Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dr Oz mixed up on gluten-free myths

Dr. Oz is doing a series on myths about gluten on his network television show. I watched the three parts online yesterday after being alerted to them by Sandra Robins, who blogs as the Gluten-Free Optimist.

At one point, Mehmet Oz, MD, says it makes him angry, infuriates him, that people are being encouraged to eat gluten-free products as a way to lose weight when they cost twice as much as regular food and are really just junk.

While I whole heartily agree that the gluten-free diet is not and has never been a sensible weight-loss plan, I was equally infuriated by some of the insinuations and outright misinformation spread on the show.

First, Oz  gave the impression that gluten-free food companies exist mainly for the purpose of trolling for people who mistakenly believe that they can lose weight by filling up on gluten-free cookies, pretzels, waffles and other goodies. I think that is an inaccurate portrayal. In my experience, many gluten-free companies were created - often by people who have celiac disease themselves or who have a family member who does - to provide options for those who medically need a gluten-free diet.

It's true those options have grown ten fold as a result of increased awareness of celiac disease. The consequent jump in diagnosis has created a customer base large enough that these companies can now realistically expect to survive. And new research shows the real need for gluten-free alternatives is only going to expand as gluten sensitivity gets recognition from the medical community and many more are accurately diagnosed with this condition.

Legitimate celiac research centers, doctors, dietitians and other experts have never advocated the gluten-free diet as a weight loss plan, though there are some television personalities who have.

I could only shake my head when Oz said we are being bombarded in the supermarket by gluten-free products, as though those who need these foods don't have a right to shop for them easily and conveniently. I know how much simpler life is for my daughter, who has had celiac disease since she was two, now that she does not have to make a trip to across town to the health food store just to buy a loaf of bread.

And I clearly remember when even the health food stores had few choices, and we sent away to Canada on a regular schedule to get bread that was palatable. So while it's easy to say most people don't really need these products, it would be a little more generous and understanding to realize that a growing number of people really do. And it's not for weight loss. Gluten-free breads, flours, soups, and pasta are the very medicine that keeps those who have celiac disease alive.

I don't think the fact that General Mills replaced the gluten-containing malt flavoring in some Chex cereals with gluten-free molasses poses any health threat to the general public. But it does make it possible for someone on the gluten-free diet to eat a bowl for breakfast.

It's true that someone following the gluten-free diet can over indulge in gluten-free products that are not really that good for you. But I see aisle after aisle of junk food that does contain gluten, some of it labeled reduced fat or low in sugar. And I would venture to guess that many more people are getting fat on those products than by buying gluten-free brands.

The show also ignored the fact that gluten-free food makers are now trying to produce healthier products for the benefit of people who have no alternative but to eat them. Some are using whole grains and relying less on nutritionally devoid rice flour.

And I did agree with the statement by Dr. Oz guest Mark Hyman, MD, medical director of the Ultra Wellness Center, that a gluten-free diet built on healthy whole foods is best. That's also true in the gluten-containing world. Still an occasional treat should be allowed in both cases.

Hyman did disappoint me in other ways though. The two-week gluten elimination plan he advocated on the show would not make sense for someone trying to find out if they have celiac disease. In fact, if diagnostic blood tests were to be run during or too soon after, the results could be skewed. Accepted medical advice for diagnosis cautions against starting the gluten-free diet before tests are run. And I think someone who thinks they have a problem with gluten should rule out celiac disease first.

The other problem is that once someone starts a gluten-free diet it's hard to go back to eating gluten if they do feel better. If you are not eating gluten, a celiac diagnosis is nearly impossible.

I also take issue with some of the things Hyman offhandedly said about products that contain gluten. When describing a lunch option, he said the turkey in a wrap, not the flour tortilla, can be the real problem. We just did a story on deli meats in the last issue of Gluten-Free Living in which we found that many, if not most, brands of turkey are gluten free. I know you can run across a brand that contains gluten, but its easy to come away from a show like this with the mistaken impression that all turkey cold cuts are a problem on the gluten-free diet. That's not true.

