Why Gluten-Free Is Just Another Fad Diet… Food Safety / Food Technology / Nutrition

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It’s a strong, sticky, stretchy protein that helps wheat flour morph into many different foods such as al dente pasta, fluffy waffles, crisp pastries and chewy artisan bread. These unique properties are the reason it is commonly used in many foods and food products (there are few good substitutes).

Like most fads, the gluten-free trend will soon pass, just like everything else. What marketers of gluten-free products don’t want you to know is that greater than 93% of us aren’t even mildly affected by gluten. The extent of which gluten-free diets help people lose weight or become healthier is if those individuals cut out pizza, or other unhealthy foods made with gluten.

About 30% of Americans report following a gluten-free or –reduced diet.   55% who follow a gluten-free diet do so because they think it is “healthier” and 27% do so to lose weight. Accordingly, the gluten free market has skyrocketed from $11B to $23B in the last four years.

I recently saw a rather ridiculous advertisement for “gluten-free salt” and thought to myself… “What salt has ever had gluten? Wheat, rye and barley don’t grow in the ocean or 300 feet underground in a salt mine!”

The gluten-free fad has actually in many ways helped to undermine people’s health decisions since there are literally hundreds gluten-free varieties of junk food. Whether your doughnut is gluten-free or not, it’s still a doughnut.

Individuals who follow gluten-free diets typically have less than optimal intakes of many essential nutrients such as dietary fiber, iron, b-vitamins, calcium, and zinc. Insufficiency in these essential nutrients can easily lead health complications such as iron deficiency, osteoporosis and/or constipation.

Here’s who should be concerned about gluten:

  • 1 in 133 individuals who have diagnosed Celiac disease, a genetic autoimmune disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.
  • Less than 5% of the population who are gluten-sensitive (main symptoms are stomach discomfort and headaches).
  • Those few individuals who have a wheat allergy.

The best way to lose weight and be healthy is to eat a balanced diet inclusive of whole grains. Visit www.choosemyplate.gov for more information on amount grains you should be consuming based on your age and gender.


Comments

  1. The problem is not gluten in its natural form. The problem is GMO gluten that contains 5x the amount of Gluten. The human body doesn’t know what the heck it is and if you have an autoimmune disease it is like poison in your bloodstream causing an autoimmune response (flare up). The gluten free products I have found on the market are high in sodium, carbs and sugar.. What do you do ? And you lose the fiber and vitamins and minerals from your diet.

  2. There are no commercially available GMO wheat strains in the market place.

  3. I have a true gluten sensitivity which, when accidently ingested through a multivitamin, landed me in the hospital from a horrible reaction. I totally agree with you that being gluten free is a fad for many people, but I believe it affects more people than we know. I am, however, very grateful of the awareness because I am now able to eat out at restaurants and have many more options than I did 10 years ago.

  4. I think the jury is still out on the prevalence or existence of nonceliac gluten sensitivity. Many people report that they “feel better” when they give up wheat which gives us a lot of anecdotal but no “real” evidence. There is also no reliable lab test and most people “self-diagnose”. However, there are some clinical trials on a subset of the population with irritable bowel syndrome. About 70% of the time, they report a lessening of symptoms when they avoid gluten. It may not be gluten, but a sensitivity to a high FODMAP diet of which wheat is primary source of fructans, a major offender.

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