Dear Matt, What say you about one of the newest fads: Gluten Intolerance? Why does a small percentage of the population claim so much supermarket real estate with their products? – Pam Luna
As a devout multiculturalist, I think we should practice tolerance for all disadvantaged minorities – including gluten. About every week or two now, the Health Science Industrial Complex identifies a new culprit that will clog our arteries, cause our cancers to metastasize, or force our organs to fail: fat, carbs, sugar, artificial sweeteners, even vitamin supplements. Pick whatever food you like, and it’s a sure bet there is some prophet of doom out there to proclaim it will kill you. And from the looks of my overflowing, alarmist spam box, NewsmaxHealth seems to have hired most of them.
Why does this cycle endlessly repeat itself? Boredom, I’m guessing. If you, as a medical research professional, want to keep getting studies funded, you have to come up with new things to study, which ideally will yield novel headline-screaming conclusions, instead of just ho-humly reinforcing old ones. And if you’re the poor bastard who has to write health squibs for a living based on these often specious findings, you know it won’t grab a reader by his short-and-curlies to tell him that he probably shouldn’t ingest a bag of Double Stuf Oreos while washing it down with a fifth of Old Grand-Dad. Some things are too obvious even for experts to weigh in on. Much more exciting for them to unearth a hidden menace, such as gluten — once a harmless seldom-thought about protein composite, now an enemy of civilized people right up there with cholera, bordetella pertussis, and Ted Cruz.
Never mind that according to my unimpeachable sources at Wikipedia, gluten was first discovered by Buddhist monks all the way back in the 7th century. As vegetarians, they were looking for a meat substitute to fill their Buddha-bellies, and discovered that when they submerged dough in water, the starch washed away, leaving a “meat-like, textured, gummy mass – gluten.” So not tolerating gluten is like a slap in the face of all Buddhists, a fine, endearing people — Richard Gere and Steven Seagal notwithstanding.
It has been stated that up to 1 in 133 people are gluten-intolerant, which sounds sort of scary, until you realize that it’s also been stated that up to 60 percent of the adult population can’t digest milk. According to my studies, 100 percent of the people can’t stomach the Kardashian family, but you don’t see that slowing them down. Maybe we have a higher tolerance for intolerance than we think. I’m not suggesting gluten intolerance is psychosomatic. If you’re a celiac sufferer, by all means, put down the E.L. Fudge’s and enjoy your quinoa wheat-free spaghetti. There’s someone out there who is legitimately allergic to everything. (I, for instance, am allergic to cat dander and Adele music.) But once the Health Science Industrial Complex gets hold of a notion – beware. An aberration soon becomes an epidemic. Gluten now gets blamed for everything from ADHD to rising energy prices.
Yes, they enjoy scaring the bejezus out of us. It’s their job, and they’re good at it. But the health Jeremiahs aren’t solely to blame, as they allow us to scratch an aspirational itch of our own: to feel more virtuous as we perform the otherwise un-heroic task of filling our grocery cart with gluten-free offerings, the same way we do when we buy lite or organic or fat-free. These often next-to-meaningless modifiers help make the average American forget that they are still likely ingesting enough daily calories to feed a mid-sized African village, and enough sodium to salt their driveways during Alberta Clippers.
It’s often not the thing we think that’s going to kill us that ultimately does. But rest assured, something will. We don’t need a study to tell us that. Still, it’s only a matter of time before the Doctors of Doom reverse themselves again, and inform us that a new study shows that those 8 glasses of water a day that they’ve forever suggested we be drinking for health and longevity actually cause blood clots and/or myocardial infarction. Until then, I suggest hedging your bets with Double Stuf Oreos and Old Grand-Dad, the latter of which is extra delicious on the rocks with a splash of gluten.