I found it odd that potato chips, a product that can pretty easily be found in a gluten-free version, would be given as an example of a gluten-containing snack food. And I was confused by Oz's statement that most people think popcorn contains gluten because it is a junk food.

Lipstick was cited as product with "hidden" gluten. Again, Gluten-Free Living recently did a story that showed it is difficult to find any significant amount of gluten in lipstick. In fact even in the highly unlikely worst case scenario, the most gluten you could put on your lips daily is less than 5 parts per million. That's one fourth the amount proposed by the Food and Drug administration to be allowed in foods labeled gluten free. Based on our analysis of the ingredients in lipstick, it's much more likely the amount would be closer to 1.4 ppm.

And I was really infuriated to hear that envelopes and stamps have gluten in them to make them stick. All of our research over many years has found that these are two real myths about gluten.

Envelope glue does not contain gluten, according to the association that represents envelope makers. In fact there are only a few envelope glue makers in the US and the largest one makes its adhesive from corn. More than 98 percent of all stamps sold by the US Postal Service are self adhesive and do not require licking. The other 2 percent do not contain gluten in the glue.

You can find more information about these and other topics on our website.

Aside from the factual departures, I found the bottom line message in these shows confusing and contradictory. On the one hand, the two doctors told viewers not to get swept up in the gluten-free frenzy while on the other they kept saying that 99 percent of those who have problems with gluten don't know it. They encouraged a two-week elimination plan that runs counter to sound medical advice for those who have celiac disease. If I was somone wondering if gluten was a problem, I am not sure what I would conclude.

Oz said he was infuriated by gluten-free food being so readily available in the supermarket but then advised people to stay away from products that they can safely include in a gluten-free diet. And he passed on misinformation about products that either do not contain gluten or have miniscule amounts that are not the problem for those legitimately trying to get gluten out of their diets.

Which caused me to make this sad comment to Sandra. It made me wish, just for a moment, for the days when we couldn't get anyone on national television to mention the gluten-free diet. At least then we didn't have to worry that bad information would be spread so widely.

That moment passed quickly though. I applaud the gluten-free community's efforts to spread awareness and to increase the availability and quality of safe foods. Even if it makes Dr. Oz angry.

Amy Ratner

41 comments:

marylandceliac said...

Amy, you did a fantastic job addressing all these issues! Thanks for taking the time to blog about it. Now, we need to make sure Dr. Oz and Dr. Hyman read this!

thesavvyceliac.com said...

So well said. You brought out great points here. I agree...confusing is a really good way to describe it --now that I think about it.
I was annoyed with salad being given as a lunch option....how many times have we had salad shoved down our throats as the only acceptable food item?
You raised a bunch of good points...thank you for your post!
Amy

Miller Prosser said...

EXCELLENT! This segment on Dr. Oz infuriated me. It was so unprofessionally done. I agree with every one of your points. Thank you for pushing back and clarifying the points which Dr. Oz presented as muddled at best!

Marina said...

I am in complete agreement with your writing, I am a Private Chef I specialize in gluten-free and dietary needs. Not only do I prepare gluten free meals for my clients I practice eating a gluten -free diet due to suffering from RA. Some do not believe it helps, I will say it does for me I have been gluten free for almost 5 yrs now and there was nothing on the market that had any taste to it, I went back to school and took classes at The Culinary Institute of America so I could cook myself and others through cooking for them and helping them transition through the process, more often then not I have people call me and say they are trying to lose weight on the gluten-free diet; my first question is are you celiac or gluten intolerant? The answer is No then I tell them that they do not need to be on a gluten free diet. The way that the gluten free diet has been blown up gluten eaters do not realize that it is not a weight loss program it is a way of eating for life due to an illness not a choice. In my menu planning I have created high protein low crab pastas, breads and pastries for my clients with a fresh clean diet they do loose weight. The junk food statement bothers me because I have many clients that are grammer school age and they too need to eat a pretzel, cookie and cupcake like their peers, sometimes it is hard enough growing up with restictions and to make a comment like " gluten-free is manly junk food" he hasn't done his homework. Maybe he should consult Dr. Alessio Fasano of the Center for Celiac Research at The University of Maryland.
Chef Marina Crisp I NY, www.culinaryfusion.wordpress.com

Katie said...

