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Gluten-Free Diets Kill! A Toxic Leadership Insight

Yep, it’s true. If you don’t believe me read the January 2015 issue of Consumer Reports here. Before we get to the killing part, Consumer Reports points out that their research shows that gluten-free foods usually have a lot more fat, sugar and calories than gluten-ful foods. And of course, they are way more expensive.

But the killer argument, pun intended, is about the toxins. Gluten-free foods tend to use a lot of rice. And rice mostly has very high levels of inorganic arsenic in it.

Guess what? Despite all the legions of food regulators out there, there are still no Federal standards for how much arsenic is allowed in foods. So you can sell rice with dangerous levels of arsenic in it without fear of the Feds nabbing you.

Eat too much rice and you consume dangerous levels of arsenic. Consumer Reports recommends that children eat no more than 1 serving of rice per week so that they can stay within a safe zone. Hmmm, that doesn’t sound good, right?

So how many people do you know who have moved to a gluten-free diet? How about how many haven’t? It’s very fashionable right now to adopt one. Like buying an iPhone, or doing yoga.

What about the leaders of the food companies? Have they considered these issues? Or Federal regulators? How about the squads of business ethicists? Demonstrators for a higher minimum wage? You get the point.

And that point is; sometimes leaders and leadership can take us down really bad directions yet we can all feel virtuous about it. There are hackneyed examples of course like Nazi Germany. But you don’t even have to use them. There are great examples we can grab straight from everyday life, like gluten-free.

What that tells us that just because something looks virtuous, it doesn’t mean it is. It might even be toxic or deadly, again like gluten-free diets. And you can’t be sure that the business, social, political, financial and spiritual leaders we have will tell you.

Sure, in many cases they don’t know. But in some cases where they don’t know it might just be inconvenient to focus on the topic. Such as, for example, children being routinely exposed to unsafe levels of arsenic.

Now it might be thought that I am crying wolf and this is “only” one small little issue in a sea of safe public nutrition. But unfortunately other similar issues come to mind here:

  • How about antibiotics in meat? You know, the ones that appear to be closely linked to rapidly rising and dangerously high antibiotic resistance in humans; that increasingly seem to be linked to obesity due to their impact in killing off good bugs in our microbiome (the bugs in our gut)?
  • Or what about sugar and its toxic impacts on our metabolism? I don’t think I need post any references about that
  • Or how about phthalates, those ubiquitous chemicals found in many plastics? You know the ones that interfere with our endocrine system, disrupting sexual development in both sexes, associated with early breast development in girls and possible the continuing decline in sperm counts in men globally? Yes them.
  • Or how about the dangerous levels of mercury in tuna and other fish? So high that bodies such as Consumer Reports also recommend that pregnant women don’t eat them at all and that the general populace only eat them once every so often so that they are not at danger of brain damage?

I could go on but there’s no need. So what’s my point?

It’s not about the danger these foods although that’s patently a major problem. It’s how what appears to be responsible leadership often isn’t, but that people still follow it.

Rachel Carson saw this many years ago in her book “Silent Spring”, which for the first time exposed the problem of agricultural chemical concentration in the food chain. What she realized is that even when you have what passes for good leadership, it can conceal terrible developments about which we remain, willfully or otherwise, unaware.

We can talk all we want about good leadership skills, being ethical in leadership, and the virtues of being inspirational and engaged. But good leadership can still totally miss things that are quietly killing us even as we all talk and practice it.

The price of great leadership (my bad) is eternal vigilance.



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