How does an assistant college professor--and of religion, no less--come to write a well-researched debunking of a present-day nutritional belief shared by some 100 million Americans: gluten is taboo? Alan Levinowitz's specialty is ancient Chinese religions.
From the vantage point of his discipline, Levinowitz found two thousand years ago, the founders of Daoism had bucked contemporary Chinese society by going grain-free. They claimed the five grains were "the scissors that cut off life." This grain-free regime would give its followers perfect health, immortality, and the ability to fly, among other wondrous benefits.
That past echo of the present [as in gluten-free] clicked with Levinowitz and he had his thesis. The nutritional bogeymen [MSG, gluten, fat, sugar, salt] surveyed in The Gluten Lie have less to do with scientific evidence and more to do with the timeless religious impulse to invoke a food taboo: deny, purify, and be saved.
Certainly, Levinowitz acknowledges celiac disease, only managed by strict gluten avoidance, exists, and also a less serious condition: non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but those affected comprise at most 2% of the population, not the 33% who shun gluten.
So what gives? Levinowitz points out, of the few things people can control, eating is one. Making something taboo is magical: If we avoid this, we will be rewarded with a better life. Some of the benefit is probably auto-suggestion, but making a choice also empowers one in a life of uncertainty.
Levinowitz concludes that "we are sick, for sure--sick with needless anxiety. The cure isn't in our food, it's in our minds. In truth, the only elinination diet most people should be trying is one that eliminates myth and superstitions about food." His advice is forget diet books, food gurus, and package nutrition labels. Food is to be enjoyed. Full stop. Food is not about our internal biochemistry set.
Just for grins, perhaps, Levinowitz offers two appendices to The Gluten Lie. Appendix One details his revolutionary UNPACKED DIET, based on his finding it is not the food, but actually the food packaging that's at fault. Think of the BPA-lined tin cans, aluminum foil, plastic containers--all that modern food technology has brought us. Appendix Two merely annotates Appendix One and using the same incisive logic he exhibited earlier in the book, Levinowitz reveals the UNPACKED DIET as a fallacious strawman he created. A nice lagniappe for an overdue book on disorderly diet obsessing.
The Gluten Lie: And other myths about what you eat by Alan Levinowitz, PhD, Regan Arts, New York, 2015, 264 pp., ISBN: 978-1-941393-06-2.
Image credit: google images: shopreganarts.com
Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection, The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)
Also, a flash fiction, "Ylena Thinks Nyet," is at Cigale Literary Magazine.
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