out of the shadows and opening your eyes to read a witty engaging book.

    Phil Rimmer cites findings that “two thirds of those who identify as gluten intolerant are entirely psychsomatic,” arriving at a fair criticism of Levinovitz nonetheless. Psychosomatic systems are “real’ and sometimes dangerous even if there is no underlying disorder. The larger view of the book shows how these symptoms can proliferate through the contagion of mass hysteria in society and cultivate diet-nutrition fads driven by pseudo science, charlatans, fear, and obsessive-compulsive behavior causing financial loss and, worse, physical and mental harm to millions. (The anti-vaccers posing more serious threats to public health and safety participate in a similar syndrome.)

    No person with room temperature IQ is going to “misread” Levinovitz beyond the modest thematic parameters of The Gluten Lie , a somewhat flawed sensational title admittedly in need of qualification. But there is much more in these pages to be savored with a nod of recognition and a smile. Perhaps, the earnest over-criticism misses the mark because it talks past the subject and underestimates the value of entertainment in a piece of professional writing.



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  • Nearly all who identify as gluten intolerant have no coeliac disease and on this basis it was once assumed that three thirds of wheaten worriers were fools gulled by the likes of your blowhard and his paranoia industry. The problem is not with the two thirds who possibly were gulled but the newly discovered one third who have genuine ab-reactions to wheat. The “somewhat flawed” title does far worse to them insisting they’re hypochondriacs when they can, in fact, get substantial relief from their condition. They’ve just been gulled by an “expert” with a false and confident negative diagnosis. They may believe him and eat wheat and look everywhere else for their problem rebounding off many other faddish eating regimes to find relief from their misery. They may disbelieve him and find genuine relief from their misery.

    Now what is the “somewhat flawed” title going to do to the two thirds psychosomatic sufferers. They may believe him and find relief from their misery or disbelieve him and find relief from their misery.

    Now what of an honest title? “Gluten can be a bitty iffy for some.” They read the research. No one gets called a fool. They experiment a little or see a doctor and most get to feel better without ricocheting off other dietry nonsense and continuing the misery.

    Very, very flawed title. He picked the wrong thing to go to the max over.



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  • Sean_W
    Apr 17, 2015 at 9:05 am

    As many comments here point out, he is not!

    Nobody has pointed that out.

    Really?? Have another read through the posts and look at the links.

    Anyone who had an understanding of diet based medical conditions, would not use such a ridiculous title to describe well evidenced medical conditions – even if the quacks have high-jacked the terms to make wild claims.

    They’ve asked how someone outside the field is qualified to talk about subjects from within the field.

    If he had any understanding of modern medical research he would not write ignorant garbage like this passage about modern scientific research (not the same as media diet drivel) –as I pointed out earlier.

    @Op – Eating in moderation has been the humdrum recommendation of common sense for thousands of years, and to that sage dietary advice, religion and science alike have added virtually nothing that stands up to rigorous scrutiny.

    The clue is in the bundling of “science” together with “pseudo-science”, and the use of terms like “scientific rhetoric”!

    Posters have asked “how someone outside the field is qualified to talk about [these] subjects”, but have also linked the mass of well researched diet science which he claims, “have added virtually nothing that stands up to rigorous scrutiny”.
    Unsurprisingly, this OP claim, merely shows a lack of knowledge of the extent of the research, and an inability to understand how scientific scrutiny works.

    His fallacy of appeal to moderation is just the usual ignorant fudgists’ waffle, of taking a position between evidenced science which he has not studied, and fanciful pseudo-science myths which have been publicly proven wrong by the scientists he is denigrating!



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  • 64
    Aquambulus hirsutus says:

    Alan Levinovitz,

    Can you please confirm or deny that you wrote the following two paragraphs, taken from what Alan4discussion, in his reply to you above, refers to as ‘the OP link’?

    Gluten. Salt. Sugar. Fat. These are the villains of the American diet—or so a host of doctors and nutritionists would have you believe. But the science is far from settled and we are racing to eliminate wheat and corn syrup from our diets because we’ve been lied to. The truth is that almost all of us can put the buns back on our burgers and be just fine.

