If you read a health and fitness magazine or a nutrition article, you will probably read about gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat that gives dough that elasticity it needs to be formed into such delicious things as bread. For some people, however, gluten might as well be poison. They have a hypersensitivity to gluten, called Celiac Disease, and eating gluten can be very, very painful. And it can be very serious. According to the Mayo Clinic website, this is what celiac is all about:
“If you have celiac disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in your small intestine. Over time, this reaction produces inflammation that damages the small intestine’s lining and prevents absorption of some nutrients (malabsorption). The intestinal damage can cause weight loss, bloating and sometimes diarrhea. Eventually, your brain, nervous system, bones, liver and other organs can be deprived of vital nourishment.”
It’s a serious thing.
However, there are those who advocate a gluten-free diet even if you are not sensitive to it. Their reasoning ranges from “if it’s bad for some people, it’s probably bad for everyone” to “you’ll lose weight and feel better”. The evidence is still hit-or-miss when it comes to gluten-free diets. Some evidence shows that it’s good. Other evidence shows that it’s no better than a regular, well-balanced diet.
Still, there are people who go with the gluten-free suggestion, but they have no idea why. Jimmy Kimmel sent his cameras out to ask people if they knew what gluten was. Here is what happened:
Of course, we don’t know if the producers of the show edited out all the correct answers and we’re seeing only the funnier wrong ones. But this is pretty much par for the course based on my experience. Someone pushes some diet fad, and a lot of people go with it without knowing why they’re going with it. After all, “gluten” sounds unnatural, so why eat it, right?
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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