This post isn't about Elisabeth Hasselbeck's little baby bulge.
It's about the impact that the gluten-free View co-host (shown at right at recent Borders book event) might have in boosting awareness of celiac disease.
Consider the results for "celiac" and "gluten" on Google Trends. In both cases you can see spikes representing searches for those words in early 2007 and now. The older spike probably represents Hasselbeck's January 2007 "coming out" as being gluten-free on The View as well as the rollout of Anheuser-Busch's Redbridge beer and, ultimately, the very hot news story about melamine in gluten in pet food.
But how about the current spike, which coincides with the release of Hasselbeck's book The G-Free Diet? Granted, May is also a Celiac Disease Awareness Month, but I have a feeling Hasselbeck's book, currently number two on The New York Times Hardcover Advice best-seller list, has a lot to do with people searching for "celiac" and "gluten."
A week ago, I attended Hasselbeck's reading at the Borders at Park Avenue and 57th Street. Coffee was served...
...and there were samples a-plenty of the new Starbucks Valencia Orange Cakes!
Here she is speaking...
...and here she is signing books.
So how was the event? It reminded me of the old New York City CSA support group meetings, which have not been held for several years. About 60 people attended, filling the area of the bookstore set aside for the event. After Hasselbeck told her story and invited questions, the question-askers (one had just gotten diagnosed—and another had gotten a diagnosis after his autism spectrum disorder child tested positive for celiac disease!) sought guidance on subjects ranging from getting diagnoses to finding friendly restaurants. Hasselbeck fielded the questions reasonably well but the answers were not as comprehensive as they might've been had the gathering involved a panel of people sharing the wisdom of their pooled experiences. Yes, this was a book-signing, not a support group meeting—but this was a book event that attracted people looking for support and validation that is not as available in New York City as it is elsewhere in the greater metropolitan area.
I also note that Hasselbeck continued to offer useful and accurate information mixed in with remarks that weren't as useful and accurate. When asked about restaurant options in the Big Apple, she reeled off a bunch of options but never mentioned the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program (GFRAP)'s website (let alone the GFNYC restaurant listings) as as an up-to-date resource for that kind of information. When it came to vinegar, she basically warned against it despite the research by Gluten-Free Living that showed that, with the exception of malt vinegar, all simple vinegars are gluten-free. "Vinegar Contains Gluten" is actually one of persistent myths identified in Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic, co-written by Rory Jones and Dr. Peter Green, Hasselbeck's own doctor (and mine):
Any vinegar that is distilled is gluten-free. Malt vinegar is not distilled and contains gluten. It is important to read labels to see what other ingredients may be in a product that contains vinegar. But the distilled vinegar itself is not an offending ingredient.Spikes in interest about celiac disease and gluten-free dieting provide gluten-free support networks with opportunities to provide reliable answers to the public and find the many people who remain undiagnosed. Hasselbeck and The G-Free Diet represents one of those opportunities—but no single book or individual should be expected to provide all of those answers, which in some (or many) cases may evolve over time. Those seeking support in New York City might benefit from the resources listed here and here. I hope to see the resources grow as word spreads in the times ahead.
BONUS For more evidence of a Hasselbeck bump, check out this segment from Sacramento TV station KCRA.
Photos: David Marc Fischer