    […]

    For readers suffering from dietary whiplash, The Gluten Lie is the answer. Scientists and physicians know shockingly little about proper nutrition that they didn’t know a thousand years ago, even though Americans spend billions of dollars and countless hours obsessing over “eating right.”



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  • phil rimmer
    Apr 17, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Very, very flawed title. He picked the wrong thing to go to the max over.

    Someone with competence in the subject and knowledge of the relevant research, would have known that!



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  • 66
    Aquambulus hirsutus says:

    I see the discussion has moved on, but for the record, I never referred to the text in what you call ‘the OP link’, and I don’t agree with its claims at all. I suspect it’s a sales pitch, written by the publisher rather than Levinovitz himself. I’ve asked him.



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  • Really?? Have another read through the posts and look at the links.

    I should have probably said that nobody had demonstrated it.

    Anyone who had an understanding of diet based medical conditions, would not use such a ridiculous title to describe well evidenced medical conditions – even if the quacks have high-jacked the terms to make wild claims.

    I get that you don’t like the title. It’s hardly evidence of a lack of competence though.

    @Op – Eating in moderation has been the humdrum recommendation of common sense for thousands of years, and to that sage dietary advice, religion and science alike have added virtually nothing that stands up to rigorous scrutiny.

    We’d have to read the book to know how much he may be exaggerating. The use of “virtually nothing” may sound extreme and yet relative to mountains of bullshit it may turn out to be just right.

    Anyway I don’t see how we can take from that claim alone that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, especially given the contentious nature of the topic and the obviously combative style of his approach.



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  • Sean_W
    Apr 17, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    Anyone who had an understanding of diet based medical conditions, would not use such a ridiculous title to describe well evidenced medical conditions – even if the quacks have high-jacked the terms to make wild claims.

    I get that you don’t like the title. It’s hardly evidence of a lack of competence though.

    If someone wrote “The Lie that there are Satellites in Orbit”, would you take that as evidence they were not competent space scientists or astronomers, even though they made a few comments that astrology is bunk?

    We’d have to read the book to know how much he may be exaggerating.

    The comments are made on the extracts presented.

    The use of “virtually nothing” may sound extreme and yet relative to mountains of bullshit it may turn out to be just right.

    If it just said that about the mountains of media bullshit that would be fine,
    But it says it about scientific research which is well documented, and well evidenced, and gives lots of specific detail about actual disabling conditions.

    @OP – religion and science [not quackery] alike have added virtually nothing that stands up to rigorous scrutiny.

    Anyone who had studied the research would know this was false and utter nonsense.



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  • Press/Events

    Peter Gibson, MD, Director of Gastroenterology at the Alfred Hospital and Monash University

    "As a gastroenterologist who has spent many years actively researching the effect of diet on gut
    problems, I can say that this is a factually accurate and highly entertaining work.
    It provides an effective counter to the fearmongering and false promises purveyed by ‘sensationalists’ masquerading as scientists.
    This book should be essential reading for anyone who contemplates following a restrictive diet and for all health practitioners
    who use diets as the central platform of their therapeutic approach."

    That’s all I’ve been saying. There’s no reason why medical professionals cannot deal with coeliac disease, gluten sensitivity and wheat intolerance. I’ll get off the merry-go-round now.



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  • Melvin
    Apr 17, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    That’s all I’ve been saying. There’s no reason why medical professionals cannot deal with coeliac disease, gluten sensitivity and wheat intolerance. I’ll get off the merry-go-round now.

    There is probably useful information for health professionals about the “fear mongering and false promises purveyed by ‘sensationalists’ masquerading as scientists.” The health professionals should already be familiar with the reputable sources of information such as those I linked. The book however, is being offered to the public who may be misled and consequently fail to seek medical advice.

    The problem in the OP examples, is the failure to separate the criticism of perverse advice from the sensationalists, from unjustified criticism of the “unspecified scientists” who are providing competent advice, along with the author the joining of the sensationalist camp, in the selection of the title of the book!

