Was I Wrong About Gluten? Part 2 - Critical MAS

Was I Wrong About Gluten? Part 2 - Critical MAS

For those that haven’t read Part 1,
please do so now. In it I describe how I removed gluten from my diet
and experienced positive health benefits. Then I reflected on how I
became sensitive to gluten and how I am in a better position now to
handle small amounts of gluten.

Has the fear of gluten been exaggerated? Is it just one of a long
list of foods that have been demonized unjustly? In the past year there
have been many smart individuals that believe this is the case. The new
wave of gluten defenders seem to be falling into 2 camps.

Diet Recovery / Broken Metabolism

Matt Stone is a fan of using wheat to jump start a metabolism wrecked
by excessive dieting. If someone has a history of food restriction and
has developed unhealthy attitudes about food, then food typically
thought of as “junk food
can be both metabolically and psychologically beneficial. The thinking
here is that by increasing metabolism, so many other health markers move
in a positive direction that total health benefits in spite of the
wheat. Here wheat is used as a convenient tool to solve a greater

I really don’t have much to comment here. It’s an area of health I
know little about, but if one can eat cookies to boost metabolism to
restore health then, why not? It isn’t denying the possible health
issues with gluten, it is about addressing a larger health issue

“It’s only 10%”

The other group of gluten defenders state that Celiac represents just
1% and when you add in those with any gluten intolerances that number
is only 10%. I’ve talked to a local naturopath whose research suggests
that number is 30%. On a recent Robb Wolf podcast with Dr. David Perlmutter MD,
author of Grain Brain, also uses the 30% number. Regardless of the
number, this camp feels that gluten issues have been overstated. As a
side note, I’ve noticed the people in this camp are almost all coming
from a fitness background. They tend to be resilient as do their

When I listened to Evil Sugar Radio Episode 9,
Antonio Valladares and Alan Aragon were mostly dismissive of gluten
issues. Alan shared his research stating that 90-91% of the population
does not have any gluten issues, so therefore gluten is fine and that
projecting these problems out to everyone is absurd.

I have a few problems with the logic here. One is 10% is not a small
number. What if it really is 30%? That is a tremendous number. Something
is going on and even if I wasn’t gluten intolerant, I’d be taking
notice. Why are so many people having so many issues with a food that is
so prevalent? And what does “fine” really mean? Do we know? I have
trouble believing that a food would be harmful to 10% (or 30%), but
beneficial to 90% (or 70%).

Maybe Alan is right and the much of the gluten demonization is about
praying on the insecurities of the fitness culture? God knows they’ve
done it before. For me the numbers are too high to ignore and too many
smart people have raised concerns that in my opinion have not been fully
addressed. Robb Wolf, Paul Jamient, Chris Kresser, and others have gone into great detail why they feel gluten is best avoided.

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs,  and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers is by Dr. David Perlmutter who sat down with Robb Wolf for a podcast interview on the book. The second half of the interview deals with his neurological concerns related to grains.

Moving from 100% GF to 99% GF

As I covered in Part 1, I believe I have to some degree healed my
body’s ability to handle gluten. It took years, but I’m now more resilient.
But just because I’m not showing symptoms when I have soy sauce or 4 oz
of beer, does not mean that I’ve accepted that gluten is beneficial. I

Even if the only benefit I’m receiving from removing gluten these
days is that I’ve replaced those calories with more nutrient dense and
nutrient diverse foods, then that is still a benefit. And if someday we
all learn that gluten was innocent then we can resume eating it at that
time. I doubt that will happen, but I’ll keep an open mind.


  1. Txomin says

    There is a lot of room between making grains the core of one’s
    diet and eliminating them all together. I find that extreme positions
    demand more effort than they are worth. So, unless you have a health
    issue, I say follow a 90/10 or even an 80/20 rule. You will receive more
    benefit/damage from what you choose as your dominant diet than what
    floats on the periphery. And so, my diet is dominated by foodstuffs that
    humans can digest as found (vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats, fish,
    etc). That alone is my bet and so far so.. great, in fact.

  2. says

    @Txomin – Well said. I also suspect traditional methods of grain
    preparation play a significant role in tolerance over a long period.

  3. Not all gluten is created equal.

    I would guess there’s a huge difference between eating a Twinkee and a slice of organic sourdough bread from a artisan baker.

  4. says

    @Glenn – I agree. Thanks for the link you sent me. I think I’m going to one more gluten post.