ABC News-Really? The disappointing news piece and the Gluten Free Fit opinion

Nightline, an ABC news show, aired an episode last week where they discussed the gluten free diet, celiac disease, and living with celiac disease.

Personally, I thought this particular piece was pretty terrible.

Kind of horrific, in fact.

Before I go any further into my rant, here is the piece so you can watch for yourself.  It was titled “Is Gluten Free Good?”
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  • They start off with touting all the celebrities that are on a gluten free diet, and then of course, Chelsea Clinton’s gluten free wedding cake.  It’s portrayed as a fad diet right off the bat.
  • Celiac disease isn’t even mentioned until almost 2 minutes into the 6 minute clip.
  • Elisabeth Hasselbeck is pictured in front of a freezer, stating that this is where all her food comes from.  WHAT?! Are you kidding me right now?!  No mention whatsoever of ANY naturally gluten free food.  You’d think that there is no life, or even eating, without pasta.
  • She also states that she believes in “replacing” foods in a gluten free diet, not eliminating them.  I would agree with this if by saying replace, she meant replacing refined flour items with fruits, vegetables, all the naturally gluten free bounty that nature avails us.  But no.  She was talking about replacing gluten breads and pastas with gluten free substitutes.  Hence the need to stand in front of the freezer, and not in the produce section.  In my article on my top 5 choices of gluten free carbohydrate sources, not one of them is found in a freezer.
  • E.H. also encourages people to adopt a gluten free diet without any kind of medical testing.
  • Dr. Green (bless his heart) mentions that there are no benefits for those without celiac disease to go gluten free, and that there is no weight loss guarantee on a gluten free diet, as we all know.  I even did a 5 part series of posts about weight issues and the gluten free diet.  You can eat a crappy nutrition yet calorie dense gluten free diet just as easily as you can on a “regular” diet.
  • However, they also indicate that a gluten free diet can be dangerous.  WHAT?!?  Dr. Green actually says, and I quote “a gluten free diet is not entirely healthy.”  I will give him a little slack, in the sense that if someone is only eating refined and processed gluten free crap, that they will receive even less nutrition than the standard American crap diet.  This is true.  BUT (and this is a big but, people, really big, the biggest butt of them all[ intentional]) a gluten free diet can also be incredibly healthy.  As I discussed in the Easiest Way to Eat a Gluten Free Diet , you have to look at the big picture!  I said it there, and I’ll say it every day until the laptop is pried from my cold, dead, fingers, Eat naturally gluten free real food.  Meats, fish, poultry, veggies, fruits, dairy (if you can tolerate it, another can of worms for another day,) nuts/seeds, oils, nut butters, rice, potato, etc.  There is a BOUNTY of naturally gluten free foods.   I GUARANTEE that a gluten free diet can be extremely healthy.  I GUARANTEE that you will get plenty of fiber if you just eat some damn VEGGIES!!
  • Dr. Green mentions calcium deficiency.  Many people, not just those with celiac disease or that are on a gluten free diet, have calcium deficiency.  He also doesn’t mention that many of those diagnosed with celiac disease are also intolerant to dairy, and thus must find alternative sources of calcium in their diets.  Or that the damage done to the villi often causes impaired nutrient absorption and therefore, deficiency.  I covered this in Common Nutrient Absorption Issues in Celiac Disease and What to Do About It.

Overall, I was incredibly disappointed.  There has been so many great news pieces done on celiac disease and gluten intolerance lately that this was like a kick in the teeth.  This was a wonderful opportunity for education and discussion on the beauty of naturally gluten free food, on the importance of eating “real food,” how you CAN get nutrition in your diet, how celiac disease is underdiagnosed, and it wasn’t that at all.

I understand it was only a short segment, and that editing is done to the Nth degree, and that what ended up in the final cut may not have been Dr. Green’s intention at all.  But the implication that a gluten free diet is inherently unhealthy really,really, ticks me off.

As always, it’s the choices you make in the QUALITY of your food that matter, not just the gluten or gluten free status.

