This Sept. 26, 2014 photo shows Nacho Cheese flavored Doritos in Philadelphia. “Artificial and natural flavors” have become ubiquitous terms on food labels, helping create vivid tastes that would otherwise be lost in mass production. As the science behind them advances, however, some are calling for greater transparency about their safety and ingredients. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Give Me a Side of Gluten

By now you’ve probably heard the joke about the vegan, the crossfitter, and a gluten-free person walking into the bar. We know they did because they told everyone in the first 30 seconds.

Obviously for those individuals with what is called celiac disease, avoiding gluten helps them escape painful intestinal discomfort. And for the rest of us – the majority of people who don’t have that disease – hearing about gluten has become a way of life. As Jimmy Fallon puts it, “It’s been discovered that 1% of the population is allergic to gluten, and 99% of the population is sick of hearing about it.”

But here’s a bit of gluten news that doesn’t fit the typical narrative that puts the dietary element in the same category as Hitler, Congress, and the antichrist:

According to a study from the Harvard Medical School published in this week’s issue of The BMJ, gluten free diets aren’t doing much for anyone who isn’t suffering from the autoimmune condition where gluten triggers painful inflammation and intestinal damage.


In fact, the new study has deduced that avoiding the storage protein found in rye, barley, and wheat will not lower your risk of heart disease, it may actually pose health concerns.  It advises that avoiding gluten altogether “may be nutritionally suboptimal.”


The study, led by an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, Dr. Andrew Chan, used data from over 100,000 health professionals over the span of 26 years to assess the connection between gluten intake and its relationship with coronary heart disease in individuals.  Findings conclude that eating gluten doesn’t automatically mean adverse health effects. The study states “the promotion of gluten free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged.”

I’m not saying the gluten-free activists are nefarious, but based on the ferocity of their movement I think it’s fair to say that if Dr. Chan and his entire team of researchers are found drowned upside down in a vat of gluten, none of us will be surprised.

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Peter Heck

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