Every few years, the health and wellness community wages war on a single food type. Right now, we are living through the war on gluten. Just walk into any grocery store or coffee shop and you'll now find gluten-free muffins, gluten-free chips, and gluten-free bread. Once, those shelves were filled with fat-free options, prominently displayed during the war on fat.
The absurdity of this current battle can sometimes get lost in its pervasiveness, even though many have debunked the notion that the gluten-free diet is a healthier alternative and despite the fact that many people don’t even know what gluten is. (It's a protein composite that gives shape to several grains, including wheat, rye, and barley.)
As the New Yorker’s resident debunker Michael Specter wrote in his story "Against the Grain," there are simply no "scientifically satisfying answers" for the question of how gluten, "a staple food that has sustained humanity for thousands of years, [has] suddenly become so threatening."
For a reminder of how ridiculous the current vilification of gluten is, check out the Gluten Free Museum. It features classic paintings and pop culture scenes — minus the gluten-rich foods that once graced them.
Think fields without wheat, empty pasta plates, and breadless dinner tables. What's left behind is a sad gluten-free world. The emptiness of the after images suggest how important this staple is to human life and culture.
For now, the epidemic of gluten rejection continues. One-third of American adults say they are trying to get gluten out of their diets. (These recreational gluten haters are not to be confused with people who suffer from celiac disease, a real medical condition that causes people's immune systems to attack their intestines whenever they eat gluten.)
Around the world, people continue to vote against science with their pocketbooks as the market for gluten-free products grows, hitting more than $10 billion this year.