Wheat-Free: the way of the future?

wheat free dietThis blog entry has been inspired by one of my more famous counterparts: Michael Pollan. For those of you who don’t know Michael, he is the author of several well known books: Food Rules, In Defense of Food and the Omnivores Dilemma. You can check out his website here.

This month, Michael wrote an article for the New York Times answering some of the questions he is most often asked by consumers. One question that caught my eye was: ‘What do you think of Gluten-Free Diets’?

I think this question was centred around the high number of people (anecdotally speaking), that profess to having to follow a gluten-free or wheat-free diet. This also coincides with the increase in availability of gluten-free products in our supermarkets and health food stores. It got me thinking. Will we all be going wheat-free over the next 20 years?

Of course, there are some people who have a genuine health concern related to wheat. For example, Coeliac Disease, a genetic and immune related condition where people have the inability to process gluten (the protein component of wheat) affects 1 in 100 Australians (Coeliac Australia 2011). If gluten is not avoided, it can lead to malaborption of nutrients and for some people cancer of the small bowel.

What I think is the grey area, for many people, is what is known as food intolerance. This is where the issue is not related to your immune system. It is often more of a slow onset problem and it is often difficult to pin point what food is causing it.

Perhaps this apparent rise in the number of people who might be following wheat-free diets is related to:

  • Not following a clear and logical process to decipher our food related symptoms and discover what food or ingredient is causing them. We are often too quick to jump onto the bandwagon of the latest diet or celebrity book.
  • A change in our food supply. Dr Joanna McMillan, one of Australia’s respected Nutritionists, also discussed this on facebook just a couple of weeks ago.  She noted perhaps it is due to changes in the way we make bread? The food manufacturing industry has changed remarkably.  Breads are often cooked quickly, with refined flours, fast action yeasts and other additives. Traditionally bread would have been made with the sour dough technique (this is much slower method).

So getting back to the title of this blog. ‘Is wheat-free the way of the future?’. Well, as Michael Pollan reported “could it really be that bread, a staple of Western Civilisation for 6, 000 years, is suddenly making millions of us sick? ..I’m dubious”.

I would be keen to hear/see your thoughts……

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