Wednesday, 18 January 2017

How a winter of starvation led to one of the biggest nutritional movement in the world.

I am in a mood for storytelling and I have an interesting one today.

Dr. Willem Karel Dicke, was a Dutch Paediatrician and specialized in paediatry at Juliana Children's Hospital in Hague. Dr. Dicke, was a bright doctor and in 1936 at the age of just 31 he was made the director of the hospital.

During the late 1930’s and early 1940’s Europe was in the midst of the Second World War. Bread and wheat was in short supply and people had to locally source their food and had to follow strict rationing measures. Tulip bulbs and other locally grown vegetables sustained the local population.  During these bleak times, Dr Dicke noticed that most of his young patients showed a remarkable improvement in their health. Dr. Dicke hypothesised that the lack of wheat in the diet of his young patients was improving their health and making them feel better.

Dr Dicke, in his time as director of Wilhelmia Hospital (Image source - Gut. 1993.)

Dicke's first report about the wheat free diet was published in Het Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde in 1941.  In his report, he said “…Therefore, I give a simple diet, which is helping these children at this time of rationing. The diet should not contain any bread or rusks. A hot meal twice a day is also well tolerated. The third meal can be sweet or sour porridge (without any wheat flour)….”

In the 1940’s and 1950’s Dicke went on to formally establish the gluten-free diet.  By 1952, Dicke had established that celiac disease was caused by the ingestion of wheat proteins and not carbohydrates.

It has been more than 60 years since Dr. Dicke helped his little patients lead a normal life, just by a change of diet.  Since the  infamous period of "The Winter of starvation" during which Dr. Dicke made his discovery a lot has changed in our understanding of gluten and today's gluten-free-ness is one of the fastest-growing nutritional movements in the world — and for a lot of good reasons. People everywhere are feeling healthier, more energetic, and finding relief from a range of illnesses and discomforts, like celiac disease and even menopausal symptoms.

In the coming posts we will share with you some more interesting stories and some latest cutting edge discoveries in Dietic and Food sciences that will change some things that we always cherished to be true. Most of the posts will be sourced from peer- reviewed journals and research papers. Do read the sources that will be cited at the  end of the post.

Note on source: Most of the sources for this post are from thee archives of the Journal Gut. Gut is an international peer-reviewed journal for health professionals and researchers in gastroenterology & hepatology . Archives can be sourced from here 

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