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The Gluten Lie: And Other Myths About What You Eat

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  640 ratings  ·  138 reviews
An incendiary work of science journalism debunking the myths that dominate the American diet and showing readers how to stop feeling guilty and start loving their food again—sure to ignite controversy over our obsession with what it means to eat right.


Gluten. Salt. Sugar. Fat. These are the villains of the American diet—or so a
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 21st 2015 by Regan Arts.
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Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
I wanted to love this book. I wanted to buy a dozen copies and anonymously mail them to all the people who post about juice fasts and "eating clean". I think I'm more disappointed in it because of that than I would be if I didn't want to love it so much. Like when the politician you voted for says something idiotic, and that's worse than when the other guy says something equally idiotic. Because you're on the same side, how can your guy be saying idiotic things?!

Alan Levinovitz is a "scholar of
Prima Seadiva
Oct 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: food, non-fiction
I had mixed feelings about this book (2.5 stars).I don't usually write such long reviews.
However having been involved with natural foods since the late 60's and working in the retail end for 39 of those years I've seen a lot of change and food trends and the subject is of long interest to me. This book addressed some of them. I worked in 2 local places, one now gone, the other thriving celebrating 37 years this month.

I recall when plain yogurt was considered very exotic. Now in every flavor
May 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating. Well written. Science-based. Highly entertaining. And a completely different perspective on diet fads and fantasies. Most refreshing. Prescriptions about what to eat and what not to eat have a lot in common with the dictates of religious cults, and the followers are no less fervent. Our beliefs in (or hopes for) diets, like our beliefs in supernatural forces, are largely based in magical thinking. It’s so hard not to buy into the myths, in false dichotomies, and the moralistic ...more
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. Like really REALLY. I think anyone familiar with social media nowadays must be annoyed by some of the self-appointed health gurus, who have a "simple fix" to all your problems. Just follow this diet, ups, its not called diet anymore, its LIFESTYLE now, and all your problems will gluten is the latest trend.

And the book starts with the latest gluten craze. It explains a bit the history of celiac disease and how its non-sense for people who are not
Oct 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nutrition
The author has a valid point - that extremes in nutrition really aren't helpful, and are often over-hyped. But his argument is presented with such ferocious spite that I expected at any moment to have to wipe some spittle from the page. What could have been an interesting exploration of the ever-ongoing debate was actually an emotive rant. The author's vitriol didn't endear me to his recommendations.

It must be possible to disagree in science without hostility, surely?
Ben Zornes
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it

My record on food fussiness is well established. In short, I think we should eat just about everything with gratitude––even processed foods. Those who invoke the verse about our bodies being the temple of the Holy Ghost to justify their food anxieties and fears need the gentle correction of a holy raspberry.

Yes, now I remember, this is a book review. The Gluten Lie traces how food myths gain credence and become gospel, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. For instance, in the 80s we

Jul 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
As someone who is utterly sick and tired of being told what I’m not meant to eat, or worse, that giving my child fruit is tantamount to giving them chocolate, I was desperate to know I’m not the only person who relies on dieticians, not whatever nutritionist or wanna-be is flogging their new diet, says I should be eating.

The title of this book is quite misleading, so it’s important not to get the wrong idea about this book. This is not a book about nutrition or arguing the science of what is and
Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really loved this book. The author puts forth and validates so much of what I have observed over the years when counselling people regarding the constantly moving targets in nutrition. Levinovitz's perspective is refreshing and brings to the table insights only someone outside the science and practice of nutrition is likely to notice. I highlighted so many passages and found myself gaining my own new insights and saying "Yes!" a lot.

I think there is much to be gained from considering the
Aug 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was an interesting read about food/diet trends (not just gluten but also fat and sugar) and how to spot them. In the back is an example diet & then the author shows you the "red flags" that should warn us if a fad. There are a lot of food myths out there. This was a voice of reason. Great book!!
Aug 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Sobering comments regarding the food hysteria that is currently prevalent. As many people have said, the final section takes a bit of a slide, it feels like he has bowed to publisher pressure with regards to the writing style, ultimately suffocating the ideas in hyperbole.
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
I picked up this book out of frustration with all the diets out there and lack of solid information about what is truly 'healthy'. So I enjoyed that the author basically says that much of the fads are not based on scientific findings, and points out how other authors cherry-pick the data, use scare tactics, revert to Nature, and claim modernity as the problem. I tend to think of myself as being very scientific-minded, but I gotta say I was really peeved that he apparently regards anything not ...more
Jul 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Much diet and health advice is based on the type of faith more often seen in churches and synagogues than in scientific laboratories, so I'm glad that at last we get a health book by a professor of religion! He shows convincingly why today's popular Paleo, anti-gluten, and other restrictive diets are just the latest in a long line of overhyped attempts to explain something that is far too complicated for our human minds to comprehend.

