While politics continue to bleed into Americans’ daily lives, Bailey Norwood, an OSU professor of agricultural economics, sought to determine if the stereotype that liberals are more likely to shun gluten is accurate.
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Researchers Trey Malone, assistant professor in the department of agricultural, food and resource economics at Michigan State University, and Bailey Norwood of Oklahoma State University set out to examine the relationship between political stance and food choices using gluten as a model. Their findings suggest that not only does gluten sensitivity impact “people of all political persuasions,” but that the cliché of the politically correct, gluten-intolerant “West Coast liberal” has no merit.
“Contrary to the common stereotype, we found no evidence that the political left is more likely to report being gluten sensitive,” Malone wrote for The Conversation. “In fact, when we divided our sample by preferred president of the past few decades, those who selected Donald Trump were also the most likely to identify as gluten avoidant.”
What is Gluten anyway?
Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. It turns up in many common foods, including pizza, cereal, and beer. Gluten is what gives dough its elasticity, but it has limited nutritional value itself.
Approximately 0.5% of North Americans have been clinically diagnosed with celiac disease. When people with this autoimmune genetic disease eat gluten, it damages their small intestine, leading to other long-term health effects. The number of documented cases has dramatically risen over the past 30 to 40 years, though researchers aren’t sure why.
While consumers with celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity should definitely avoid gluten, there is no strong scientific evidence that anyone else needs to reduce their gluten consumption. In fact, there is no evidence that would support the notion that gluten-free foods are any healthier than foods filled with gluten for most of the population.