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    Why All the Hate for Gluten-free Celebrities?


    Jefferson Adams
    Image Caption: Photo: CC--daniel oines

    Celiac.com 09/11/2015 - At Celiac.com, we're generally of the opinion that any publicity about celiac disease and gluten sensitivity is good publicity. We've always believed that the less people know about celiac disease, the more those who have it are at risk.


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    Photo: CC--daniel oines

    Undoubtedly gluten-free celebrities are bringing a huge awareness to celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, and this has lead not only to increased awareness of the disease, but also may have directly contributed to lowering the overall risk for those of us who have it by vastly increasing the number of people who are on the gluten-free diet. This has ultimately led to an explosion in the number, variety and availability of gluten-free products. 

    Interestingly, articles about gluten-free celebrities have prompted some our strongest and most vocal backlash. The main thrust of many of these negative comments seems to be the idea that the seriousness of their own celiac disease will somehow be adulterated by celebrities who "come out" about the gluten-free diet but don't actually have celiac disease. Somehow they believe that this could lead to others not taking the diet seriously enough, or there is the belief by some that these celebrities just want to make a buck off of those who need to be on the diet.

    A partial list of some noteworthy celebrities and athletes who reportedly follow a gluten-free diet due to celiac disease, gluten-intolerance, or other reasons include: news host Keith Olbermann, actor Billy Bob Thornton, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, Katherine, Dutchess of Kent, pro quarterback Drew Brees, news anchor Heidi Collins, Katherine, Dutchess of Kent, news host Keith Olbermann, actor and writer Billie Bob Thornton, author Sarah Vowell, and actresses Zooey Deschanel, Susie Essman, Jennifer Esposito, Goldie Hahn, Gwyneth Paltrow, Emily Rossum, and Rachel Weisz.

    We've mentioned a few of them in articles over the years, and boy have we gotten some spirited responses. Here are a few:

    The above article prompted this comment:

    • "I'm very surprised celiac.com would promote this kind of stuff on their site. Celebrities going gluten free does not help our cause. It just diminishes it."

    We've selected some of our favorites comments for your reading pleasure. Celebrities who've drawn the ire of our readers include Lady Gaga, about whom one reader wrote: 

    • "Great. One more celebrity jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon 'to lose weight'. This doesn't help establish credibility for the celiacs who truly need to follow a gluten-free diet."

    While another wrote:

    • "It is very aggravating when there is publicity for a notorious star on a gluten-free diet without good reason. I think it trivializes the serious medical problem of celiac disease. This needs to be recognized as the dangerous condition it is and the diet needs to be followed for life. This is NOT A FAD DIET!"

    Our article about good old Gwyneth Paltrow caused one reader to write:

    • "Paltrow - not my cup of tea. Nose in the air and head - we need better examples of celebrity concern and involvement."

    One reader took particular exception to the idea that Novak Djokovic occasionally breaks his gluten-free diet:

    • "He is a disgrace to the gluten-free diet. Go on Youtube and search Novak Djokovic Interview On Live With Regis & Kelly 09-13-2011 watch from 4.35 where he admits he still eats gluten. Thanks to celebs like him celiac disease is seen as a joke!"

    Elizabeth Hasselbeck doesn't fare much better, sparking one reader to comment that:

    • "Elizabeth Hasselbeck is trying to get attention. Her story is no different than thousand of others."

    When actress Charlize Theron called BS on gluten-free diet faddists, our readers wrote:

    • "Stop giving airtime to people who have obviously not done their research and/ or do not know how to read and interpret scientific studies."

    And:

    • "Charlize has a real potty-mouth, and is not overly bright. Does she think that gluten free means sugar free, since she blasted the cupcake for not having sugar. I don't believe actors are medical experts, just because they are popular. And I sure wouldn't take any advice or change my diet on their say-so."

    More than a few readers commented on our article entitled Jimmy Kimmel Skewers Clueless Gluten-free Dieters, including one who wrote:

    • "Why is gluten intolerance or coeliac disease supposed to be hilariously funny and only something that hypochondriacs obsess about? At least most of these people showed some awareness of what foods contain gluten, I do not see that it matters much if they cannot give a scientific definition."

    Another reader agrees, noting:

    • "this is no 'joke' to those who have the slightest crumb and get very, very ill. Everyone is affected differently, but I wouldn't wish those cramps and the pain on my worst enemy."

    Practically the only celebrity to come out of a gluten-free celebrity article unscathed was The Daily Show's Jon Stewart.

    We did get overwhelmingly favorable comments about Jon Stewart's handling of the topic of celiac disease, and its effects upon him as a dad.

    Proving perhaps that, if you're a popular celebrity with an accurate, compassionate and serious message about celiac disease, people probably won't hate you.

    Oh, and then there is Chelsea Clinton. If you count Chelsea Clinton as a celebrity, then it's fair to mention that folks had nice things to say about her gluten-free wedding cake.


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    Anytime attention is brought to celiac disease and gluten-free diet it's a good thing. I don't care why vast amounts of gluten-free products have flooded the market and options available in restaurants have skyrocketed. I am just glad our gluten-free daughter has wonderful options! If celebrity attention to the gluten-free diet has contributed to increased awareness, who cares! This isn't a contest folks.

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    Guest G Harrison

    Posted

    I always thought that those who were critical of celebrities who have gone gluten free were part of some wheat producers' conspiracy. The more people who are gluten free, the easier it is for me to find cheaper gluten options. I have no idea why someone who has had their symptoms relieved by avoiding gluten would be critical of someone else, whatever their reason for doing it.

