Vigilance needed when dealing with hype surrounding books

by Josh Sosland
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In a recent Wheat Foods Council blog, Council president Marcia Scheideman took issue with television personality Elisabeth Hasselbeck, whose new book advocates a gluten-free diet. Ms. Scheideman rightly said that for the general public, "eliminating gluten from the diet has absolutely no connection with weight gain, loss or maintenance or for that matter simply feeling good."

One might wish that the craziness stopped with Ms. Hasselbeck. But now, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler is on the media circuit publicizing his new book blaming the nation’s rising obesity on proliferation of sugar, fat and salt in the diet. Foods with these ingredients "excessively activate the neural circuitry of many of our brains," he said in a recent radio interview.

Dr. Kessler’s academic credentials may eclipse Ms. Hasselbeck’s, but that does not mean his grasp of the facts is any better. Berating the restaurant chain Chili’s for its Margarita Grilled Chicken, he warned darkly that consumers don’t know Chili’s incorporates a "15% solution of a marinade, which, that marinade has orange juice, sweet and sour mix, which is sugar citric acid, soybean oil, artificial colorings, triple-sec, canola oil, tequila, salt, and that is all inside the chicken."

In fact, it isn’t "inside the chicken," whatever that may mean. The recipe he describes, which includes sides of rice and beans, has a total of 710 calories, a reasonable total for a dinner entree. Dr. Kessler apparently doesn’t spend enough time in a kitchen to understand that after the marinating period, a marinade is dumped, negligibly adding to caloric content.

Ms. Hasselbeck’s and Dr. Kessler’s ability to gain the public’s attention through the media is a reminder that grain-based foods needs ongoing vigilance to deal with the never-ending stream of authors who refuse to let reality interfere with selling their books.

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