The big question has to be whether a gluten free diet is good for you and will it help you lose weight? Or is yet another fad diet with no basis in fact? We find out.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat and although it has a complicated scientific definition, essentially it is the sticky stuff that gives bread its elasticity and breads, pastries and snacks their chewiness. The clue is in the name because gluten can be defined as the substance that puts the gluey chew into wheat products.
Gluten is present in hundreds of wheat products, including beer and pasta and it can be hard to avoid in a normal diet.
Gluten contains Gliadin, which is a glycoprotein, and this can damage the intestinal lining and interfere with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients if you have sensitivity to this ingredient.
Not everybody has a problem with gluten. Eating food that contains gluten is not necessarily bad for you and gluten free does not automatically mean healthy or low fat.
However, in recent years gluten has found to cause real medical problems that makes avoiding gluten a necessity for heath for some people. Bizarrely, now people are jumping on the gluten free bandwagon in order to lose weight.
Gluten Intolerances and Celiac Disease
Celiac (Coelic) disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder that is often diagnosed in infancy. Because gluten causes the body to fail to absorb nutrients it leads to numerous health problems such as anaemia, failure to thrive in children, pain and discomfort in the digestive tract and bowel disorders such as constipation and diarrhoea and more.
It causes life long problems and is a serious medical condition with no cure. The only known effective treatment is a life long gluten free diet in order to manage the condition.
It is estimated that 1 in every 200 hundred people suffer from Celiac disease in the USA which is approximately 1 percent of the population.
As well as Celiac disease, many other medical conditions can be caused by gluten. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, now believed to be linked to Celiac disease may be caused by gluten sensitivity or intolerance.
Typical symptoms of gluten sensitivity include abdominal discomfort or pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea, fatigue, headaches, muscular disturbances and bone or joint pain.
Many people have allergies to wheat or a sensitivity to gluten in varying degrees, which although not as serious as Celiac disease can cause a whole range of these side effects.
So Does This Mean That Gluten is Bad?
Gluten is not bad for you, unless you are sensitive to it. Most people are not sensitive to gluten but an undetermined percentage of the population suffer some degree of gluten intolerance.
Some of these sufferers will find that simply limiting their intake of bread, pasta and other products containing gluten will be enough to improve symptoms. Others will find that their health is improved by avoiding it altogether.
Of course, a high percentage of people will believe that any health issues are caused by their gluten intolerance and it has become almost fashionable in some circles to sport gluten intolerance as a dietary requirement.
Bizarrely somewhere along the way, avoiding gluten has become synonymous with health and weight loss.
How Does Avoiding Gluten Help You Lose Weight?
It doesn’t. Of course if you clean up your eating habits and look to replacing bread and white flour products with plenty of fresh green vegetables, lean protein and fruit you will lose some weight initially.
However if you then turn to the many gluten free products that are on the supermarket shelves in the belief that you are eating a healthy low fat alternative you are mistaken.
Because gluten free products have to be processed without this vital binding agent, they usually contain high quantities of fat, sugar oil or eggs to hold the product together.
For example, an average slice of gluten free bread contains 98 calories including 3g of fat, where as the non-gluten alternative contains 88 calories and only 1g of fat.
A lot of people turn to gluten free products because they appear to be healthy and low fat but this is not the case and even the people who need to eat gluten free do not find this is true.
Most people diagnosed with Celiac disease who then turn to a gluten free diet put on weight because at last the Gliadin contained in wheat is not preventing nutrients from being absorbed into the body.
A Gluten Free Diet Can Be What you Make It!
A gluten free diet does not have to be a healthy diet, any more than a vegetarian or a vegan diet is good for you. After all, there are plenty of ways to eat unhealthily whatever particular rules you are following!
You can still binge eat on the wrong things and overdo the chips and the biscuits and still not break any of your chosen food rules.
If you follow a gluten free diet, you can buy gluten free alternatives to many popular foodstuffs. The gluten free symbol has a healthy low fat image and food companies have been quick to get in on this act. The truth is not so fat free.
Most major supermarkets provide a complete range of gluten-free products but research shows these foods can contain up to five times the amount of fat as their non-gluten counterparts.
The Added Expense of a Gluten Free Diet
In most cases, gluten free products are much more expensive than the equivalent gluten products.