     

    When I was diagnosed, my doctor suggested that I go to a celiac association meeting to learn more about it. My chapter included a section on gluten intolerance and told those in the room that if they had symptoms that were relieved by avoiding gluten, that it was likely they were intolerant and should avoid gluten. It sounded like common sense to me.

     

    But it isn't just celebrities. I recently had dinner with a celiac who talked about other celiacs as though they were hypochondriacs. Being one, I was a bit irritated by this, as she threw around comments like the ones attributed above (about celebrities), to everyone else who avoids gluten.

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    Thank you Deena & G Harrison! I totally agree. I cannot stand when people criticize a celebrity or other media source for bringing more publicity and awareness of celiac & gluten intolerance. It's ridiculous! Count your blessings people! There is SO much more awareness now than there was before, SO many more resources, and best of all, SO many MORE gluten-free products available! These people that have an issue with that are negative martyrs. I truly believe that wheat & gluten are terrible for anyone to ingest. Not just people with Celiac or gluten intolerance. I would love to see it become less & less prevalent so there is less risk of exposure & so that our society as a whole is more healthy overall. Please people, get your priorities straight!

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    This argument reminds me of the attitudes towards vegetarians in the 70s and 80s. People make judgments based on little knowledge, not helped by newspaper articles which are based on judgments with little knowledge. Irresponsible, poor journalism, plus perhaps a smidgen of bias engendered by the lobbying of those with vested interest in the loss of sales of relevant products.

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    Guest Caroline

    Posted

    It's been 2 1/2yrs since I was diagnosed and in that time I have seen lots of choices become available for myself and fellow celiacs. I, my friends also, know what to look for on labels thanks to more awareness. Oh and sometimes you just gotta lighten up- laugh and just carry on doing what's best for you. You can always explain what celiac is to those who don't know, again thanks to awareness- oh and Celiac.com

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    It's such a double edged sword, to have celebrities involved in this publicly, just as with other health issues. On one hand, it's great that they bring any kind of awareness to a condition or disease that helps others-before more celebrities became vocal about it, the stores and restaurants in my area had zero dedicated gluten free items, I just had to examine everything I picked up so closely before I tried it, which translated to huge chunks of time being spent just trying to find things I could safely eat, taking all the fun out of cooking and all the enjoyment out of eating. On the other hand, not all publicity is good publicity, and not all viewers view things with an objective eye, instead only seeing what they want to see. In some cases what people see is that those who must have a gluten free diet are just picky eaters, or are trying the latest diet trend. They only see those celebrities who make it seem that way, and conclude we are all that way. Like the local baker or carry-out establishment I'd love to patronize, but cannot because they think it's just a passing fad, so they do not after years, decades, offer a single gluten free item. Or the chains like Starbucks, who discontinued their one gluten free offering I could eat, because the franchisees never advertised they had anything gluten free, then when nobody bought it because nobody knew they had it, they stopped making it. Because, they thought it was a fad, or worse didn't know of its importance to a large segment of the population.

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    The only celebrity listed there I know for sure has celiac disease is Elisabeth Hasselbeck. She is not promoting gluten-free simply because it is trendy or a fad diet, but is sharing what her experience has been with the condition. It doesn't make sense to criticize her. But no doubt, often the real reason she takes heat and gets pounded is because she is a conservative and on FNC.

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    Guest Mary Hopkins

    Posted

    I don't think those of us with celiac should look a gift horse in the mouth. Granted, celebrities going gluten free won't raise awareness of the disease but it doesn't diminish it either. The real benefit is in the reaction from the food industry. For instance, when General Mills recently introduced gluten free Cheerios, the company stated that it made the move because 1% of the population has celiac and 30% is avoiding gluten in their diet. My guess is that if it weren't for that 30% - Cheerios and other foods would not be gluten free. So for that, I say thank you.

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    Thanks for writing this Scott! I advocate the mantra: 'Let us eat food that makes us feel good without judgement, thank you.'

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    I don't think those of us with celiac should look a gift horse in the mouth. Granted, celebrities going gluten free won't raise awareness of the disease but it doesn't diminish it either. The real benefit is in the reaction from the food industry. For instance, when General Mills recently introduced gluten free Cheerios, the company stated that it made the move because 1% of the population has celiac and 30% is avoiding gluten in their diet. My guess is that if it weren't for that 30% - Cheerios and other foods would not be gluten free. So for that, I say thank you.

    Why would you say that "celebrities going gluten free won't raise awareness of the disease"?? Many people are now aware of both the disease and the diet precisely because certain celebrities they know have celiac disease or went on the gluten-free diet.

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    The only celebrity listed there I know for sure has celiac disease is Elisabeth Hasselbeck. She is not promoting gluten-free simply because it is trendy or a fad diet, but is sharing what her experience has been with the condition. It doesn't make sense to criticize her. But no doubt, often the real reason she takes heat and gets pounded is because she is a conservative and on FNC.

    Most of the negative comments on the Hasselbeck articles we did had nothing to do with her politics, and mostly to do with other issues mentioned here.

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    Guest skammons

    Posted

    The only celebrity listed there I know for sure has celiac disease is Elisabeth Hasselbeck. She is not promoting gluten-free simply because it is trendy or a fad diet, but is sharing what her experience has been with the condition. It doesn't make sense to criticize her. But no doubt, often the real reason she takes heat and gets pounded is because she is a conservative and on FNC.

    I think Zoey Deschanel is celiac too. Or at least Gluten Intolerant.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. He has covered Health News for Examiner.com, and provided health and medical content for Sharecare.com. His work has appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden's Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate, among others.

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