Saturday, July 28, 2007


Perhaps you've heard of Gawker, the snarky gossip and media news site that is one of the most heavily visited blogs in the world. Right now it's ranked at 28 on Technorati's list of Popular Blogs—ahead of Hot Air (34) by Michelle Malkin but behind Seth's Blog (11) by the guy who ran off with my high school prom date. (I kid you not.)

Anyway, about that snarky thing: The writers at Gawker like to entertain their readers by invoking stereotypes of groups such as the Jews. Predictably, some of The Chosen have started whining about this sort of thing, but Gawker has repeatedly explained that it was merely being hilariously funny! After all, what could be more comedic than echoing al Qaeda again and again on the Internets?

And it's not like Gawker only mocks the Jews. Lately there's also been some riotous polling over whether Wesleyan or Sarah Lawrence is the most obnoxious liberal arts college ever. OMGLOL!!! And, just yesterday, Gawker ventured into new snark territory in a post alluding to celiac disease. Oh, what will they think of next?

Here's the Gawker item, which came to my attention thanks to Erin of Gluten-Free Fun and the New York City Celiac Disease Meetup Group. The boldface is mine!
Why There Are No Fat People At Wesleyan

A few weeks ago, we would've titled this post "Why There Are No Fat People At Oberlin," but a new day has dawned. Anyway! A study came out the other day about fat kids, and guess what? They're less likely to go to college. Not only that, but if they're at a school surrounded by thin kids, they're even less likely to go to college!
Obese girls were only half as likely as non-obese girls to go to college after high school, and were even less likely to enter college if they went to a high school where few other students were overweight, says [University of Texas at Austin sociologist Robert] Crosnoe. But obese girls who went to high school with a sizable overweight population—where heavy girls represented about 20% of the student body -- had normal odds of attending college. "The more it makes you stand out from the crowd, the worse it is," says Crosnoe.
Since most Wesleyan feeder schools are either private or one of those rich suburban high schools where the girls all happen to have celiac disease, and the fat girls are treated like Martha Dumptruck, it's not surprising that the campus would look like an Undereaters Anonymous retreat. Skinny jeans, people! There's a reason they don't come in big sizes!
So where does this celiac reference come from? Is it based on reality or just deeply ignorant...I mean, a brilliant invention cooked up by Gawker?

Whatever the answers might be, I was impressed by a few of the responses. Wrote Jane T:
I'm not sure why you associate celiac disease with being underweight? A recent study of 371 people with celiac disease found that only 5% were underweight, 57% were normal, and 39% were overweight (13% of all patients were in the obese range) at diagnosis. To make matters worse, 81% of them gained weight on the gluten free diet! Producers of gluten free foods seem to use sugar to disguise the taste of their foods. A slice of gluten free bread is usually about half the size of a normal slice of bread with similar or more calories.

It may not seem an important issue but many people are not diagnosed because of this misconception. Even doctors are telling patients that it's not worth testing for celiac because they are too fat so maybe I shouldn't be surprised that you think the same! Untreated celiac disease puts them at increased risk of anemia, osteoporosis and various cancers.

You seem to be implying that people with celiac are following a fad diet in order to lose weight and I know there are plenty of these around. But I hardly think the UK National Health Service would supply gluten free food on prescription and spend money on biopsies annual blood tests and appointments with specialists for a fad diet.

This type of attitude also makes life difficult for people with celiac disease when they eat out. It's difficult to trust assurances that there is no gluten in a meal when it's obvious the waitress thinks you just on a fad diet and it won't make any difference if there's just a bit of gluten in there. Unfortunately this will often be enough to confine many celiacs to the bathroom for a day or so (though not all have an obvious reaction) and the damage caused to the intestines will take between 3 weeks to 3 months to heal.
Wrote CeliacChick Kelly Courson:
Thanks for mentioning celiac disease, Gawker!! We need all the media attention we can get to raise awareness for the nearly 3 million (1 out of 100)Americans that are undiagnosed!
I find it interesting you link celiac disease to suburban rich girls. Could it be that they can afford good health care to finally get a proper diagnosis? Hmmm...
And here's the word from Teenage Witch:
god damn. i'm living the fucking american dream! i'm gluten intolerant (celiac), over-weight, upper middle class, went to private high-school AND liberal arts college and still gettin laid.
Ooooo...fighting snark with snark!

But seriously: that study cited by Jane T? Entitled "Overweight in Celiac Disease: Prevalence, Clinical Characteristics, and Effect of a Gluten-Free Diet" and published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology in 2006, it can be found over at Medscape, which might require registration. The conclusion states:
Few celiac patients are underweight at diagnosis and a large minority is overweight; these are less likely to present with classical features of diarrhea and reduced hemoglobin. Failed or delayed diagnosis of celiac disease may reflect lack of awareness of this large subgroup. The increase in weight of already overweight patients after dietary gluten exclusion is a potential cause of morbidity, and the gluten-free diet as conventionally prescribed needs to be modified accordingly.
The study highlights include the following:
  • A minority of celiac patients present with classic symptoms due to malabsorption.
  • Of 371 celiac patients, only 4% were underweight while 39% were overweight.
  • Overweight patients are less likely to be female, report diarrhea, or have high grade villous atrophy, and have higher hemoglobin concentrations and bone mineral densities.
  • A majority of overweight patients gain further weight with gluten exclusion.
  • To avoid delay or failure of diagnosis, physicians need to be aware that celiac patients often have high BMI, with milder clinical presentations.
  • Dietary advice needs tailoring to facilitate weight loss and prevent further gain in overweight patients.

  • DID YOU KNOW? Gawker has touched on gluten-free matters before. Back in the day (a.k.a. February 2006), Gawker referred readers to this item by Gluten-Free Girl.


    Erin S. said...

    I give Jane T. for writing that comment to Gawker. Gawker has a tendency to lash back at negative commenters, so I am curious to see what their reaction to Jane T. might be.

    David, this is a great posting and definitely adds to mine tremendously. said...

    To my mind every person ought to browse on it.