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The Daily Illini

Stop glorifying specialized diets

Jamie Linton, Columnist

Yet another celebrity-endorsed trend has entered mainstream culture.

In a society so heavily influenced by the actions of the rich and famous, it’s no surprise that weird food trends like Beyoncé’s liquid-only diet or Megan Fox’s Paleolithic (eating “like a caveman”) diet, have been widely adopted by men and women everywhere. 

It’s admirable that the general public has decided to embrace clean eating, especially given that the U.S. has the 12th highest obesity rate in the world, at 35 percent of the population.  However, it’s concerning that we praise bizarre food trends for being nutritious when data has proven otherwise.  Additionally, restaurants and cafés have used these food intolerance trends to drive up prices, leaving those with actual allergies no choice but to pay a premium due to health reasons. 

Food establishments now offer options for gluten and dairy-free alternatives, based off celebrity endorsed allergen-free diets. But in the grand scheme of things, their endorsements do more harm than good. 

Because certain public figures have glorified illnesses like celiac disease, which inhibits the incorporation of those affected diets, restaurants are introducing alternatives at astronomical costs. 

This is convenient for those who can afford to pay extra for their already overpriced coffee; however, for the everyday sufferer who has to constantly purchase specialized groceries, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is expensive.  This, in addition to the amount of money they may have to spend on medical care for their illnesses, can eat up a majority of their income.

Popularizing the diets of people who are gluten or lactose intolerant could be understandable if they didn’t have adverse effects on the health of a typical individual.  According to a study in Spain, “a month on a gluten-free diet may hurt our gut flora and immune function, potentially setting those on gluten-free diets up for an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in their intestines.” 

Though side effects of special diets will affect everyone differently, cutting necessary food groups out of your diet without accounting for the nutrients you’re losing can result in malnutrition.

It’s important that those who are concerned with legitimate food allergies and intolerances see a doctor that can help them make a diet change; however, it’s due to the actions of those who make unnecessary changes that companies are profiting off the glorification of specialized diets.


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1 Comment

  • Caitlin Sanders

    Well said. As a person who is lactose intolerant, I frequently find myself frustrated by the extra costs to purchase food products with soy, almond, or other lactose free alternatives. And as an animal scientist concentrating my studies in nutrition, the mis-information spread by marketing and media ploys about popular diets (ex. grain- or gluten-free) makes it much harder to disseminate scientifically supported nutritional information and help people make truly healthy and beneficial changes in their diets. The focus for diet formulation should be based on scientific literature, not celebrity and media endorsed anecdotal “evidence”.