Gluten sensitivity: Fact or fad?

Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 @ 11:30 AM
Updated: Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 2:47 PM

Move over fat, salt, and sugar. There’s a new dietary villain in town and its name is gluten.

Scan the grocery aisles and it’s impossible to miss the proliferation of products proclaiming that they are “gluten-free.”

Pick up a magazine or go online and you are likely to read about yet another celebrity or athlete who has banished gluten from their diet.

By one estimate, as many as 18 million Americans have some degree of gluten sensitivity, but a new analysis raises questions about the claim and the benefits of a gluten-free diet for most people.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye, and barley that is commonly found in bread, beer, pasta, and a wide range of other processed foods containing these grains.

For about 1% of the population, eating gluten causes celiac disease, an intestinal condition characterized by the inability to absorb nutrients from food.

Celiac disease is diagnosed through blood and bowel tests, but there are no good tests to determine non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and there has been considerable debate about whether the condition even exists.

In their essay published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Celiac researchers Antonio Di Sabatino, MD, and Gino Roberto Corazza, MD, of Italy’s University of Pavia, explored what is and is not known about gluten sensitivity and addressed the growing hype about the benefits of gluten-free eating.

“Claims [about gluten-free diets] seem to increase daily, with no adequate scientific support to back them up,” they write. “This clamor has increased and moved from the Internet to the popular press, where gluten has become the new diet villain.”

Gluten may not be to blame

The researchers noted that many symptoms attributed to gluten may actually be caused by sensitivity to other components of wheat flour or other ingredients found in wheat-based foods like bread, pasta, and breakfast cereals.

Symptoms that have been attributed to gluten sensitivity include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, bloating, headaches, fatigue, and even those associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Di Sabatino and Corazza write that some people may experience these symptoms when they eat foods containing gluten simply because they believe these foods will make them sick.

They conclude that common sense must prevail to “prevent a gluten preoccupation from evolving into the conviction that gluten is toxic for most of the population.”

'Gluten-free here to stay'

Pediatric gastroenterologist Alessio Fasano, MD, runs the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland.

Fasano tells WebMD that his own research suggests that 5% to 6% of the population -- about 18 million Americans -- has some degree of gluten sensitivity.

While he concedes that many people who may not benefit have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon, he says many others who do not have celiac disease or wheat allergies still benefit from following a gluten-free diet.

That is what many food manufacturers are likely counting on, with Anheuser-Busch, Kellogg’s, General Mills, and many others now promoting “gluten-free” versions of some of their best-selling products.

“I believe the fad of the gluten-free diet will not last,” he says. “But because there are many, many people who are truly gluten-sensitive and sick, the diet will not go away, either.”

Diet can be dangerous, expert says

Stefano Guandalini, MD, who is president of the North American Society for the Study of Celiac Disease, says the true prevalence of gluten sensitivity probably will not be known until biologic indicators exist to diagnose the disorder.

He adds that one very real danger of following a gluten-free diet is eating too much fat and too little fiber.

Guandalini is medical director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.

“Someone who needs to be on a gluten-free diet and is closely monitored can benefit tremendously from it,” he says. “But for everyone else, embracing this diet makes no sense.”

© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Doctor: Popular charcoal masks could cause permanent skin damage

Published: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 3:47 PM

A popular “do-it-yourself” charcoal mask that has been trending all over the internet could cause serious damage to your skin, according to a dermatologist.

"It might be dangerous if you like all three layers of your skin," Dr. Seth Forman, a dermatologist in Tampa, Florida, said in an interview with WFTS

Many people have taken to YouTube to show users the painful process of peeling off the charcoal mask. Many of these products are sold from “unregulated vendors,” WFTS reports. Forman said that some of these products are mixed with a foreign charcoal powder and super glue, and will “most likely” be illegal soon. 

If certain layers of skin are peeled off, it can lead to scarring and infection “especially when you get down to the second layer (of skin),” according to WFTS

The good news is that there is a large variety of FDA approved facial masks that are safe, Forman said.

WATCH: Young girl left temporarily paralyzed illustrates dangers of tick bites

Published: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 @ 4:49 PM

A 3-year-old girl in Oregon awoke on May 13 to find herself unable to stand or use her arms.

>> Read more trending news 

Evelyn Lewis’ mother, Amanda Lewis, filmed her daughter’s failed attempts to stand with help from her husband. 

WGHP reported that the parents took Evelyn to the emergency room, where a doctor discovered a small but dangerous reason for her condition.

After combing through Evelyn’s hair, the doctor discovered a tick, diagnosing her with a condition called “tick paralysis.”

“The doctor talked to us for a minute and said over the past 15 years he had seen about seven or eight children her age with identical symptoms and more than likely she had a tick,” Amanda Lewis wrote on Facebook. “It can affect dogs also and can be fatal. I’m glad we took her in when we did and that it wasn’t something worse and that we found it before it got worse.”

According to the American Lyme Disease Foundation, tick paralysis attacks a person’s muscles and results in symptoms like muscle pains and numbness of the legs. These begin after a tick has attached itself to a host, generally on the scalp.

