Science: The Cultural Politics of Gluten

And now for something completely different. . .

Sometimes science can be positively hilarious, except when it sets up another screen for detecting bigotry and sexism. That’s the case for a brand new study just out from the National Institutes of Health entitled “Too picky for my taste? The effect of the gluten-free dietary restriction on impressions of romantic partners.” Summary: turns out that being gluten-free is just fine if you are female, but men who are gluten-free are perceived as wimps and won’t get as many dates.

No, really, just read the abstract and translate from the scientific language:

Millions of individuals world-wide adhere to a gluten-free diet and this dietary trend is on the rise. The present research identified a consumption stereotype of those following a gluten-free diet and tested whether this stereotype influenced impressions and interest in a potential romantic partner. We also assessed whether being gluten-free differentially impacted impressions of males compared to females. In Study 1, participants (N = 161) responded to a survey containing both qualitative and quantitative components in which they evaluated gluten-free individuals and indicated their interest in dating them. In Study 2 (N = 132), we manipulated the dietary restriction (gluten-free vs. no dietary restriction) of a target within the context of a mock online dating paradigm and measured participants’ evaluations of the target. In both studies, gluten-free individuals were perceived as having positive and negative attributes such as being high-maintenance, picky, demanding, complaining and judgmental, yet healthy, self-disciplined, understanding and energetic. The gluten-free diet was associated with ratings of femininity and lead to more negative judgments of males than females. Whereas in Study 1 participants expressed some hesitation about dating a gluten-free individual, no effects on romantic interest were obtained in Study 2. These data are the first to delineate the gluten-free stereotype and provide a useful platform for future study.

Can’t wait for the follow-up studies. Memo to NIH: now do vegans.

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