In the Weeds

[Is gluten intolerance really about pesticides?]

As we’ve said before, we're not nutrition dogmatists.  While we think an ancestral-based approach is a good starting point for most people, we also strongly believe that differences in genetics, epigenetics, and microbiome cause different people to react very differently to the same foods.  So it seems a prudent approach to start by paring down to a healthful dietary core, then test the re-addition of new foods to gauge their individualized effects.

Though wheat isn’t a central part of most our own diets, many of our coaches find that we can easily enjoy a bowl of pasta, say, without issue.  But for a number of Composite clients, removing grains has had hugely beneficial health impact.

More than a few of those ‘grain-reactive’ folks, however, have shared with us similar stories: though they feel terrible after eating even organic breads here in the US, while traveling in Italy or France, they decided that the chance to enjoy the local cuisine trumped their usual dietary concerns.  But even after eating relatively large amounts of a food that they couldn’t tolerate at home, often for days at a time, they had no problems while abroad.

We're dubious of claims (at least, health-based ones) against GMO’s, so we’d previously written off those international bread stories as the vagaries of travel - the excitement of being somewhere new, or the masking effects of a circadian rhythm tossed out of whack.

But this week, our lead nutritionist ended up diving down a rabbit-hole of research papers about glyphosate, an herbicide used as a primary ingredient in Monsanto’s hugely popular pesticide Roundup.  Roundup is nearly ubiquitous in the US, where it’s used on 98% of non-organic wheat.  And it travels well enough when airborne that it’s found on more than 50% of US organic wheat, too.

Though Roundup was approved as safe for humans back in the 1970’s, deeper research over the last decade has increasingly indicated that glyphosate - especially when combined with other ‘inert’ ingredients in Roundup - may be an extremely potent mitochondrial disruptor, which in turn can cause a broad array of health issues.

In other words, while people are complex, foods are, too.  And, indeed, over the next few years, we suspect we're going to discover that the rise of 'gluten intolerance' has less to do with an increase in people reacting negatively to wheat, and more to do with people reacting to the specific ways in which wheat is increasingly raised here in the US.

Our approach to large-scale agribusiness has certainly changed the fundamental economics of how we feed the world.  But boy does it seem to come with a lot of second-order costs.