    Products containing gluten, require clear labelling, so those adversely affected by it can avoid them, and protect themselves from harm.



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  • Grains may have been cultivated first only for use in fermented drinks (beers) and later “discovered” as a food source, perhaps pressed into service (gradually) as a foodstuff, if traditional foods become scarce for some reason. This definitely seems to be the case in the New World, and (speculatively) it may apply everywhere.

    As “root stock” humanity is lactose intolerant, and only those descended from certain regions are tolerant, perhaps – in those regions – milk (in the form of cheese) was also pressed into service, little by little as a food of last resort. [Perhaps fermented milk products came first… those shamans would eat drink or smoke anything that might give them a high.]



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  • So get on your bicycles, folks…not electric

    ♪…”I want to ride it where I like

    Children, also! (glorious days spent negotiating gentle hills with a Spyder bike).

    Fail to grasp the idea behind parents purchasing powered vehicles for young’uns; no burning of calories or building muscles.



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  • The book however, is being offered to the public who may be misled and consequently fail to seek medical advice.

    While admitting that coeliac disease, which affects about 1% of the U.S. population, is under-diagnosed, Levinovitz admonishes against the practice of self-diagnosis for wheat intolerance outside medical testing. Susceptible to suggestion in a society succumbing to mass hysteria, two out of every three people who believe their digestive tract cannot handle wheat without chronic symptoms suffer from a purely psychological malaise. Levinovitz does not blame or shame people for the “nocebo effect” accepting such intractable irrationality as “part of human nature.”

    Levinovitz weighs scientific evidence -criticism and skepticism- on nutritional topics he shows to be poorly -very poorly- researched and even more poorly understood by the public. Countering Alan’s fears he calls for more scientific research on Gluten, wheat intolerance and other food allergy issues and, again to the point, advises people against self-diagnosis lest they wind up with a closed mind and an open wallet on a faith-based dietary regime with the other 67% of the worried well.

    No one is asking everyone to critically acclaim Alan Levinovitz’ The Gluten Lie or forgo reservations about his conclusions, bias or speculations about potentially harmful influences on public health. Balance reservations and speculations, however, by recognizing that he supports medical diagnosis, the scientific method, and further research and findings credibly derived from that method.



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  • @Alan

    If someone wrote “The Lie that there are Satellites in Orbit”, would you take that as evidence they were not competent space scientists or astronomers, even though they made a few comments that astrology is bunk?

    Yes.

    But this analogy is silly. In order for it to hold we would have to interpret the title as literally saying gluten intolerance doesn’t exist. Instead most of us will immediately understand that the title targets myths surrounding gluten intolerance, which charlatans and quacks use to fuel people’s fears.

    I had no problem understanding that and neither did any of the experts who support the book. You have yourself demonstrated you’re capable of reading it that way and so has Phil; one of his points being that other people won’t and so the author should have been more careful.

    I called that humorless, and I stand by that assessment. It’s a ridiculous criticism.



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  • Melvin
    Apr 17, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    I think many who suffer from food allergies commenting on this blog argue that that Levinovitz wrote the wrong book, a book different from the one he should have written.

    I don’t think so! I think he just lacked the understanding and knowledge of the scope and quality of the available research – as would be expected in someone sporting qualifications in a totally unrelated subject.

    The superbly written passage above zeros in on his theme, a harmful obsession of our times that needs addressing.

    It does indeed highlight the low-hanging fruit, of quackery promoted in the superficial, entertaining media of the chattering classes.

    He was not obligated to write a treatise on, “The Science of Food Allergies and Nutrition” to deflect a perceived slight to those suffering from medically diagnosed conditions.

    If his book is to be be of any use to those requiring special diets, it really should have some evidenced and factual content about the real issues.

    Almost certainly (I have not read the book), Levinovitz surveys serious allergies and advises anyone who is sickened by ingesting certain foods to see a doctor without delay

    But having supposedly debunked “science which has added virtually nothing since biblical times (allegedly), how would this help them identify a need for medical assistance?
    If they can get expert medical advice, why do they need an amateur’s book in the first place? (Assuming the book contains the information you suggest with “almost certainty”.)

