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Critics take aim at gluten dieter

'Heated' comments pour in; writer of gluten-free book pushes back


Capital Press

When Kara Rowe decided to give up eating gluten for a month, she wanted to start a conversation.

But she wasn't expecting to be verbally attacked.

Rowe, director of outreach for the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, stopped eating wheat and other foods containing gluten for a month to promote a discussion about the nutritional benefit of grains and the need for a well-balanced diet.

Her blog, My Wheat Belly, has received what she termed "heated" comments.

"You are married into the wheat world, your family sells illness to people every day," one comment said. "Shame on you."

Another reads, "I hope for your sake, if not for the poor people who are reading this blog and don't know that the information is flawed, that you wake up and smell the coffee soon."

Once Rowe said she would block comments for "hateful" language, people stopped being so inflammatory.

"I kind of expected some of that, but maybe didn't expect it to get quite so ridiculous," she said. "Some of these people are pretty adamant. They're kind of like PETA, but against grains."

PETA, the acronym for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is an outspoken animal-rights group.

Rowe has also been criticized for her blog title "My Wheat Belly," which parallels the title of the diet book, "Wheat Belly," by cardiologist William Davis. Titles cannot be copyrighted, Rowe said.

Davis advocates dropping all wheat products from the diet, claiming food made of wheat flour -- including whole grain and organic -- raises blood sugars higher than other foods.

"There's so much wrong with modern wheat that you cannot turn this into gluten-only," Davis told the Capital Press. "What they're selling you is likely not wheat."

In addition to gluten, he said, wheat includes the protein gliadin, which Davis said stimulates the appetite, and proteins called lectins, which he said damage the human gastrointestinal system.

Davis questioned Rowe's motives because of her connection with the wheat industry.

Rowe said the overall response has been positive, even from people who are following a wheat-free and gluten-free diet.

"They appreciate the experience, they're willing to have a discussion," she said. "They have their views and research they feel is credible. It's been a good experience overall."

Rowe reaches the halfway point of her diet May 8, when she will begin eating wheat again. She intends to keep her carbohydrate count similar to the first 30 days.

"What I'm eating now in potatoes and rice, I will simply be replacing with grain products," she said.

Rowe lost 2 pounds after two weeks. Her husband, Ryan, lost 5 pounds, but is a little more active, she said.

Registered dietitian Craig Hunt is working with Rowe.

Because Rowe does not have a gluten intolerance, Hunt expects little difference when she resumes eating gluten. Many patients go through "rather extreme" changes in their diets when they get rid of gluten, he said, but Rowe is keeping a level playing field.

"She's going to approach this not from a fanatical point of view, she's just going to trade out nongluten foods for gluten-containing grains," he said. "That's really a fair experiment."


Kara Rowe's website: http://mywheatbelly.com

William Davis website: www.wheatbellyblog.com


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