I absolutely LOVED this response to yesterday's show. I agree wholeheartedly on all accounts. I had almost all of the same reactions as you did and thought his "report" was more contradictory and confusing than anything else. Thank you for also including info. about those things which were wrongly said to contain gluten so the real "myths" can be broken. I hope your sound rebuttals manage to reach Dr. Oz.

Melody said...

I find the comment about using a Gluten-Free Diet for weight loss interesting as I gained 20 lbs after my diagnosis of Celiac Disease and started a gluten-free diet.

I am also disheartened when I hear/read about gluten-free myths and of people using or suggesting a gluten-free diet as a fad diet.

It's too bad these shows like to sensualise important health topics and is one of the reasons I don’t like the Dr Oz Show.

LN said...

Amy, I hope you will follow up with Dr. Oz about this!

Food-Paul said...

I see you too were a little put off by the Dr. Oz segment as much as I was. His attitude at times made me a bit angry.

For sure his attitude towards the industry (food makers) as a whole was not acceptable. I am friends with some people who own GF food companies and they try their hardest to make healthier items as opposed to fattening items. While I can understand that a large number (if not the majority) of people who are Celiac or are Gluten Intolerant may not know how bad some GF foods are for you, it is not new to the rest of us who have known this for a long while and are trying to make a difference (the writers, the health coaches, the GF business owners…etc).

I think more of an emphasis should have been placed on WHY some people have to be on this diet. I feel like the segment should not have been just about GF products being more fattening, but stressed that we need to make the right choices in GF foods if you “medically” need to be on this type of a diet. Thereby making the segment equivalent to a regular segment where he would speak about proper diet, which he does for the gluten eating population. It would have been great for him to tailor that kind of show for the GF community.

I also did not like the part about his anger towards GF foods being so readily available in supermarkets. In fact, my family wishes there were MORE choices in supermarkets and MORE choices at restaurants. We have to live too, it is only fair.

In short, I am sorry he feels like the term “Gluten” is being forced down his throat. But I for one have my own blog and my own cookbook all about being gluten free and food allergies and I plan on cramming it down everyone’s throat until the highest level of awareness can be achieved. A lesson I learned from great people, like everyone at the NFCA and my own wife who said “go bring awareness”….so I will

Thank You
Paul Biscione
“Food Living and Everything Else” (www.flaee.com)

Shallan said...

Great article, though I am bummed to learn that glue on envelopes is gluten free. I have been using it as an excuse for years to avoid licking those nasty things.

Thanks for your write-up and clarifications!

~Gluten Free Spokane

Cheryl Harris said...

thanks for the summary! I hadn't had time to watch the show.

healthwithin said...

Thank you for the great article! Dr Oz may be annoyed, but if he looks into the subject,up to 60% of people have gluten issues even if they don't show any symptoms. Dr. James Chestnut, B.Ed, M.Sc, D.C., C.C.W.P recommends no one consume grains due to their inflammatory properties. We can only hope that someone in such a public forum as Dr Oz is more responsible for the info he shares!

Caneel said...

I didn't see this much-talked about show, but I really enjoyed reading your response. Thank you - great post!

Caneel said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Amy said...

Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts.
And Shallan, thanks for the laugh I had after reading yours. Some parts of today were contentious so it was good to chuckle a little.

Kate S. said...