    “Low-hanging fruit?” Perhaps.

    Your “superbly written passage”, quoted above, picks this out clearly.

    There is nothing new under the sun

    I think you will find that in modern science, there are new discoveries every day!

    but what’s the harm in waking up from your siesta walking out of the shadows and opening your eyes to read a witty engaging book.

    I think that was the problem in the first place. – People waking up from their siestas, and and reading from hundreds of witty engaging books and magazines on “wondrous” diets, written by amateurs with no medical qualifications or written by quackology salesmen. – Perhaps even with the title “Doctor” based on a PhD in an irrelevant subject!

    Perhaps, the earnest over-criticism misses the mark because it talks past the subject and underestimates the value of entertainment in a piece of professional writing.

    Perhaps it is you who has missed the point, that this book is offering medical advice to people with real issues to address, and they are not just reading for superficial “entertainment”!



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  • Okay.

    Now what do you make of our willingness to argue about the title of a book and what it may say about the author? I’m definitely laughing about my part in this discussion. Are we just the sort that will argue about anything? 🙂



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  • Sean_W
    Apr 18, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    I’m definitely laughing about my part in this discussion.

    That does appear to sum up the depth of the comment.

    Are we just the sort that will argue about anything? 🙂

    Apparently some are! –
    Others look at the evidence from a background of knowledge of the subject and ethical issues.



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  • Melvin
    Apr 19, 2015 at 12:48 am

    At last the voice of reason…At last the voice of reason.

    Ah! “The Reason Lie”!!!

    Have another look at the cartoon from the viewpoint of a celiac sufferer reading it!



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  • Sean_W
    Apr 17, 2015 at 9:05 am

    You haven’t read the book and don’t know whether or not the conclusions he draws from his research are valid, or if he presents a reasoned case that would suggest competence in the subject beyond the ability to debunk “low-hanging-fruit-of-diet-nuttery”.

    I’ve read the quotes from it, which are all that is available until it is published – and they are full of amateurish howlers which are clearly refuted by solid evidence from expert reputable sources, and which I have pointed out and linked.

    Ill-informed apologist speculation about the unpublished material, adds nothing to the argument, and does nothing to answer valid criticism based on available information.

    @OP – Adapted by the author from his forthcoming book “



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  • Melvin
    Apr 19, 2015 at 12:48 am

    At last the voice of reason

    Perhaps your “voice of reason”, could explain why: –

    “Evolution forbids you from eating grains” is portrayed as “faith disguised as science”, (in the cartoon mocking the science) when I have earlier provided a link to the evolutionary genetics, which brings this situation about, in some people whose ancestry was not from areas with a large grain element in their diet?

    The risk of developing celiac disease is increased by certain variants of the HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1 genes. These genes provide instructions for making proteins that play a critical role in the immune system. The HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1 genes belong to a family of genes called the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) complex.

    The “faith not science”, claim is clearly utterly incompetent, and flies in the face of the evidence, in the light of the genetic studies.

    As I have explained previously on this site, “reasoning” is a deductive process, not a badge to be stuck on to unevidenced , superficial personal opinions or inserted cognitive biases.

    Cheer-leading for superficial pseudo-reason is comical, but counter productive in a responsible discussion of advice on conditions adversely affecting people.



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  • Dane
    Apr 16, 2015 at 11:14 am

    Please check out the work of Dr. Nathaniel Dominy, Dartmouth Associate Professor of Anthropology. His bottom line is that throughout our history humans obtained the vast bulk of our calories from starchy foods like roots, tubers, and grains. Though humans were always “opportunistic” in acquiring calories, animal foods played only a small roll because that source was undependable and also infrequent.

    Unless of course your ancestors were Inuit, reindeer herders in Lapland and Siberia, or Europeans during the ice-age!



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  • I’ve already dealt with this complaint Alan.

    The “faith not science”, claim is clearly utterly incompetent, and flies in the face of the evidence, in the light of the genetic studies.