OK, I’m going to jump down off my soapbox and give you guys the floor.  What did you think?

And, if you’re new here and didn’t get turned off by my little rant, go ahead and check out Gluten Free and Fit 101 for tips on how to get going on a HEALTHY gluten free diet.

See, you can tell I’m upset.  That’s a lot of caps ;)

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  1. Anna Aspnes says:

    I don’t have celiac disease but being GF has ended my battle with bipolar disporder, OCD, ADD and a slew of other conditions. Both my children tested positive for having an immune response to gluten and having taken it out of their diets we have seen amazing changes in them from improved learning, fewer violent outbursts, better behaviour and focus, improved sleep and eating patterns. There may be no medical proof but I see the physical proof every day. We will never go back.

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nikki McCallum, Staci Rudnitsky and Gluten Free Fitness, Gluten Free Fitness. Gluten Free Fitness said: ABC News-Really? My review of the crappy Nightline piece on #celiac disease and the #glutenfree diet http://t.co/NCQgiBU [...]

  3. Erin says:

    Anna, you and your family are just a few of so many who have seen improvements in their health and lives from going gluten free-and doing the way of real food the majority of the time. Keep fighting the good fight.

  4. Cocoa Bean says:

    Totally agree with you! They didn’t even give the Dr’s credentials, so I highly doubt he was an “expert” in anything! Saying gluten free is dangerous? I’m so disappointed in what they claim is news sometimes!

  5. Erin says:

    Thanks for stopping by!
    In all fairness, Dr. Green is a highly respected physician in the celiac community, and has done and will continue to do great work. This particular piece was quite disappointing though.

  6. Janet says:

    Studies have been showing more and more that celiac disease is just one form of autoimmune disorder caused by gluten sensitivity. I can’t believe that anyone could claim that a diet rich in unprocessed fruits, vegetables and low fat meat could be unhealthy (and lacking in fiber and vitamin B).

    You’d be eating unhealthy if you were eating all breads and pastas regardless of whether or not they have gluten in them. The best sources of fiber are in vegetables, not grains. And there are lots of non-grain sources of vitamin B, like ohh vegetables!

    As for Dr. Green’s comments, I guess you’d need to find out what, exactly he was being asked. If the producer and/or reporter of the segment was trying to dismiss a GF diet as just some fad, then they may have pointed their questions in such a way that would elicit a certain response. When edited together it could give an impression that is not at all what the interviewee intended (I’m giving the doctor the benefit of the doubt here).

  7. Erin says:

    Hi Janet, I totally agree. For all diets, it depends on the choices that are made. And we absolutely do not know what happened it editing, and how things are skewed. I’ve heard so much good from Dr. Green I am all for giving the benefit of the doubt.

  8. AMEN sister! Thank you so much for addressing this clip, the overall message made my skin crawl (but like you said, I am willing to give Dr. Green the benefit of the doubt, because so much can change in the editing room). I’ve actually been meaning to re-watch the episode in its entirety just because I am curious as to who the show’s sponsors were…

  9. Dee says:

    That was absolutely infuriating!! I am practically speechless… I’m in full agreement with you all that the producers clearly had something else in mind; they definately were not trying to bring an awareness to celiac, they must have gone in looking to dismiss a gluten free diet for weight loss only and chose to ignore everything else and all the amazing things it does do for so many.

  10. kristen says:

    My 8 year old son (not Celiac diagnosed) recently went gf/cf for GI issues and has shown so much improvement in so many ways (attention span, appetite, gi, etc.). After years of worry and frustration over his unexplained problems, watching him improve has rocked this mom’s socks. Also, I went gf so he wouldn’t feel alone in the dietary change and I was pleasantly surprised to not only lose weight but feel my high anxiety and arrhythmia all but disappear. So, my son and I are happily proving that you don’t have to have celiac in order to see wonderful benefits from going gluten free.

    The editing and subsequent spin is very unfortunate but I have no doubt that there will be much more positive media attention coming.

