Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free Snack

Gluten Free Snack
Gluten Free
Dairy Free Snack
Dairy Free
Soy Free Snack
Soy Free

If you pull a random energy bar off a store shelf, odds are it contains gluten, dairy, or soy. IQ Bars exclude these ingredients entirely for two reasons. First, we aim to get our products in as many hands as possible, and much of the human population is allergic to or intolerant of gluten, dairy, or soy. Second, each of these ingredients contains compounds linked to negative cognitive and bodily health outcomes. We recognize these links are still actively debated, but will always err on the side of caution when formulating our bars.

Why Gluten Free?

Evidence linking chronic inflammation to cognitive dysfunction, depression, dementia, and other negative brain conditions is mounting. [1][2][3][4][5][6] Thus, it stands to reason that consumption of compounds that incite inflammation put us at risk. Literature suggests that gluten - a sticky protein that entered the human diet just 10,000 years ago - is one such compound for those with sensitivity to it. A landmark 2006 study identified notable overlap between patients with celiac disease (severe gluten sensitivity) and progressive cognitive decline. The study concluded “a possible association exists between progressive cognitive impairment and celiac disease, given the temporal relationship and the relatively high frequency of ataxia and peripheral neuropathy, more commonly associated with celiac disease.” [7]

So what exactly happens when a gluten-sensitive person consumes the sticky protein? Once in the small intestine, a component of gluten called gliadin instigates the mass-production of anti-gliadin antibodies. These antibodies then bind with gliadin molecules, and cause a class of immune cells called T cells to produce inflammatory cytokine chemicals that destroy villi - critical intestinal protrusions that absorb the nutrients we consume. Repeated damage to villi often results in Leaky Gut Syndrome, autoimmune disease, and a whole host of other maladies. In addition, strong evidence exists that cytokines correlate with a series of cognitive disorders. [8][9][10][11] Moreover, anti-gliadin antibodies are also capable of binding with proteins in the brain, resulting in even greater cytokine production. [12]

At this point, you may be thinking: “I don’t have gluten sensitivity, so none of this applies to me.” If so, we implore you to heed two realities. First, the vast majority of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease cases go undetected because most carriers experience no short-term symptoms. [13][14] As gastroenterologist Dr. Rodney Ford states in his 2009 article, The Gluten Syndrome: A Neurological Disease, “the crucial point...is that gluten-sensitivity can also be associated with neurological symptoms in patients who do not have any mucosal gut damage (that is, without celiac disease).” [15] Second, although researchers struggle to estimate just how large the population of gluten-sensitive individuals is, some experts like neurobiologist Dr. Aristo Vojdani suggest as much as 30% of Western populations are at risk. [16].

Why Dairy-Free?

Like grains, animal dairy was a recent addition to the human diet, entering ~7,500 years ago. And, while health implications of dairy are debated, much of the scientific community takes issue with a protein similar to gluten that manifested in dairy just several thousand years ago: A1 beta casein. The first knock on this protein is that it breaks down into opiate-like compounds called casomorphins that correlate with inflammation when those with sensitivity digest it. For instance, a 2014 study demonstrated increased levels of the inflammatory biomarker calprotectin in a subset of participants who consumed A1 beta casein. [17] Far more research on  casomorphins’ inflammatory effects has been conducted on rats and mice, with several studies linking A1 beta casein to the inflammatory biomarker myeloperoxidase. [18][19]

Researchers have also found correlations between A1 beta casein and a host of inflammatory conditions. Perhaps the most ardent critic of casein is Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who ran a series of studies in the 1980’s in which he found that rats developed liver lesions at an alarming rate when their diet exceeded 10-12% casein. [20][21][22] Dr. Campbell even wrote a book on this topic called The China Study in which he states: "Casein is the most relevant chemical carcinogen" that has ever been identified. Recent research gives potential credence to such claims - for instance, a 2014 study linked casein with growth in prostate cancer cells. [23] Other research has linked casein sensitivity to cognitive disorders. A 2010 study found a significant correlation between casein antibodies and major depressive disorders and schizophrenia. [24]

Another often-discussed, though less controversial, component of dairy is a sugar called lactose. Lactose intolerance is one of the leading allergies in the US and across the globe. According to the National Institutes of Health, “approximately 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy…[and] about 30 million American adults have some degree of lactose intolerance by age 20.” [25][26] One frequently-cited hypothesis for why this aversion to lactose is so widespread is that the human genome has not sufficiently evolved to adapt to continued animal dairy consumption. While lactose has not been shown to correlate with disease when consumed by those sensitive to it, it can produce painful and distressing symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and indigestion.

Why Soy-Free?

Soybeans were domesticated by Chinese farmers just several thousand years ago, and a staggering 90+% of soy grown in the US is genetically modified from its original structure. [27] Furthermore, while it is true that certain East Asian societies with long-living populations consume large quantities of soy (a fact the soy industry readily trumpets), the forms of soy these populations consume - organic fermented miso, natto, and tempeh - have markedly different nutritional profiles than the soy most frequently consumed by Americans. For one, the unfermented soy Americans consume is far higher in phytates, compounds that bind to brain-critical minerals like zinc, iron, and magnesium and make them unavailable for absorption in the human gut.

Soybeans are also high in isoflavones, which function as phytoestrogens that activate estrogen receptors in the body. Phytoestrogens can elevate or mitigate estrogen levels, depending on natural levels at time of consumption. [28] Estrogen disruption is concerning, given animal studies have linked soy isoflavones’ impact to breast cancer, and human studies have linked it to increased proliferation of breast cells most likely to become cancerous. [29][30][31][32][33] In men, isoflavone-induced estrogen increases have been shown to reduce fertility. [34] Further, a longitudinal study on Japanese-American men found that those who consumed the most tofu during mid-life had higher rates of cognitive impairment, brain shrinkage, and Alzheimer’s. [35] Study conductors implicated isoflavones as perpetrators of this cognitive decline.

Soy isoflavones also function as goitrogens, meaning they can disrupt proper thyroid function. For instance, they have been shown to interfere with thyroid peroxidase, the enzyme responsible for adding iodine during thyroid hormone production. [36][37] Animal and infant studies have also shown that high levels of soy consumption can induce development of goiter - a condition in which the thyroid becomes enlarged - unless a proper amount of iodine is consumed in tandem. [38][39][40][41][42][43] Furthermore, while research on soy’s effect on hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland, which often results in fatigue, coldness, and weight gain) is limited, some literature suggests that managing this condition can be complicated by a high-soy diet. [44]

 

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