by Sue Newell, Manager, Education and Special Projects
The internet is full of information about celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and the gluten-free diet. Not all the information is valid, useful or accurate. Separating internet myths from fact is a key piece of being comfortable with eating gluten-free. The quantity of information available is staggering and it comes in so many forms – from blog entries to dense scientific articles. On top of sorting through the huge quantity of information, you must deal with a very uneven level of quality. Some of it is sheer speculation without a shred of proof; some is the result of years of painstaking study and research. Some of it comes from people who want you to buy something (or not buy something) and some of it is offered with the best of intentions.
I don’t think a lot of people specifically try to create fear maliciously, but sometimes they repeat information they have heard from other people who have either misunderstood something or who have drawn conclusions that are unwarranted
based on fact.
Figuring out whether a source is reliable is not an easy thing – it takes detective work. You must figure out where to look and what clues to look for. You may run into way too much information or not enough at all. The easy way is to just accept whatever you find, but this may not be the best solution.
Here are a few tips for figuring out if the information is accurate:
- Was this information published in the last few years? The labelling rules changed five years ago in Canada. Anything older than that is suspect.
- Is it talking about products sold in Canada? If not, it doesn’t apply.
- For disease information, does the information reference published journal articles? Ideally, you are looking for the journal reference or at least the names of the investigators.
- Is this a blog site or a site sponsored by a credible institution? Blog posts are opinions unless the facts are supported by references.
Finally, trust your own knowledge. If something sounds too good to be true, it quite possibly is. This is especially true if the information contradicts things you have earned from reliable sources. If you have doubts, don’t eat something. The worst that will happen is you miss out on something that is safe. That is a lot better than saying the price of eating something that is not safe.