Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

A little nitpicking in pursuit of scientific literacy

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I was reading this article a couple of weeks ago and was bothered by a couple of minor errors. The article’s kind of all over the place so I wasn’t even sure that I would bother blogging about it but since, as I type this, I’m at the airport waiting for my delayed flight to arrive I figured that I may as well.

Issue #1:

In 2015, nearly 13% of U.S. households experienced food insecurity (the current term for “hunger”). Many more are forced to rely on poor-quality foods that lead to obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Well, actually food insecurity is much more complex than “hunger” and people who cannot afford adequate, nutritious food very often fall into that group of people experiencing food insecurity. For a nice concise one-pager about food insecurity, check out this factsheet from Dietitians of Canada. Also, obviously, just because someone is hungry doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re experiencing food insecurity. Food insecurity is a result of inadequate income; not a strenuous workout or a light lunch.

Issue #2:

none of the flour available to consumers is ground from GMO grains.

While genetically modified wheat is not commercially available, corn flour would often be produced from GM corn. Many gluten-free flours contain ingredients such as sugar beets that are genetically modified.

Issue #3:

Gluten-free is very popular right now, but even if you are one of the 1% of Americans with celiac disease, marketers are fooling you. Whole Foods sells “gluten-free” baby shampoo. First, please don’t eat baby shampoo. Second, gluten is a protein found in wheat. Meats, cheeses and personal care products don’t normally have wheat in them.

Actually, many shampoos and other personal care products do contain wheat. For children who have celiac disease or who are following a ketogenic diet for epilepsy, their doctors may advise parents to ensure all such products are gluten-free to err on the side of caution. Kids are curious, many of them will put soap in their mouths, or eat shampoo bubbles. I don’t think making cautious parents feel foolish is helpful. Maybe that’s just me though. Whole meats and cheeses do not contain gluten but breadings or sauces may contaminate these foods, pre-shredded cheese may have flour added to prevent clumping, and some cheeses are cultured on gluten-containing grains.

Aside from these issues, I agree with the author’s assertion that food-borne illness is a real concern. I think that this will continue to grow as we see a decreasing number of manufacturers producing an increasing amount of our food. We should also avoid food fads and endeavour to improve our scientific literacy.

 

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

4 thoughts on “A little nitpicking in pursuit of scientific literacy

  1. Wow – you clarify a few things in this article I would’ve liked agreed with, especially gluten in shampoo. Unfortunately, a lot of products seem to be labelled gluten-free as much for marketing as anything. I think especially with the GMO Free Project – everything seems to be getting a label these days which makes me wonder, is there a traceability process behind the scenes that actually validates the product isn’t in contact with another GM product? Same with the case of gluten-free. If it gets slapped on for marketing purposes without being validated behind the scenes. I don’t know if that’s possible?

    Anyway, the other technicality I would point out to this author is that plants do contain hormones. They’re not added by people, which is what we talk about when we talk about growth-promoting hormones in livestock, but they are naturally occurring in plants in different levels just as they are in humans and in animals. So a “hormone-free plant” in that sense, likely does not exist.

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    • Good point about the hormones! Also raises the point that all animal products will contain hormones naturally as well.

      I agree that gluten free has gotten a little out of hand. It can also seem ridiculous when it’s on products that would never contain gluten (like orange juice). It’s the same thing as all the marketing for things like cholesterol free frozen french fries or peanut butter and helps to hammer home the need for better food and scientific literacy.

      You’re right, there’s no organization overseeing the labelling of products as gluten free. It’s all down to the manufacturer. Gluten-free watchdog (in the US) will test products if customers suspect that they are contaminated. I’m not sure how the CFIA would respond to customer concerns. I presume that they would contact the manufacturer and test the product themselves.

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  2. When I saw that my laundry detergent was labeled Natural and Gluten-Free I thought it was evidence that this food trend is now fully engrained into society. So much that marketers are putting these labels on anything and everything they can to entice us into believing their products are better.

    It never crossed my mind that celiac children eating cleaning products could be in more danger if it contains gluten vs the normal dangers of consuming soaps and detergents.

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    • Well, I’d say it’s advisable that no one of any age eat laundry detergent or cleaning products, regardless of gluten content. However, where there is the possibility that a product could be ingested (e.g. baby shampoo, hand lotion, or lipstick) for those who cannot consume gluten it’s beneficial to have gluten free labels.

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