Thank you! I wholeheartedly agree that people who perpetuate myths and misinformation about gluten-free living and the conditions that require it do more damage than the lack of awareness we faced in the past. When "experts" [quotes intentional] like Dr. Oz spread these lies it almost seems worse, as many people take his opinions as medical fact.

d said...

i do not have celiac disease. my wheat inntolerance cause severe asthma atttacks to the point i can hardly catch my breath. i am glad gluten has gone more mainstream. people with gluten intolerance should be able to havea varity of choices also. just wish it wasnt so costly

Linda said...

I did not see the show, but reading your post made me wonder how an MD can be so misinformed.

I discovered on my own that I can not eat gluten and avoid being sick, so went gluten free on my own and have felt better in the last 9 months than I have for years.

The point being that the information needed to be informed is out there and easy to find, so how can someone with a medical degree know so little.

As far as the idea that products should not being available in a stores; hogwash! Those of us that need to avoid gluten to be healthy should be able to shop with "normal" people just like a diabetic does, or any one else with another health condition.

Glad I missed the show, it would have just caused high blood pressure.

Thanks for your great post!

bizzybody said...

What do you expect from a Dr. who keeps pushing vegetarian diets for omnivores? Humans are omnivores, every part of our bodies are built to exist on a mixed diet of animal and plant based food.

Melissa said...

Amy,

Great rebuttal to the Dr. Oz information. Glad you took the time to respond (and so eloquently). I also find it interesting that people, especially someone like Dr. Oz, would actually be angry about the increase in GF food options. Or, feel that GF food is being "forced down his throat." Gosh, why would he even care? Aren't there enough "alternatives" to the GF diet for people who eat gluten? (I say with overtones of sarcasm.)

I'm a nutritionist with celiac disease and have been on this path for over 10 years. I've also been a reader of GF Living since its inception. To me, it's about eating real food. I rarely eat processed food and thoroughly enjoy baking my own occasional treats. It's not that hard.

You're right, increased awareness is good. It's just too bad that someone with the reach that Dr. Oz has would spend so much of his time wringing his hands over information that isn't even correct.

Thanks and keep up the good work!
Melissa

Stefannie said...

I actually dvr'd the episode in hopes it would be informative to the public...hadn't watched yet and now I don't want to! It infuriates ME that people-especially in the medical field-can br so ignorant! So easy people forget about the true reasons a need for GF in the mainstream has...for those of us who CAN NOT touch things with gluten for fear of sickness and pain that resembles slow torture!!!
Your article was wonderful and I hope it makes it's way to "Dr" oz..and he makes a public apology to those he offended in the celiac and gluten intolerant community!

Ricki said...

Great, great post. I'm always amazed at how much misinformation is out there--I recently commented on a post from a national culinary organization in which they said spelt is "gluten free"!

You make some great points here. It only makes sense that a whole foods, ehatlhy diet is best whether or not you eat GF.

And re: the envelopes--I haven't actually licked an envelope in years.(I wet my finger and use that). I mean, after watching George's fiancee on Seinfeld, why take a chance? ;)

lizschau.com said...

It seems like Dr. Hyman was probably speaking to and catering his information to his typical crowd of patients -- people who are not Celiac but do have gluten intolerance that has manifest as autoimmune disease and/or hormonal problems. So, for those people, doing a 2-week elimination diet actually does make sense. I think they were probably speaking to and targeting people in the general population that aren't necessarily Celiac but whom gluten is causing IgA latent intestinal damage.

CeliacChick said...

Whoa! Very interesting. I wondered how the show was. Uhm...I really really wish people on TV and in some literature would do a better job of finding REAL experts on these subjects and not just be easily impressed with someone's title, book sales, or PR efforts before they quote them or have them on TV. It almost makes me wonder if they did it all for ratings because the producers told them it is a hot topic...and then to add a little controversy into the mix. THIS my friends is one of the reasons why I don't own a TV anymore!!!

Liz said...