    I think it lampoons the lie that we’re all gluten intolerant because we’ve evolved to be that way. Just like we evolved to eat like a caveman, not wear shoes, and run naked every other full moon.

    Some people will take the science that applies to a minority of individuals and twist it so that it applies to everyone in order to make a buck off the gullible.

    This comic should instantly be recognized as mocking those people and their lies.

    Yet you’re saying the comic demonstrates incompetence because clearly, according to you, the comic shows the author doesn’t know about the reality of gluten intolerance and the science behind it.

    That would be fantastic wouldn’t it? If this book doesn’t say anything about real gluten intolerance and the research behind it I’ll eat my hat Alan.



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  • the lie that we’re all gluten intolerant

    Genuine question here. Is this a commonly stated thing? I’ve asked a handful of people so far with a null result. Is it a US thing? I will carry on because this appears totally fringe to me. In the past I’ve heard of gluten intolerance spoken about as akin to allergic reactions, with a few unfortunates falling victim.



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  • Sean_W
    Apr 20, 2015 at 9:25 am

    I’ve already dealt with this complaint Alan.

    The “faith not science”, claim is clearly utterly incompetent, and flies in the face of the evidence, in the light of the genetic studies.

    I think it lampoons the lie that we’re all gluten intolerant because we’ve evolved to be that way.

    That sounds very strawman to me! (Fallacy of extension)

    I’ve never heard anyone suggest that we are ALL gluten intolerant although there are quack claims about most foods!

    Could you quote where this claim is made and to how wide an audience it was circulated?

    Some people will take the science that applies to a minority of individuals and twist it so that it applies to everyone in order to make a buck off the gullible.

    Indeed they do, but that does not justify blanket claims, which contradict the science, and could damage some individuals

    This comic should instantly be recognized as mocking those people and their lies.

    I think you would need cognitive bias blinkers for that interpretation.

    The cartoon is clearly wrong and pathetically wrong, about some sections of the community, and some ancestral groups. As I pointed out, the inherited genetic mutations clearly show the evolutionary origins of the condition with the evidence clearly presented by science not “faith”!

    @OP – Saying we aren’t evolved to eat gluten or processed sugar sounds more factual than saying that God has forbidden them. But using the language of science doesn’t guarantee access to the insights of science.

    Clearly for some people “Saying they aren’t evolved to eat gluten or processed sugar” IS factual!

    So without clarification, the OP statement is just the sort of muddled quackery the book claims to challenge.

    That would be fantastic wouldn’t it? If this book doesn’t say anything about real gluten intolerance and the research behind it I’ll eat my hat Alan.

    As neither of us have seen the not yet published book, you are just making that up on wish-thinking and “faith”, while I am commenting on the “foot-in-mouth” claims made by the author in the OP and links which I have actually read and understood.



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  • Phil,

    No, it’s more likely to be stated as the top 10 reasons why gluten is bad for you, and why a gluten free diet is just healthier e.g. you may have heard that gluten is only a problem for people with celiac disease, but in reality most of us react poorly to gluten.



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  • Alan,

    After just a brief search I was able to find sources ranging from blog posts to books written by doctors claiming we -that being all of us- haven’t evolved to consume grains or gluten. The consequences of doing so ranged from cancer to becoming an idiot.

    Here’s just one example:

    Regular grain consumption began a measly 10,000 years ago by most estimates. Before the Agricultural Revolution, humans had a couple hundred thousand years of not having any regular consumption of grains, (and, are you ready for this?) studies show that human brain function and physical ability peaked just prior to the agricultural revolution as well. Since the dawn of agricultural practices, archeological evidence shows a gradual but steady decline in human strength.

    Wellness Mama: How Grains Are Killing You Slowly

    She goes on to give gluten a good thrashing and ultimately recommends to her readers that they stop consuming all grains.



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  • Sean_W
    Apr 20, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    After just a brief search I was able to find sources ranging from blog posts to books written by doctors claiming we -that being all of us- haven’t evolved to consume grains or gluten.

