Monday, May 19, 2014

I couldn't stomach 'Grain Brain'

A few months ago in my Times-Union column, I took a look at the popular book "Wheat Belly."

I've been saying for the last three years that there is no reason to go on a gluten-free diet unless you have celiac disease or some other type of gluten intolerance, and I kept getting e-mails from people saying I'm completely wrong and I need to read "Wheat Belly."

So, I read the book and found that it basically says the same thing I do about the gluten-free diet.  You can decide for yourself is wheat is bad for everyone (it's certainly a debatable point) but "Wheat Belly" author William Davis does say in his book that gluten-free alternatives to wheat are not necessarily healthy. That's exactly my point about the gluten-free diet.

Which brings me to the latest fad book, "Grain Brain." This book by neurologist David Perlmutter argues that grains are bad for your brain.
People started telling me that I need to read "Grain Brain," so I put my name on the waiting list at the library and finally got it and tried to read it this weekend. I couldn't get past page 51, where Perlmutter wrote about celiac disease.

His facts were so wrong that I couldn't come up with any reason to read any further, because I have no faith in him at all.

First of all, before page 51, he was writing about getting his patients tested for gluten intolerance. The problem is, there is no test for non-celiac gluten intolerance. If you want to know more about that, read this entry from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

Then there's this long paragraph on celiac disease that actually starts on page 50:

To quote from the book: "although many experts estimate that 1 in every 200 people has celiac disease, this is a conservative calculation."

No, most expects say 1 in 133 have celiac -- wait, let me correct that -- EVERY expert says it is 1 in 133, which is based on a comprehensive study. It's not a guess.

To continue from the book, "the number is probably closer to 1 in 30, since so many individuals remain undiagnosed."

No, many of the 1 in 133 are undiagnosed. That's the issue.

To continue, "as many as one in four people are vulnerable to the disease due to genetics alone... what's more, people can carry genes that code for mild versions of gluten intolerance, giving rise to a wide spectrum of gluten sensitivity."

No, the actual expects (the ones that use the 1 in 133 stat) say there is no genetic marker for gluten intolerance.

If you're comfortable with his ignorance of celiac disease, fine, go ahead and read "Grain Brain." I can't stomach it.

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