This is an excellent post. I see where Dr Oz is coming from, but he could clearly have taken more facts into consideration. As a person who chooses to live a gluten free lifestyle about 90% of the time, I often think how lucky I am that if I want real pizza, I can indulge and feel fine. There are people who would get really sick...phenomenal job articulating what was wrong with that show and I also applaud your courage, Dr Oz is a big name! I'll be sharing this up on FB!

Stacey said...

Thank you very much for taking the time to address this particular episode of Dr. Oz. I have been fielding many phone calls from friends and family who watch Dr. Oz and now consider themselves experts on Gluten-free food. I am so frustrated with the constant Misinformation these Reality medical shows give the public. I have a hard enough time educating my family and friends AND myself on what is safe and not safe for me - I am a Celiac with severe symptoms - without having to break the spell these Quacks spin on the general viewing public.

Thank you again for taking the effort and time to address this shameful mistake Dr. Oz and crew have made.

ella said...

..thanks for the info/correction.
I was diagnosed in 2004.I'm a retired chef..My concern is that GF
products still contain trace gluten..natural and artificial flavorings and spices...and the worst..caramel coloring..its in everything..how do we get the FDA to not allow this in our foods...it is used as weight ..its burnt wheat starch.
The other thing that really worries me is what is going to happen to shelf space once these companies start making things GF
at first prices will go down due to competition..then the $$ will go up..because of demand for products and shelf space....
I also have a complaint about how things are packaged..example
GF bisquick...The recipe for everything on the box is 2+ cups
but the box is only 2 cups..so you get excited with the product...then you get home and find out you need more to make anything...and your kids are pissed ....

ella said...

..thanks for the info/correction.
I was diagnosed in 2004.I'm a retired chef..My concern is that GF
products still contain trace gluten..natural and artificial flavorings and spices...and the worst..caramel coloring..its in everything..how do we get the FDA to not allow this in our foods...it is used as weight ..its burnt wheat starch.
The other thing that really worries me is what is going to happen to shelf space once these companies start making things GF
at first prices will go down due to competition..then the $$ will go up..because of demand for products and shelf space....
I also have a complaint about how things are packaged..example
GF bisquick...The recipe for everything on the box is 2+ cups
but the box is only 2 cups..so you get excited with the product...then you get home and find out you need more to make anything...and your kids are pissed ....

Anne said...

I forgot that part where the guest doctor said it was gluten that makes envelopes stick! UGH ugh ugh. I give up on Dr Oz. Makes me wonder about all the other stuff he presents. How can we trust anything he has to say?

Shabail said...

It's episodes like that are starting to infuriate the Paleo community. It's obvious to those that aware that he does not do his research and with sponsors like POST and other grain based products who knows what he is being paid to say versus what is actual fact.

Momat32 said...

This is excellent information. Thank you. I hope someday you can be a guest on Dr Oz's show.

Janet said...

I watched the show myself, so I can say that my impression was that he was addressing not those who have a legitimate need to go GF but those who don't and who think that simply substituting GF versions of processed foods would somehow make you lose weight.

It would have been nice for him to be a little clearer about that point.

I agree with your assessment about the elimination diet and posted as much on their website. You should NOT go on an elimination diet until after testing is done. Plus, I found that it took two MONTHS of being gluten free to feel better. Two weeks is not long enough to rid your system of enough of the gluten antibodies that are making you sick.

Marie Matteson, MS said...

Thanks for correcting the mis information from the show. I was expecting some great information from Dr. Oz and perhaps his daughter, who is celiac. But it seems he is caught up in the hype of celiac being a fad. Of all the public figures, I expected to be able to trust his opinion. I'm not impressed.

Marie Matteson, MS said...

Great follow up to the show. I would have expected more through investigation of facts from Dr. Oz, since his daughter is celiac. I'm shocked that he would akin being celiac to a fad diet. I'm disappointed in his ability to remain fair and objective in this regard.
I will be sure to post this to FB and Twitter to help with corrections.

happiness is where it is said...

I think he was correct that is shouldn't be used as a "weightloss" program that has been so hyped up by Hollywood.

