Researchers presenting at the 2016 United European Gastroenterology conference have identified a group of non-gluten proteins that can trigger symptoms of asthma, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and more.
Gluten-free diets began as a necessity for people with celiac disease, in which violent immune reactions to wheat can cause intestinal damage, widespread inflammation, and trouble absorbing nutrients. Then the food and diet industries caught on, and suddenly a gluten-free diet was being touted as the way to lose weight, flush “toxins,” and improve everything from mental clarity to libido. An Us-Against-Them narrative emerged in the media, pitting people with an autoimmune condition against all the fools pointlessly avoiding wheat.
This bizarre, invented binary initially overlooked a third group of gluten-free eaters: people without celiac disease who still felt that wheat made them sick. Then that group began to grow and became harder to ignore—but rather than being taken seriously about their health, these folks were classed as a subtype of fool. “You’re either allergic to gluten or you’re just being a diva,” the argument went.
When the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) isn’t dishing up fake nutrition news to the public, it makes up fake news to try to discredit dietitians who cross it, say critics. It’s probably no coincidence, that those dietitians support low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diets to treat obesity, diabetes and heart disease and/or criticise Australia’s dietary guidelines and DAA’s food industry links.
Critics say that DAA’s Big Food sponsors don’t like those dietitians either as they affect product sales. In the final of a four-part series on DAA’s conflicts of interest, Foodmed.net looks at the cases of three dietitians who fell foul of DAA and its long-time CEO Claire Hewat. DAA also thought nothing of going after one of the dietitians in another country. It tried and failed to silence a top dietitian academic in New Zealand for her views on LCHF.
Hewat flatly denies that LCHF or its industry links had anything to do with actions against the dietitians below. Here, Foodmed.net looks at whether that claim stands up to scrutiny.
A firestorm recently erupted over a paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine that found official advice limiting sugar in diets to be based on “low” or “very low” quality evidence. Because a food-industry group had funded the study, a slew of critics accused the authors of distorting the science to undermine nutrition guidelines and make sugar seem less harmful than it actually is. One prominent nutrition professor called the paper “shameful.” “It was really an attempt to undermine the scientific process,” said another.
Lost in this torrent of criticism was any significant discussion of the science itself. Regardless of its funding source, was the paper correct in saying that there is insufficient evidence to recommend limiting sugar? And do official guidelines even matter, since we pretty much know that sugar is bad for us?
Virtually all doctors agree that elevated insulin resistance is very bad for human health, being the root cause of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. So, if it is so bad, why do we all develop it in the first place? How can such a mal-adaptive process be so ubiquitous?
As of 2015, over 50% of the American population has diabetes or pre-diabetes. This stunning statistic means that there are more people in the United States with pre-diabetes or diabetes than without it. It’s the new normal. Why does it develop it so frequently? There must be some protective purpose to it since our bodies are not designed to fail. Humans have lived for millennia before the modern diabesity epidemic. How can insulin resistance be protective?
You can discover many things by taking a different perspective. The golden rule states “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” A well-known quote says, “Before you judge me, walk a mile in my shoes”. In both cases, the key to success is change perspective. Invert (turn upside down) your perspective, and see how your horizons are immensely broadened. So let’s look at the development of insulin resistance from the opposite angle. Let’s not consider why insulin resistance is bad, but rather, why it is good.
BRIAN NOSEK HAD pretty much given up on finding a funder. For two years he had sent out grant proposals for his software project. And for two years they had been rejected again and again—which was, by 2011, discouraging but not all that surprising to the 38-year-old scientist. An associate professor at the University of Virginia, Nosek had made a name for himself in a hot subfield of social psychology, studying people’s unconscious biases. But that’s not what this project was about. At least, not exactly.
Like a number of up-and-coming researchers in his generation, Nosek was troubled by mounting evidence that science itself—through its systems of publication, funding, and advancement—had become biased toward generating a certain kind of finding: novel, attention grabbing, but ultimately unreliable. The incentives to produce positive results were so great, Nosek and others worried, that some scientists were simply locking their inconvenient data away.
Over the past half-century, the rate of obesity in America has nearly tripled, while the incidence of diabetes has increased roughly seven-fold. It’s estimated that the direct health care costs related to obesity and diabetes in the United States is $1 billion a day, while economists have calculated the indirect costs to society of these epidemics at over $1 trillion a year.
In recent years, some researchers have focused on the particular role refined sugar may play in these epidemics. Perhaps the most comprehensive analysis of this research has been put forth by the science journalist, Gary Taubes, author of the recent book, “The Case Against Sugar.” I spoke with Taubes about his research and what people should know about sugar to make better choices in their diets.
David Bornstein: What’s the essence of the case against sugar?
Gary Taubes: To understand the case against sugar, using a criminal justice metaphor, you have to understand the crimes committed: epidemics of diabetes and obesity worldwide. Wherever and whenever a population transitions from its traditional diet to a Western diet and lifestyle, we see dramatic increases in obesity, and diabetes goes from being a relatively rare disorder to a common one. One in 11 Americans now has diabetes. In some populations, one in three or four adults have diabetes. Stunning numbers.
So why sugar? Well, for starters, recent increases in sugar consumption are always at the scene of the crime on a population-wide level when these epidemics occur. And sugar is also at the scene of the crime biologically, and it’s got the mechanism necessary. But the evidence is not definitive; what I’m arguing is still a minority viewpoint.