Koslo's Nutrition Solutions

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Is going gluten-free a viable weight loss option?

The gluten-free market is experiencing huge growth not only in the US but on a global scale. It is estimated that just 1% of the population has celiac disease yet according to market reports 15 to 25% of consumers want gluten-free foods.

So is this demand for gluten-free products the latest weight loss fad or is giving up gluten a viable weight loss technique?

Gluten consists of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, and is found in wheat, rye, triticale (cross between wheat and rye), couscous, spelt and barley. Gluten-free foods were originally developed for people with celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder with potentially life-threatening consequences. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, antibodies in the small intestine attack the gluten damaging the intestinal lining and villi. Without treatment the body is unable to absorb nutrients from food, leaving patients vulnerable to a host of diseases. Individuals with celiac disease must therefore follow a strict gluten-free diet. Other individuals who benefit from eliminating gluten are those with gluten sensitivity and those with a wheat allergy. Athletes involved in weight class sports such as wrestling and bodybuilding or figure training also sometimes chose to eliminate gluten prior to competitions to minimize intestinal residue and fluid retention.

Are gluten-free diets beneficial to everyone?

Gluten-free diets are catching on at college campuses as well as in the celebrity community for weight loss. However, the idea that a gluten-free diet can help people lose weight is a myth and scientific evidence is lacking. Gluten-free does not equal nutritious and many gluten-free products are higher in fat which is added by manufacturers to replace the gluten. These products also tend to be higher in overall carbohydrates, sugar, and calories and lower in fiber, vitamins, and iron.

So why do people following a gluten-free diet state they feel better, perform better, or lose weight easier?

It could be that these people have eliminated many processed foods, packaged and fast foods and replaced them with fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed foods. But a poorly planned gluten-free diet that relies on many of these specialty foods can leave dieters short on B vitamins, iron, and fiber. Not to mention that a diet of gluten-free foods can up being fattening as well as expensive.

So before you eliminate gluten in hopes of a magic weight loss solution, ask yourself if you have a true negative reaction to wheat or gluten and if so consider consulting your doctor before you self-diagnose. Finally, remember that gluten-free brownies and beer are no healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts and should also be eaten in moderation.

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