A friend of mine gave me some lipstick that had wheat in the ingredients, Mother Pucker and I bought a lip balm that had wheat in it by accident. That is all it takes for me to have a reaction. I know most aren't as sensitive but I am.

For me, I didn't have to money to get tested when I researched and figured out what my problem was. So I went gluten free and my migraines, vertigo, rash, and on off moodiness stopped. ONLY when I get exposed to the smallest crumb do I get a problem anymore. So frustrating. Again for me, I decided if I wasn't going to be anything different with or without a celiac diagnosis, I wasn't going to put myself through the gluten challenge for a positive test result. If something was going to change I would have, but I will always still be eating a gluten free diet.

happiness is where it is said...

I also wanted to add that my 4 year old daughter was tested for celiac while she was eating gluten and it came back negative. She was waking up with headaches in the middle of the night and first thing in the morning, bad leg pains, nightmares, bad stomach aches, and diarrhea. I took her off all gluten, and all of this stopped completely. A 4 year old shouldn't have headaches in the middle of the night. She ate Frito Lay Ranch Doritos that don't have any gluten in them, but are very cross contaminated. She doesn't know that, but I do. That night she was waking me up crying because her leg hurt so bad. So I don't trust that the blood tests are always accurate.

A friend of mine's daughter was 9 years old and crawling because her joints hurt so bad. She even had a biopsy and it came back negative. She had gone off gluten years before and was doing better but her mom wanted that diagnosis so they did the gluten challenge for several months. I would not put my child or myself through that torture for a diagnosis when the treatment is the same. Again, that's just me.

papermoon said...

Anyone who thinks that eating gluten free waffles and cookies will help them lose weight is a moron - so I suppose it's good to point that out. Seems like the only good point he made in the show, though.

I'm gluten intolerant and I eat mostly naturally gluten free foods - but if I want an occasional cupcake, pizza or waffle, and a company out there is willing to make it, why shouldn't the grocery store sell it - and why shouldn't I be able to have it? All of his complaints about a gluten free diet could be addressed to the standard American diet as well - the problem isn't eating GLUTEN FREE WAFFLES for breakfast. The problem is eating WAFFLES for breakfast!

Wendy said...

Good Day!
I ran across this post while doing a google search regarding glue in envelopes for a friend.

My oldest daughter and I both have celiac. She also has Type 1 Diabetes, and I wanted to tell you that Dr. Oz TOTALLY messed up when discussing type 1 on Oprah a couple years ago. When the T1 community cried outrage and asked that both he and Oprah correct their errors, we were ignored.

Both Dr Oz and Oprah lost my trust that day, so it doesn't surprise me to read that he got celiac wrong as well!

missv33 said...

I agree that Dr. Oz is probably wrong about manufacturers creating this food because they think it is trendy. Almost every product I've come across has a story about how it was created due to a personal experience with intolerance or celiac.

You commented on the fact that there are many GF foods making people fat. Well yeah, Gluten or no gluten, if you are eating cookies or chips filled with sugar and lacking in nutrition it is bad for you either way. Bt youmade it sound like since there are more gluten-filled foods making people fat, that it is an excuse to buy and eat these unhealthy GF foods. Gluten or no gluten, you would think people would wake up and realize that not only are grains harmful to many people, if we look closer we might realize that grains have barely any nutritional value and are not needed in our diets. We need to get away from the Standard American Diet of convenience foods, and start ignoring Big Ag's marketing ploys and go back to the basIcs of real food.

missv33 said...

Hi Marina,

While I understand that people want to be like everyone else and eat pizza, cupcakes etc., I also think that we as people have some bad habits that can change. I do think most of the junk food is the processed food being marketed. And unfortunately, We continue to go along with it to "fit in." I personally believe that a whole foods approach - maybe even a grain free approach - should be considered.

missv33 said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you. And saturated animal fat is not bad for you as long as the animals were grass fed.

missv33 said...

EXACTLY... I don't think grain sponsors will continue to support him.