author of Feeding Eden

The Gestalt of Gluten Free

Ah the ironies of the Gluten Free diet "prescription." In 2009, in  a post Gluten Minded I described my own coming to terms with the gluten free diet. And since then there has been much investigative reporting on the purpose and misconceptions of the Gluten Free diet.

This month in The Gluten-Free Quandary in the article points out:

"... even the Food and Drug Administration states on its web site there is no nutritional advantage for those without celiac disease to go gluten-free and it is not meant to be a diet craze... 'Consumers are looking for ways to be healthier and gravitating to whatever they see … but it’s not always driven from a dietitian or a medical perspective'..."

And the article continues to describe the many disadvantages of adopting such a dietary restriction if, indeed it isn't necessary. It seems there is a chicken and egg mentality at play: Consumers may be incorrectly demanding these products, food giants are responding to what they perceive as a lucrative market, and interestedly, grain companies are not "properly educating consumers through effective advertising messaging may clear up consumer misunderstandings...this worked well with educating consumers that high-fructose corn syrup is just as safe as regular sugar, and now consumer concerns about HFCS have been greatly reduced."

Eden, who isn't allergic to gluten, has a cousin who has a gluten intolerance. His mother and I often discuss the difficulties of finding palatable "free-of" products to serve as conveniences and short cuts for parents managing restricted diets. And I'm ever-grateful for any new improvement or addition to the speciality products that address Eden's food allergies. Obviously food companies do provide a tremendous service for consumers with medical needs. But when I serve people my allergen-free home baked goods, I tell the whole truth: "This isn't low fat," I might clarify to a dieter..."I used a cup of olive oil..." Or, "It's dairy-free but rice milk has a lot of sugar!" Why shouldn't our food manufacturers be equally forthright and rely on their real consumer groups instead of creating this gluten free gestalt?


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