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How The Gluten Free Diet of Celebrities Could Harm Public Opinion

Celiac.com 02/03/2014 - It shouldn't be a surprise that there are celebrities who are jumping on the bandwagon of the "gluten-free" diet for no reason other than it seems to be a fashionable trend. I don't doubt that there are some celebrities who have actually found benefit and may sincerely suffer from Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance, or worse, celiac disease. For the most part though, I am convinced they have decided to use the gluten-free diet as a method of avoiding pastas, breads, pizzas, and excess carbohydrates in order to lose weight.

Photo: CC--StarblindKingAs we all know, adhering to a gluten-free diet is a mandatory thing for people with celiac disease or intolerance to gluten. It is a prescribed diet that helps those afflicted with the disease live a better quality of life, a healthier life, and therefore a more productive life.

Thanks to the gluten-free diet's following by celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Victoria Beckham, it has also been linked to people who use it to simply "lose weight" and "look good." In fact, Miss Cyrus recently used the gluten-free diet as a defense when she was questioned as to whether her ultra-slim figure was actually the ill-effects of a possible eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia (After all, if looking so thin that people assume you have an eating disorder doesn't mean that the gluten-free diet works on weight loss, then what does? Just another example of how Americans tend to look at nutrition for its face-value instead of health. But I digress…).

There are definitely advantages to getting celebrity buy-in to the gluten-free-lifestyle. In fact, it is very possible that in a way, celebrities have shed light on the existence of such a thing called the "gluten-free diet" in a way the medical community just cannot. By association with a celebrity, the term "gluten-free" has made its way into common nomenclature found in groceries, restaurants, bakeries and even households.

So, how can this be a bad thing for people who medically NEED to follow a gluten-free diet?

Very simply, by a celebrity's choosing to promote the gluten-free diet as a weight-loss plan or weight maintenance program, they do harm by trivializing the importance of the lifestyle for so many Americans who suffer from celiac disease, Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance, or even wheat allergies. When they promote it as a lifestyle CHOICE associated with the maintenance of their size zero frames, there is the great possibility that the general public will misinterpret the "diet" as a fad or trend much like Atkins, Sonoma, or any other diet-of-the-day. Therefore, the people you trust to prepare or serve your food (servers, chefs, bakers, or even friends and family) might be less apt to be overly cautious when preparing and serving your gluten-free meal. 

There is an inherent danger in leading the general public to believe that this is a diet of CHOICE and not necessity for so many… up to 6%... of the American population.  It's not that most people aren't trying to provide gluten-free meals to those of us who require them--it's just that there is a danger that our servers, chefs, and friends become less concerned with trying to meet the completely gluten-free standard that someone who medically needs the diet is aiming to achieve. After all, it is very unlikely that someone who follows the diet to be on-trend with Miley or Gwyneth is ever going to call someone out on using malt flavoring in a dessert, or the wheat-laden seasoning blend used in a sauce--because it doesn't affect them in the same way. 

Then again…maybe they'll gain a pound overnight and they WILL call them out for using hidden gluten. We can only hope.

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7 Responses:

 
Sarah Esterkyn
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said this on
10 Feb 2014 11:58:59 AM PST
Thank you for this thought-provoking article. I have been concerned about this issue, because while rising awareness about gluten has made gluten-free products more widely available, the misconception that the gluten-free diet is a choice rather than a necessity is trivializing a serious medical condition. I have heard snide remarks, seen eye rolls, and read snarky statements equating the gluten-free diet with being a childishly picky eater or a spoiled, entitled princess. It is not conducive to getting people to take celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity seriously!

 
Blue
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said this on
10 Feb 2014 6:03:42 PM PST
I say "amen" to this article. As someone with a loved one with celiac disease, this does tend to be a problem. I love that GF has been brought to the forefront. I just wish that others knew that this is not a choice...it can actually be life and death.

 
Laurie K
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said this on
11 Feb 2014 4:32:13 AM PST
I disagree. I saw an interview with Gwyneth Paltrow who said that her gluten free diet stemmed from having a child with a gluten intolerance. It's just much easier to have the whole household off gluten if one member can't have it.
Also, I think that these celebrities making a gluten free diet so popular has prompted the food manufacturers to come out with gluten free versions of their products. I understand that Pillsbury and Dunkin' Donuts are working on it now.

 
celiacMom
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said this on
11 Feb 2014 7:28:23 AM PST
YES! I've been saying the same thing for a while. Same trend that has some restaurants adding "gluten-free" items to their menus with an asterisk that says they cannot garantee the food is actually gluten free. Who is going to eat that food if not the folks that follow gluten free diet as a trend?!

 
someone with Celiac
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said this on
17 Feb 2014 4:35:37 AM PST
So true!!! What makes them believe that cross contamination in their kitchen should destroy my life?
They would never consider putting raw chicken on a counter and then lettuce on the same counter because it makes people sick. But for those with celiac disease, we are somehow less than valued and are expected to have cross contamination if we are PAYING for a meal.

 
someone with Celiac
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said this on
17 Feb 2014 4:32:49 AM PST
“It is a prescribed diet that helps those afflicted with the disease live a better quality of life, a healthier life, and therefore a more productive life.”

I have celiac. I have to follow the diet to live. Eating gluten nearly killed me. I still have chronic pain from the severe damage from eating gluten.
What you have written above tends to minimize the dangerous risks of celiac. These statements, “better quality of life”, “a healthier life”, and therefore “a more productive life” all imply that some quality of life can be found while eating gluten.

It’s actually trivializing the importance of the lifestyle for so many Americans who suffer from celiac disease.

I have had friends actually quote such as proof that my strict adherence to a gluten free diet is making a mountain out of a molehill because I am just trying to live “better” than others.

We have to be careful to use our own words as carefully as we expect others to live their lives.

 
justneguy
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said this on
24 Feb 2014 8:36:26 AM PST
Amen is right BLUE! As a recently diagnosed celiac, I've found the most painful aspect is people not taking it seriously - particularly wait staff and kitchen help (when eating out). I think they think it's just a "fad" diet thing, and they look at you like, "oh, good lord, another one." I think to one waiter I had used the term "celiac" and they looked at me like I had 3 heads. It has been my biggest challenge and so I avoid eating out - as much as possible, as I've been "glutened" by sauces or cross-contamination from the cooking surfaces in the kitchen.




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