Rosanna Davison has been accused of giving arthritis sufferers false hope after she claimed gluten can be responsible for autism, schizophrenia, and arthritis.
The former Miss World said her husband’s arthritis-related pain had eased after she recommended he cut back on pizza and beer.
She made the remarks in an interview in the Sunday Independent to promote her forthcoming cookbook.
The article said Ms Davison had cited “research that shows gluten to be the bad guy responsible for a huge range of medical conditions from autism spectrum disorders to schizophrenia to arthritis”.
The sentence that appears to be at the root of all of this, is not a quote, does not appear in the book and does NOT reflect my views.— Rosanna Davison (@rosanna_davison) August 26, 2015
Gráinne O’Leary, head of service development at Arthritis Ireland described the comments as misleading.
“I think it’s wholly irresponsible,” said Ms O’Leary.
“The difficulty with this is that people living with these conditions are living with long-term conditions that are complex and often misunderstood on a daily basis.
“It’s giving people false hope,” Ms O’Leary said.
“People are desperately looking for something that will make them feel better.
“It’s wholly misleading for a quote like that to be published.
“To say that cutting out the pizza and beer will get rid of your rheumatoid arthritis is really dismissing the illness.”
My point was, and remains, that diet may play an important role in alleviating symptoms of serious conditions. This is well documented.— Rosanna Davison (@rosanna_davison) August 26, 2015
Ms O’Leary said rheumatoid arthritis cannot be cured but that its symptoms can be managed with a complex medical regime.
“We would not be advocating that people follow a gluten-free diet, or any kind of elimination diet. There is no scientific basis for what Rosanna Davison espoused in her article,” she said.
“Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, it is very complex. It certainly has never been scientifically proven that a gluten-free diet can actually cure it. There is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis. If a gluten-free diet was a cure then rheumatologists, the length and breadth of the country, would be espousing those values.”
Marc Defalvo, chairman of Irish Autism Action, said he was aware of anecdotal accounts of how removing gluten from the diets of children on the autistic spectrum proved beneficial, but said he was not aware of any scientific evidence to support this.
I have a more detailed statement on my website. Please read it for a clarification of my views: http://t.co/VIzQeLgMdn— Rosanna Davison (@rosanna_davison) August 26, 2015
“From an Irish Autism Action point of view we have never heard of any suggestion that gluten can cause a diagnosis,” he said.
Mr Defalvo said the group would advise parents that any dietary changes be managed in a balanced manner, and advised anyone considering such changes to seek professional support from qualified dieticians.
Ms Davison responded to the controversy with a statement on her website in which she said she agreed with Arthritis Ireland, and that rheumatoid arthritis should be managed through consultation with GPs and consultants.
“I was by no means stating that gluten causes arthritis or any other diseases, or that they can be cured by removing it from the diet. But I felt that it was acceptable to share the experience that my husband had with making dietary changes to control his pain,” she said.
I think I'd better clarify a few things: I do not believe gluten is responsible for autism, schizophrenia or arthritis.— Rosanna Davison (@rosanna_davison) August 26, 2015
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