    Keep on keepin’ on!

  11. kristen says:

    Oh yeah, Hasselbeck as the apparent poster child for going gluten free does nothing to give it street cred. =)

  12. SunnyB says:

    Erin,

    You hit a number of things on the head here! It saddens me to see the growing media perception that a gluten free lifestyle is nothing more than a fad diet. For me, it is not a diet at all; it is a way of life. There are so many healthy and nutritious alternatives, but to your point, if you choose to eat crap, your body will look and feel like crap in return! When discussing the transition from a traditional diet to a gluten free lifestyle with a friend last night, I made the comparison between traditional white bread and whole grain bread. Both are good, but only one is anywhere close to nutritionally sound. You can make bad choices no matter your dietary requirements, but you can make good ones too! Like you, I am overwhelmingly disappointed in this piece. It is a sad reflection of what many perceive our lives to be.

  13. I am so glad that you posted this. I had a really hard time watching it and was so disappointed that they chose to take this angle. It makes me so so angry, but at the same time, maybe this is what is needed to make us all Fighting Mad and make a change. It is just so frustrating when the media is who is making the movement in the way we eat and look at food. Ugh!!

  14. Kim,

    I agree with you and I think I am ready to step it up and start speaking more about the evidence to the contrary of what Nightline chose to share on their show.

  15. Erin says:

    That’s a good point Heidi, I have no idea how Nightline works, if they would have sponsors for different segments or not. So sad that this chance to make a positive difference in the celiac/glutenfree community went so wrong.

  16. Erin says:

    Hi Dee,
    Yes, to me it seems as if they went after the “fad diet” angle, which is why Dr. Green may have been so adamantly against it and playing up the difficulties and potential downfalls. I don’t know, obviously, but that’s my guess.

  17. Erin says:

    Hi Kristin!
    So glad that you and your son are feeling better. When you switch to a primarily whole foods based gluten free diet, those benefits come so much more easily.
    I do hope that there will be more and better pieces on the benefits of a gluten free diet, and I believe there will be. Probably not quickly enough for my taste though ;)

  18. Erin says:

    Hi Sunny!
    Yup-crap food is crap food, gluten free or not. That will never change.

  19. Erin says:

    Kim and Heidi,
    I absolutely think we have to, and should. The problem is that Nightline and ABC news has such a freaking huge audience! But, little bits at a time, we as bloggers and advocates of a healthy gluten free lifestyle can make a difference, just a bit more slowly and in smaller pieces. Put all of our pieces together, and as a group we do make a big impact. Wendy @ Celiacs in the House posted yesterday about the produce her family eats in a week, and it was impressive! We are getting the word out there, and with persistence and working together we can help make peope’s lives better. And that’s what it’s all about.

  20. Andrea says:

    I just shared your post on my facebook with the comment “Gluten Free is not a fad diet if you have Celiac Disease! If you’re allergic to peanuts no one says a peanut free diet is a fad diet! I realize that Celiac is not an allergy, but I try to eat as though gluten is a poison to MY system. It does damage to my intestines each and every time I eat it, whether or not I feel a reaction.”
    The Nightline piece is a crock of BS. Sorry, but I feel the rant too!

  21. Erin says:

    Hey Andrea!
    Thanks for sharing on Facebook! The more awareness we can get out there the better on this misleading piece of media. You are right on with your explanation that gluten is a poison and the damage it does.
    Rant on! :)

  22. Maggie says:

    Awesome post! I agree with your points – especially the editing aspect! I think people can be hard on Elizabeth though (me included). Who knows how her interview was edited, right? It is up to us bloggers to spread the word about all of the real whole food we can eat on a gluten-free diet! I like Wendy’s idea about posting how much produce they eat. I also credit Diane from The Whole Food Gang and her 30 Days series last year. That was hugely important! Lastly, I like Shirley’s approach (also shared by Diane) to think of all of the things we CAN eat on a gluten-free diet! Thanks for this post Erin!