>> Related: Rare tick-borne illness worries some medical professionals

Fortunately, Evelyn is now doing much better, as her mother wrote on Facebook that she “is now pretty much completely back to her feisty little self. She complains a lot about her head itching but otherwise, she’s just fine.”

Related

Here’s how much fruit juice children should drink, according to new guidelines

Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 12:19 PM



KidStock/Getty Images/Blend Images

Next time you're grocery shopping for your kids, think twice before adding a carton of fruit juice to your basket. The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidelines on all juices, advising parents to pull back on how much they serve their little ones.

» Related: What Atlanta dietitians feed their kids 

Previous recommendations said parents should wait to give their babies juice until after six months, but its latest update is suggesting that they wait one year. 

In fact, infants should only be fed breast milk or infant formula for the first six months. After six months, moms and dads can then introduce fruit to their diet, but not fruit juice. 

>> Read more trending news

“Parents may perceive fruit juice as healthy, but it is not a good substitute for fresh fruit and just packs in more sugar and calories,” said Melvin B. Heyman, MD, FAAP, co-author of the statement. “Small amounts in moderation are fine for older kids, but are absolutely unnecessary for children under 1.”

» Related: Should we slap a tax on sugary drinks? 

Scientists laid out instructions for older children, too. Toddlers who are ages 1 to 4 should only have one cup of fruit a day. Four ounces of that can come from 100 percent fruit juice, but it should be pasteurized and not labeled “drink,” “beverage” or cocktail.” 

For children ages 4 to 6, fruit juice intake shouldn't exceed four to six ounces a day. 

The amount increases just slightly for children ages 7 to 18. They can have up to two and a half cups of fruit servings, but only eight ounces of it should be juice. 

Top 15 crusaders for health in America's food industry

Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 @ 10:59 PM
Updated: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 @ 10:59 PM

Wondering how this year's list stacks up against the last? Check out Top 15 Crusaders for Health in the Food Industry 2012.

Amongst all the junk food commercials and donut sandwiches, there are a handful of health heroes. These aren’t just people who eat organic greens for lunch and free-range eggs for dinner; they’re moving and shaking the way we think about our food, including where it comes from, the implications it has on our environment, and what our meals mean for our bodies. Here, we recognize 15 superstars (in no particular order) that have devoted themselves to improving American’s relationship with food.

 

1. Marion Nestle
Nestle has got her hand in nearly every facet of America’s food industry. Her blog, Food Politics, covers topics from nutrition and biology to health policy and food marketing. She’s been teaching nutrition for nearly four decades and currently teaches sociology, food studies, and public health at NYU. Nestle is the author of many books, but her latest — “Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics” — is all about understanding the intersection of health and food amidst all the mass marketing and misinformation put forth by major food manufacturers. Currently, Nestle updates her blog regularly and presents at universities and conferences on topics such as genetically modified foods and the role food companies play in our food system. (Photo: www.foodpolitics.com)

 

2. Michael Pollan
As one of the foremost activists for change in the overwrought food industry, Pollan is an outspoken and often controversial figure in the food and farming space. Though probably best known for his book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” (which hung out on The New York Times Bestseller list for more than three years), Pollan has continued to write. In his most recent book, “Cooked”, Pollan explores how cooking connects us to plants, animals, farmers, and culture (amongst other things). (Photo by Ken Light)

 

3. Michelle Obama
After launching the Let’s Move! campaign at the start of 2010, the First Lady has made healthifying America’s eating habits (especially for kids) her job. The ultimate goal is to eliminate childhood obesity and help kids live healthier lives with good food and a little extra physical activity. This year, Obama held the second annual “Healthy Lunchtime Challenge,” where she asked children ages eight to 12 to whip up nutritious, tasty, and affordable recipes. Unfortunately, we weren’t invited to the White House kids’ “State Dinner” with the winner of this year’s challenge. (Photo: www.whitehouse.gov)

 

4. Mark Bittman
As an author and New York Times writer,Bittman likes to weigh in on what’s wrong with the American diet. A part-time veganhimself, Bittman is an advocate for the “flexitarian” diet — which means eating vegan during the day, but allowing for more flexible consumption after 6 pm. His super popular book, “How to Cook Everything”, is a go-to resource for basic kitchen skills. Not only does he push for humans to stay healthy, Bittman relentlessly encourages us to keep the environment happy and healthy, too. Oh, and in his spare time, he runsmarathons(Photo: www.markbittman.com)

 

5. Mike Bloomberg
As the mayor of New York City, Bloombergtakes his role seriously, making waves in the name of public health. From smoking bans tosoda bans, Bloomberg’s initiatives aren’t without controversy and backlash. Passionate about combating obesity, he’s pushed for salad bars and healthier menus in school cafeterias. Plus, he’s managed to eliminate trans fats from tons of restaurant items, and make it mandatory for chain restaurants to clearly post calorie counts on menus. We’re excited to see what goals Bloomberg sets (and reaches) next. (Photo: www.nyc.gov)

 
For the full list of 2013's top health crusaders in the food industry, go to Greatist.com.