There is a growing sense that people — in particular those who don’t suffer from celiac disease — are being a bit ridiculous about avoiding gluten.
Alan Levinovitz, who teaches philosophy and religion at James Madison University, has a newly published book, “The Gluten Lie,” which explores the origins, appeal and dangers of the gluten-free fad.
I spoke with Levinovitz to pick his brain about why, after all this research, the gluten-free movement is so troubling to him.
You’ve looked quite deeply at the ways in which a number of different foods have been villainized over the years, how those demonizations have ebbed and flowed. What is your take on the staying power of the gluten free movement? How much bigger will it grow, and how long will it persist?
The gluten free movement recapitulates many of the myths that underlie lots of diet fads. People argue that gluten is something modern, and therefore is something scary. People argue that we need to go back to a more natural past. Today, especially, people are having a crisis of authenticity. No one wants to feel artificial. Gluten has been cast as a modern creation, as something that takes away from authentic natural foods, and people are afraid of eating it because they don’t want to become what they eat. Gluten has come to represent something artificial, something modified. I think there’s going to be an incredible staying power to the idea that if you avoid gluten you can also avoid artificiality and foods that we are not meant to eat.
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