  23. Erin says:

    Hi Maggie!
    Agreed, I should have been clear that Elisabeth H could have been edited quite a bit as well.
    All of the things you mentioned are great-here are links for people:
    Shirley (whom I mention quite a bit) http://glutenfreeeasily.com/
    Wendy’s list of the produce her family eats in a week http://celiacsinthehouse.blogspot.com/2010/11/gluten-free-menu-swapmenu-plan-monday.html
    Diane @ The Whole Gang’s 30 Days to a Food Revolution http://www.thewholegang.org/30-days-to-a-food-revolution/ (I’m Day 22!)

  24. Eric says:

    I am happy to see that others also found this to be disappointing and really just not true.
    Check out this video of the doctor I work for who also was not pleased with it and who is trying to spread the good word about Gluten Free. We really need to band together and see if we can’t reverse the negative effect this video may have had.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuOnaBNpY3Q

  25. Erin says:

    Hi Eric,
    Thanks for coming by. I like Dr. Vikki Petersen and am happy that you left a link to her video. I do believe that we can work together to show that living gluten free can in fact be a very healthy way to live.

  26. Eric says:

    Erin,
    You are welcome!! We all need to stick together and keep educating the public. It is articles like this though that can set us back a little.
    If there is anything you can use Dr Vikki for let me know. Maybe a quest author every once in awhile on your blog. Great work out there by the way.

  27. Nancy says:

    I have lupus and went gluten free 6 months ago at the suggestion of my doctor, who thinks it’s a good diet for arthritis as well. I have experienced some relief, and am grateful for whatever help I can get. I absolutely do not eat pre-packaged processed foods, and I’m disturbed by de-glutenized foods. I agree that there’s plenty to eat that’s naturally gluten free. I had started losing lots of weight prior to my diagnosis, but I was frequently eating packaged foods. When I was diagnosed, at 24 years old, it was enough of a wake up call to me that I should be very in control of what goes in my body, and if foods are processed, I can’t feel that way. Obviously something about gluten aggravated my joint pain, and in the future if other problems arise, eating a very clean diet will help make it much easier to identify and relieve the cause. I’ve now reached my goal weight despite my disease and feel pretty good, actually.

  28. Erin says:

    Thanks Eric! I’ll be in touch-Dr. Vikki is always welcome here.

  29. Erin says:

    Hi Nancy!
    Thanks for coming by!
    So glad to hear that you are feeling better, that is the most important thing and the bottom line.
    Gluten can certainly cause an inflammatory reaction, and with an autoimmune disorder like lupus you certainly want to avoid any additional possible inflammation.
    And the fact that you are feeling good and at your goal weight-obviously your body is happy with how you are treating it. :)

  30. Amy says:

    E. Hassellbeck is a phoney. bimbo
    she is being sued for stealing a book from Sue Hassett. E Hassellbeck didn’t write her book about Celic she stole it will be in the news shortly

  31. Erin says:

    Hey Amy,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I know many do not like EH. We can say she has brought quite a bit of attention to celiac disease.

  32. Amy says:

    E Hassellbeck may have brought attention to Celic , but she is on her show eating candy and cupcakes.Phoney
    I sent you the email about her copyright infrigment case and plagiarism

  33. Erin says:

    Amy,
    I truly appreciate your thoughts, but let’s not attack the person. If you don’t agree with the viewpoints as presented on the news, that’s fine and what we are here to discuss. I do not want this to turn into any personal attacks.
    Let’s keep it civil and productive. Please do not make me moderate comments.
    Thanks for your understanding.

  34. GF Momma says:

    GF is not only for those with celiac disease. I have hashimoto’s disease an for 12 years have battled my body not knowing I was poisoning myself with the food I ate. From constipation to hormone imbalance, to foggy mental state. I had been told everything from “lose weight” to “you’re crazy”. I have been GF for 3 months now and finally I am starting to have a “normal” life.
    Not to mention my sister has lupus. She has been in and out of the hospital for. She started a GF diet and hasn’t had a flare up since.
    Also, my son has hirshprungs disease which has also been helped with a GF diet.

