Monday, July 15, 2013
[L]ast February[,] Slate's Darshak Sanghavi reported on an Italian study that confirmed the existence of gluten intolerance ("non-coeliac wheat sensitivity") as a third, "distinct clinical condition". In the study, one-third of patients who self-identified as gluten-intolerant did in fact experience symptom relief after adopting a gluten-free diet. Case closed, right? Pass the gluten-free pasta.The article is a mixed bag, but does a good job of showing with a couple of examples how common cognitive errors can lead otherwise intelligent people into becoming convinced that something benign is actually harmful. (His other example is "Chinese restaurant syndrome", which I'd heard of and which sounded semiplausible to me, although I've never personally known anyone who claimed to suffer from it.)
Not so fast. An important implication of the study is that two-thirds of people who think they are gluten intolerant really aren't. In light of this, the even-handed Sanghavi suggested that "patients convinced they have gluten intolerance might do well to also accept that their self-diagnosis may be wrong".