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A restaurant owner in Ireland has had enough of gluten-free requests.
“DOCTOR’S NOTE REQUIRED TO GET GLUTEN-FREE FOOD,” wrote Paul Stenson, owner of The White Moose Café in Dublin, on the restaurant's Facebook page.
The post, which has gone viral, made fun of an interaction Stenson had with a customer who asked for gluten-free pancakes.
While his message offended many, Stenson said the post was "in jest."
“The point of it was to create awareness of the fact that there are people out there with a medical condition that necessitates the total cutting out of gluten in their diets. It was to tell the superficial fad followers to [wise up],” Stenson told TODAY, via email.
Stenson's reaction may have been harsh, but a study published Tuesday in JAMA Internal Medicine confirms what he suspected. More people are going gluten-free, but the number of people with celiac disease — the autoimmune disorder that makes sufferers unable to digest gluten, — remains steady.
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In the U.S., about 1.7 million people are diagnosed with celiac disease, while an estimated 2.7 million people say they have gone gluten-free, although they've never been diagnosed with the condition, the Rutgers University researchers found.
Of course it's possible some of the undiagnosed gluten-free dieters actually do have celiac. Or they might have a gluten sensitivity, which creates symptoms similar to celiac, like bloating and diarrhea. And it’s worth noting celiac is higher in the Irish population, previous research has found.
Stenson is quick to say the problem isn't people with an actual condition, but the "fad following faux celiac."
“It’s not annoying if you are preparing food for an actual celiac. They cannot have gluten or they will become violently ill. We will go to whatever lengths that are necessary to ensure these people are catered for," he told TODAY.
Stenson said that he’s received as much support as criticism.
“For every negative message we received there were about 10 messages of support,” he said.
And, Stenson responded to the negative comments with caustic wit, offering bandages for hurt feelings.
Nutritionists want people to know that a gluten-free diet isn't always healthier. Gluten-free cookies, for example, aren’t more nutritious or lower in calories than regular cookies. And then there is portion control.
"Just because you think that something is healthier doesn’t mean you can eat five servings of it,” said Julie Andrews, R.D. with the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who has a number of gluten-free patients.
As for gluten intolerance, the research presents a murky picture.
"It is not really diagnosable, the intolerant part," Andrews said.
Instead, people should focus on eating a diet that makes sense for their own body, rather than following trends, she said.
"Everyone is different and what works for you might not work for someone else," she said.