Gluten-free may not be the way to goadmin
As the gluten-free fad continues to grow (according to Consumer Reports about one third of the 1,000 Americans they surveyed are actively trying to avoid gluten), Dr. Jason Wu from The George Institute for Global Health is urging those considering adopting a gluten-free diet not to “believe the hype.” Some individuals must avoid the gluten protein because of an autoimmune condition known as celiac disease – which has the potential to cause life threatening intestinal damage – or because of a gluten sensitivity.
However according to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, only an estimated 1% of the American population has celiac disease.
While better digestive health, healthy weight loss, increased energy, lower cholesterol and a stronger immune system are all commonly cited reasons many are choosing to go gluten-free, there isn’t enough research to fully support these claims, says Alessio Fasano, M.D., director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
As a matter of fact, Dr. Wu’s research found that there is little to no difference in nutritional value between standard and gluten-free products.
“The foods can be significantly more expensive and are very trendy to eat, but we discovered a negligible difference when looking at their overall nutrition,” he said. “In the core foods we found significantly lower levels of protein in gluten-free foods, but the remaining content such as sugar and sodium was actually very similar. The same was the case in the discretionary foods, with almost no difference in their nutritional make-up.
“Many people need gluten-free food, but there is a growing group who are only trying it for its apparent healthiness. However, we found on average that gluten and gluten-free foods are just as healthy, or unhealthy as each other,” he said.
There are several other misconceptions about gluten-free diets that may be damaging. According to Consumer Reports, eating primarily gluten-free foods can also increase your exposure to arsenic, due to the high presence of rice flour and other rice products most gluten-free foods use as a substitute.
Contrary to popular belief, going gluten-free may also cause weight gain due to the tendency of gluten-free foods to have more sugar, fats and calories than their standard counterparts. And most importantly, going gluten-free without confirming a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease may actually cause patients to miss a serious health condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome. If you’re convinced you have an issue with gluten, it’s best to see a specialist for a blood test to check for certain antibodies associated with celiac disease before adjusting your diet.