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Gluten Free Not Necessarily Healthier

Celebrities claim gluten free eating is their secret to skinny. Is it better or healthier?

Miley Cyrus recently tweeted about giving up gluten saying everyone should try it for a week.  I actually decided to give up gluten for two weeks to experience what a patient might go through.  I happened to be curious because so many people “anecdotally” tell me that they feel bloated when they eat pasta or bread (some people will just lump all white foods into that category).

Elisabeth Hasselback wrote a book about it.  Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jenny McCarthy are doing it… should you?  There are some individuals who have a sensitivity, allergy and intolerance to gluten.  Celiac disease is the formal name for the auto immune disorder which causes individuals to have an inability to absorb gluten and cause gastro intestinal problems.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.  Grains that do not contain gluten are quinoa (pronounced Keen-WA), buckwheat (kasha), millet, rice (brown and white), and amaranth.

Gluten free products are not calorie free, nor is eating a gluten-free diet “healthier” for individuals without an absorption issue.  It is wonderful that food manufacturers have created product lines to meet the dietary needs for people with food allergies – especially gluten.  Taste, texture and cost are arguably not the same.  People who eliminate gluten from their dietary intake are at risk for nutrient deficiencies: B vitamins, calcium, Vitamin D, iron, zinc, magnesium and fiber. 

Research looked at adults who were “gluten free” for 10 years and found they had low levels of folate (Vitamin B6) and high levels of homocysteine – which are risk factors for heart attack, stroke and vascular disease.  In addition, those who are gluten free are at increased risk for osteopenia, osteoporosis, and iron deficiency anemia.

With the exception of celebrities – who tend to have other disordered eating habits – most patients have reported to me that they have increased their body weight since eliminating gluten from their diets versus losing weight.  As for my experience, I did not lose any weight.  I did not feel any different – no better nor worse.  In fact, during my gluten free experiment, I found it rather frustrating to keep the gluten foods “out” while dining out. 

Some people report they lose weight because, essentially, they end up on a low carbohydrate diet – which will be a forthcoming blog.  Get a diagnosis from a physician to ensure other health and gastro-intestinal concerns are addressed.

Just because celebrities do something – we all should not rush to emulate their behaviors.  Those who have food allergies or food insensitivities always wish they did not have to restrict their intake.  Creating too many food rules may end up leaving you with nothing left to eat!  Stick to eating foods closer to the way they are found in nature, watch your total caloric intake and please, please, please, get some daily physical activity!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

marylou October 15, 2012 at 01:27 PM
I don't think anyone is against it.They just don't see the benefit of not eating gluten for people who don't have celiac disease.It's the new poison food.Just as everyone claimed to hypoglycemia in the 90s,now just about everyone claims to be sensitive to gluten.
Felicia Stoler October 15, 2012 at 01:56 PM
The over-arching point is that going gluten-free is not a "weight loss" strategy. It is not necessarily healthier (due to missing nutrients) and requires some work to replace missing nutrients. Many "gluten-free" versions of otherwise gluten-containing products may not have the same taste and often have more calories (yielding weight gain). Yes, eating plant-based foods is desirable...however let's not forget that wheat is an ancient grain that humans have been consuming for thousands of years. Unfortunately, many prefer to use anecdotal stories vs. evidence-based practice to justify their beliefs (I am not talking about actual diagnoses here). Food elitism must not intimidate people to the point where they simply ignore making any decent food choices.
Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli October 15, 2012 at 02:10 PM
So - what you are saying is your opinion of what constitues decent food choices is great and anything else is just food elitism ?
marylou October 15, 2012 at 02:13 PM
I'll give you another "anectotal" story.My mother-in-law said she never felt good and blamed her"illness" on one food or another ever since I knew her.She began going to a "doctor",1 without a medical degree,who told her that she had celica disease.She eliminated all gluten from her diet,lost tons of weight that she couldn't afford to lose,because she was afraid that anything she ate may have come in contact with a bread crumb.Her health deteriorated to the point that she could barely walk.When she finally agrred to go to an MD,he diagnosed her with irritable bowel sydrome.She started eating foods containing gluten again and felt much better.
Felicia Stoler October 15, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Thanks MaryLou. For those of you who question my credentials - I have double masters degree in nutrition and applied physiology and completed a dietetic internship at Columbia University; my doctorate is in Clinical Nutrition from UMNNJ. I have never once claimed to be an MD or DO. Just as a naturopath or chiropractor can call themselves a doctor - so can I. I actually have a private practice and work with individuals. I have written text book chapters and am frquently interviewd by national media because of my expertise. I don't need to justify my credentials to you - but since some of you cannot figure out how to determine credibility - thought it would be helpful. I was asked by the Patch to blog reguarly. Health and medicine do have science to support statements - it's not just opinion. You wonder why kids cyberbully? It's because adults lead by example!

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