With good overviews of MSG, Sugar, Fat, Salt, and more, he
May 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A bit of a disappointment. The book has a great premise: tracking the history of food and diet myths in order to understand why people accept different "fads" as "truths", but the author tells more than he shows. In this way the book felt too preachy and if a reader who agrees with him on most points feels lectured, the book won't have much of an impact on skeptics. Still, the book was a quick read and provided some good examples and good information about the history and controversies ...more
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Good book. It's a little superficial, but it covers a lot of dietary myths and does a good job of explaining why drastic approaches to nutrition are not necessary or useful.
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
I gave this 2 stars because Levinovitz does a great job uncloaking lies and biases about gluten, MSG, salt, sugar, fat, "super foods", and fad diets. The historical perspective is great and he effectively uses examples of historical fear-mongering to demonstrate that these insane diets have always been a part of human history (i.e. monks in ancient China only drinking water and gaining immortality, nuns being possessed by animal demons when they ate meat). Everyone that thinks they are ...more
David Schwan
May 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Readers will either hate this book or love it. The author presents the reader with a look at food myths and shows elements of these myths to look for. The author is not a scientist but rather studies historical Chinese food myths (the Daoists) and shows the reader the basic elements of a food myth. While not a scientist the author has consulted with many scientists and presents arguements about MSG, Gluten, Salt, and Fat. Many of the things that bugged me about the book "Grain Brain" and ...more
Gail Pigford
Jul 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
I like to investigate the credentials an author has when writing a book. After looking up the author's educational background I wondered why he would write a nutrition book and was slightly amused when he addressed this early on in the book. I found the history of some of the myths interesting but his arguments were rather flat and unconvincing. After stating for several chapters we should be skeptical of the latest fads he than introduces his own fad diet, of course based on sound scientific ...more
Jul 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
This book is terrible, and I don't even disagree with a lot of what Levinovitz is arguing. Maybe it's his overuse of the word "charlatan" or his failure to use any actual science to bolster his views - or maybe it's just that I happen to have read some really excellent, well-researched, measured, organized journalism lately (e.g. Pig Tales, Fifth Extinction, Duty, On Immunity). Mostly, I prickled at every angry, condescending, insensitive, and unfounded sentence in this book.
Sonia Dyett
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book does a nice job at taking down common food myths (even though I still believe sugar is evil). But at the end of the book, the author writes an entire "parody" chapter about his "new discovery" of finding out that food packaging is poisoning our food. The problem is, an an e-book, you can't really tell it is a satire and you think that the author has just gone off his rocker. He should have definitely shortened that segment and made the parody aspect more obvious in the e-book.
Aug 22, 2016 rated it did not like it
He just didn't do a good job of analyzing the available science. And it's hard to take seriously a guy talking about salt restriction who claims that 3 grams is anything other than 3000 milligrams (he claims 3 grams of sodium comes out to about 1260 milligrams- in what world, I don't know).
Yeah, there's a ton of problems with the way diet is discussed. But he really does a poor job of analyzing how it ought to be discussed.
Sep 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
As a writer who specializes in health, fitness, and nutrition, I'm aware that there's really nothing new "out there" when it comes to dieting and weight loss. What I enjoyed about the Gluten Lie is the background on how easily we're persuaded by what others tell us about how we should eat, what's good/bad for us, etc. I also enjoyed his "Unpacked Diet" and the analysis of it...anyone who falls for a fad diet should read that section of the book!
Nov 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: top-recommends
A great sceptical book on food and I think the world needs a lot more scepticism. (read The Believing Brain). This author might have spent a little more time reminding us that some of the bull shit we're exposed to actually could prove to be true, but the message that science is messy and often not clear cut is s good one.
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
I found this book surprisingly easy to read and very engaging. Sadly, those people who would benefit most from it probably won't read it and Levinovitz will be preaching to the converted (well, this isn't exactly the appropriate word because people with a scientific approach don't get "converted", do we? We weigh the evidence ...)
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Excellent insight into how diet/health books and media stories cherry-pick research studies and tap into religious tropes to advance their agenda.
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
HIGHLY recommend this book! I'm a registered dietitian who supports evidence-based, practical nutrition recommendations that support a person's unique and total (mental AND physical AND emotional) health, NOT sabre-rattling, fear-mongering, or black-and-white nutrition dogma from any nutrition professional (qualified or self-described- there is plenty on both sides) about any particular nutrient/group of nutrients for the general population. The most fascinating part of the book aside from ...more
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book was annoying.

I saw a picture of it online somewhere and ordered from the library. I assumed it was written by a scientist who would discuss science. In actuality, the author has no health experience; he studies religion, and essentially wrote this book to show how fad diets are mythologies. There is very little discussion of the science. Studies are referenced, but nothing you haven’t heard before (if you read this kind of thing) and it’s glossed over; a talking point in service of his
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, science

The Gluten Lie: And Other Myths about what you Eat (2015) by Alan Levinovitz is a study of various food myths and fad diets, where they come from, how they are propagated and how they tie into long standing beliefs that are quasi-religious.

Levinovitz is a professor who studies religion and his perspective on diet is really interesting.

The book starts by looking at how Celiacs disease and Gluten sensitivity were discovered, initially under-diagnosed and then substantially over-diagnosed and
Gluten. Salt. Sugar. Fat. These are the villains of the American diet-or so a host of doctors and nutritionists would have you believe. But the science is far from settled, and we are racing to eliminate wheat and corn syrup from our diets because we've been lied to. The truth is that almost all of us can put the buns back on our burgers and be just fine. Remember when butter was the enemy? Now it's good for you. You may have lived through times when the Atkins Diet was good, then bad, and then ...more
Tiffany Tee
May 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
DK Simoneau
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
As someone who has suffered from non celiac gluten intolerance- but has also recovered, I was intrigued. I have been down several of the rabbit holes discussed in this book. I always believed my gluten intolerance as a symptom. I began really being intrigued by the idea of someone suggesting I was gluten intolerant and try going off for 2 weeks and then start eating again to see what happens. I think I very well may have made myself have symptoms just based on a newfound belief I had just ...more
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