    The evolutionary time for humans to evolve to cope with a cereal diet is brief – about 12,000 years.

    http://archaeology.about.com/od/domestications/qt/wheat.htm
    The origins of our modern wheat, according to genetics and archaeological studies, are found in the Karacadag mountain region of what is today southeastern Turkey–wheat makes up two of the classic eight founder crops of the origins of agriculture. There, some 12,000 years ago or so, both einkorn and emmer wheats were domesticated. The earliest collected wheat was wild emmer, at the Ohalo II site, about 23,000 years ago. Emmer was first cultivated in the southern Levant (Netiv Hugdud, Tell Aswad, other PPNA sites); while einkorn is found in the north PPNA sites (Abu Hureyra, Mureybet, Jerf el Ahmar, Göbekli Tepe, other southern PPNA). Spelt (T. spelta) and Timopheev’s wheat (T. timopheevii) were ancient forms of emmer wheat developed by the late Neolithic, but neither has much of a market today.

    Since the dawn of agricultural practices, archeological evidence shows a gradual but steady decline in human strength.

    I am aware of the archaeological research into the effects of the change to an agricultural lifestyle from that of hunter gatherers of pastoralist herdsmen, but this is work on overall lifestyle, not just diet, or the development of cereal crops.

    We only have to compare the physical fitness of bushmen, chimps or goriiilas, to recognise the decline in physical fitness of modern urban and humans.

    The key issue, is that where people have recently migrated to different cereal growing areas (eg. continents), they have come from populations which have not evolved to cope with those specific cereals. Wheat for example, has only been introduced to the Americas in recent centuries. Maize only recently exported from the Americas.

    Wellness Mama: How Grains Are Killing You Slowly

    She goes on to give gluten a good thrashing and ultimately recommends to her readers that they stop consuming all grains.

    This is indeed a good example of a crappy internet blog cobbled together by an amateur posing as an authority.

    The mistakes are in the amateurish assumptions that “One-size-fits-all or none”, with those mistakes also encapsulated in the the title “The Gluten Lie”, and in the cartoon silliness about evolution.

    You will note that my link has a further link to a gluten rest kit – Coeliac Disease Test for Gluten Sensitivity.

    https://www.healthcheckshop.co.uk/store/coeliac-test?gclid=CPqptv20hcUCFcHKtAodlWIAeg
    What the doctors say

    Approximately 150,000 people have been diagnosed with coeliac disease in the UK, however estimates suggest that less than a quarter of people have been diagnosed. With 20% of all short term sickness attributed to gastrointestinal disease at a cost of over £3 billion per year, a quick and correct diagnosis has dramatic implications on health, medical resources and the economy.

    Coeliac disease runs in families
    If you have coeliac disease there is a high chance, approximately 1 in 10, that your children or parents could also have coeliac disease.




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  • There is an interesting experiment here, showing the damaging effects of a western diet on the bowel.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-32494846
    Diet swap experiment reveals junk food’s harm to gut

    Researchers asked people to switch diets for two weeks – 20 US volunteers moved to a low-fat, high-fibre diet while 20 volunteers from rural Africa were asked to eat more “junk” food.

    Although the swap was brief, its impact was visible, Nature Communication says.

    The Americans benefited from less bowel inflammation, while the African volunteers’ bowel health deteriorated.

    It is not possible to make any firm conclusions based on such a small study, say experts.

    But the findings do support the belief that modern Western diets – which are high in fat and sugar and low in fibre – are bad for us.

    Other studies with Japanese migrants to Hawaii have shown that it takes only one generation of Westernisation to change their low incidence of colon cancer to the high rates seen in native Hawaiians.

    The US volunteers, meanwhile, where switched to a diet containing lots of pulses and beans.

    All the participants had a barrage of medical tests before and after the diet change.

    The dietary swaps appeared to cause significant changes to the cells lining the gut as well as the bacteria that live in the bowel – with the US volunteers faring better.

    Lead researcher Dr Stephen O’Keefe, from the University of Pittsburgh, said: “In just two weeks, a change in diet from a Westernised composition to a traditional African high-fibre, low-fat diet reduced these biomarkers of cancer risk, indicating that it is likely never too late to modify the risk of colon cancer.”



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