The Gluten Lie: And Other Myths About What We Eat – A Review

Alan Levinovitz is an assistant professor of Religious Studies at James Madison University, Virginia.

His book, The Gluten Lie: And Other Myths About What We Eat, “takes on bestselling physicians and dietitians, exposing the myths behind how we come to believe which foods are good and which are bad—and pointing the way to a truly healthful life, free from the anxiety of what we eat.”

Whilst the book was fascinating in describing how easily it is for society to be deluded about food issues, the book adds several misconceptions of its own.

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Dairy, Gluten and Autism

Autism is defined by a set of behaviours. Key symptoms are: an extreme introversion; social indifference; stereotyped repetitive behaviours; language problems; problems with hygiene; temper tantrums; in some cases hyperactivity; irrational fears; decreased but fluctuating insensitivity to pain.

At 2010, the rate of autism at age 8 was 14.7 per 1,000 which is 1 in 68. Boys are 4.5 times more likely to be affected than girls—rate for boys is 1 in 42 compared with 1 in 189 for girls.

Rates of autism have been rising dramatically. The 2010 rate is: 29% higher than the preceding estimate of 1 in 88 children in 2008;  64% higher than the 2006 estimate of 1 in 110 children; 123% higher than the 2002 estimate of 1 in 150 children.

Black children are affected at a rate 14% higher than Hispanic children and white children affected 45% more than Hispanic children.

The association of autism with severe gastrointestinal problems has been documented since the 1990s.

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The A2 Milk Story

The hypothesis that A2 milk was protective of type 1 diabetes originated with a paper published in 1992. Robert Elliott observed much lower rates of type 1 diabetes amongst Polynesian children that were raised on the Polynesian islands compared with those raised in Auckland. This was attributed to the differences in the β-casein profile.

Elliott was the lead author of a conference paper that examined the effects of feeding casein to non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice. The conclusion was that “the induction of diabetes by casein in the NOD mouse appears to be restricted to casein containing the A1 variant of beta-casein”.

The marketing potential of such a discovery could be enormous.

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The Nature of Food Allergies

Food allergies have become a major concern with parents, health practitioners and school administrators. However, the estimates of prevalence of allergies varies widely.

A commonly accepted definition is an “adverse immune response that occurs reproducibly on exposure to a given food and is distinct from other adverse responses to food, such as food intolerance, pharmacologic reactions, and toxin-mediated reactions.”

However, most people are not going to make such a fine distinction between food allergy and food intolerance. Non-celiac gluten-sensitivity (NCGS) does not cause an IgE response so with this definition it not classed as a food allergy.

Dairy, in particular, cow’s milk and gluten, wheat and grains are commonly avoided as a result of concerns about food allergies.

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