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Immigrants, health, and wheat

October 19, 2013

Vanessa Hua writes about the immigrant’s paradox:

[A]n immigrant’s risk of smoking, obesity, and hypertension grow yearly. A person who immigrated to the U.S. within the last five years has half the risk of an American-born of getting a chronic condition. After living here for more than 15 years, a person is only 24 percent less likely to have a chronic condition.

NPR has an article questioning some of the recent claims in the health industry that new varieties of wheat are increasing the incidence of celiac disease. It doesn’t question that the incidence of celiac is growing, nor that some people suffer gluten sensitivity.

And I don’t doubt that many people, including many who digest gluten without problem, feel much better giving up wheat. But not necessarily because of wheat. First, to give up wheat requires giving up a lot of baked goods and processed foods, from crackers and bread to a broad range of prepared foods that include wheat, even things that don’t seem the least bit like bread. “Has wheat” is a fair proxy for “has sugar,” “has margarine,” and has a variety of odder ingredients. Second, those foods are such a large part of the typical modern diet that giving them up requires an individual to pay closer attention to what they eat.

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