Cost of Gluten Free Products
For example, a gluten free wholemeal loaf from UK Supermarket chain Tesco’s costs a whopping £3.00 compared to between 80p and £1.50 for a loaf of similar quality.
One pack of 4 gluten free pitta breads costs £2.00 compared with 65p for a pack of six equivalent pitta breads. This is not laying any blame at Tesco’s or any food retailers. They all do it.
In the USA, for example a pack of gluten free pretzels will cost around $8.00 compared to $2.00 for the gluten equivalent product. A quick look at the prices of the gluten free products on the shelf will reveal the same thing.
Gluten free is classed in the same way as “organic “and as a result commands premium prices.
The choice of gluten free products is great news for people with real gluten intolerance and especially for Celiac disease sufferers who in the past struggled with finding a choice of food to eat.
Now with the increased availability of gluten free products at last people can eat a normal diet without it making them seriously ill.
Gluten free may be more expensive but for people who need it, a necessary part of their diet. Although gluten free is more fattening than the alternatives, Celiac sufferers do not have any alternative.
So Why Are So Many People Turning To Gluten Free For Weight Loss?
It is a mystery and all based on the erroneous belief that being gluten free is somehow healthier. There is absolutely no reason why being gluten free will help you lose weight and many people have found that taking this course of action has actually seen them gain weight.
In many cases, people overdo gluten free snacks and breads believing them to be less fattening and the fact that Gluten is absent from your diet does not mean there are any less calories in the food you eat.
Of course, if you cut out a lot of bread, pasta and cakes from your diet you will probably lose weight in the short term but simply buying the gluten free alternative makes no sense at all. The key to losing weight is to adopt a healthy diet and to reduce your calorie intake.
Whatever diet you follow, however how crazy or faddish it might be, it seems that imposing rules will give you some short-lived success.
According to David L. Katz M.D., MPH, FACPM, FACP and director of Yale University’s Prevention Research speaking in an interview about a fad diet,
The reason this can work in the short term is that it imposes rules. If you go from undisciplined eating, to any diet no matter what the rules are, chances are you’ll lose some weight
Source: Huffington Post
Avoiding wheat products instils some rules and if you cut out cakes, pastries and snacks without replacing them, then you may lose weight short term.
However simply replacing your existing diet with gluten free is not going to do anything other than make you put on weight.
Gluten Free Celebrities
There is a long list of celebrities who are believed to be following a gluten free diet despite the fact that they may not suffer from gluten intolerance or Celiac disease. Some have publically endorsed gluten free as a way to achieve weight loss and health and these style leaders do have an effect upon what the rest of us do….
Victoria Beckham says that she keeps her twig like figure by following a gluten free diet and American Actress Jenny Garth;
maintains a gluten-free lifestyle and enjoys daily exercise.
Many of the celebs claim a wheat intolerance or gluten insensitivity such as Rachel Weisz, Dannii Minogue and Miley Cyrus and have attributed gluten free as being a way to stay in shape.
Can we believe it? Is it all simply achieved by cutting out gluten or do these people work at their body shape as a full time job?
A Gluten Free Diet Does Not Help With Weight Loss
According to dietician, Tanya Thomas a food expert with the British Dietetic Association this celebrity endorsement for gluten free is simply not based in fact. She states;
People assume that by cutting out gluten they are going to lose weight, it’s a myth.
However, there has been an explosion of gluten free products as people take to cutting out gluten and removing wheat from their diets in the belief it will help them get thin and healthy.
According to many Celiac disease sufferers, the current trend of avoiding gluten is mystifying.
In an interview with ABC news, one celiac sufferer has said she is;
baffled as to why someone who does not have celiac or gluten sensitivity would think that eating a lot of processed gluten-free products would help them drop a few pounds
Bread and wheat products have been part of the human diet for thousands of years and the rise in the numbers of people suffering from Celiac disease cannot fully be explained.
If you have Celiac disease or a diagnosed gluten sensitivity, it makes sense to think of your health and avoid gluten. You will undoubtedly feel better for it.
However, for the rest of us, going gluten free appears to be yet another crackpot celebrity endorsed weight loss scheme. It is expensive and will not improve your health nor help you lose weight… even if it is currently fashionable!