    That being said, you can’t believe ANYTHING you hear from ABC, this isn’t the first time they have “spun” the truth in their “investigation”….some investigating, I tell ya!

  35. Erin says:

    I’m so glad to hear you are feeling better. That is the most important thing to take away-we are all individuals, and you have to try something before you can know how you will respond.

  36. Marco says:

    What about the billions of Chinese who don’t eat bread and who eat rice.
    Are they all dead?

    I feel so frustrated writing this.
    I went online because my bozo doctor critizised my gluten free diet with the same malnourishment crap as the doctor above.

    I didn’t bother being tested because doctors are so clueless; I just started in September.
    It took a month to figure it all out.
    But within 2 weeks I was busting with energy that I never had in my life.

    I have so much energy that I exercise everyday.
    I lost 15 lbs and 2 inches off my waist.

    I couldn’t exercise (or work) before because I was always sleeping and napping and so so sluggish.
    I would wake up sore all over and I kept getting injured when I’d try to exercise. NO MORE !!!

    I told the doctor today that there is no way I’m ever going back to eating bread and pastries and gluten (and no more glucose fructose foods).
    But she complained that I shouldn’t restrict my diet.
    My Doctors wants me to be sick!
    She thinks I’m a hypocondriac.
    I think she’s just jealous that I lost 15 lbs and that I have more energy where as she just has a fat ass.

    Sorry for the long post but I’m so frustrated about this bozo doctor of mine and the one listed above.

    I also want to publicly thank Dr OZ and Elizabeth’s presentation in September that woke me to this Gluten intolerance and that allowed me to change my life.

    A NEW ME !!! I’m reborn !!!

  37. Erin says:

    Marco,
    I’m very glad that you are feeling better. You have to do what you believe and feel is best for you and your body. The medical system has a lot to learn.

  38. Marco says:

    Hi Erin,

    I had one question…

    Can the symptoms change over time?

    I had a lot of intestinal problems as a teen for a few years.
    I had to go to the hospital to get the check up with the camera inspection (you know where).

    They didn’t find anything; they suggested to stop drinking milk.

    I was able to drink some on and off later in my teens and recently I drank milk for a month no problem.

    I get the feeling that the Celiac-gluten problems change over time.

    Is this true?

  39. Erin says:

    Hey Marco,
    Yes indeed symptoms can change over time, you are absolutely correct. Even if the scope was negative (although it sounds as if you had a lower GI test, the endoscopy for an upper GI is the test for celiac, and the tube goes in thru your mouth) you can still have celiac disease. Also, lactose intolerance is often related to the villous damage associated with ingesting gluten. In some people that does resolve and they can ingest milk. In others, it’s actually a casein intolerance and does not go away.

  40. Marco says:

    Thank you so much for clarifying that.
    I’m piecing together my own health history and my deceased parents’ health problems as I’m reading library books on celiac-gluten.
    Gluten is the common thread. It’s all making sense.

    I know we’re supposed to be tested first, but if I waited any longer to convince a doctor, I felt I was dying inside even if on the outside I looked good (they judge me on appearance and say everything is fine) and they would just see me as a hypochondriac who needs mental pills.

    I really miss my Dad at this time. He was a brilliant chemist, and we would have loved reading about all this and chatting about this with him.
    (he didn’t talk but for this he would have)
    He would have understood it all.
    He used to say: “Doctors are idiots”

    Thanks and have a good day gluten free day :-)

    Thank you and have a good day :-)

  41. Marco says:

    One more question… Does anyone else experience 5 am insomnia?

    From what I’ve read and my own daytime feelings, bread is like a sleeping pill.
    Now that I’m off bread and gluten, I no longer need any daytime naps.

    I do take Cottage cheeze with magnesium powder, vitamin C and zinc before bedtime for my (past) fybromyalgia.

  42. Erin says:

    Many of us have that same experience Marco. When we look back we start seeing the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

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