It’s easy to get swept into the trend of gluten-free diets, considering the many celebrities and athletes that have jumped on that bandwagon -- Kim Kardashian, Gwyneth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham and Miley Cyrus among them.
“Lose the wheat, lose the weight,” as the current catchphrase goes.
Gluten-free diets -- those shunning any products with the grains wheat, barley, rye and triticale or even traces of those ingredients -- seem to promise weight loss, increased energy and generally healthier living.
In response, gluten-free bakeries and gluten-free aisles of grocery stores are ever-expanding, luring the average consumer. It’s no wonder there’s gluten-free bottled tea, gluten-free salad dressing, gluten-free granola bars, gluten-free pasta ... and the list goes on.
But medical experts advise caution on going gluten-free unless, of course, you are part of the estimated 3 million Americans who have celiac disease.
For those with celiac -- it amounts to about 1 of every 133 people -- their diet must be absolutely gluten-free, or they risk serious illness.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which even a small ingestion of gluten sets off an attack on the small intestine. The absorption of nutrients is inhibited, sometimes leading to malnutrition, infertility, neurological conditions and osteoporosis.
In addition, many people have been diagnosed with gluten sensitivity and have found that gluten-free diets can help relieve digestive ailments.
But what about gluten-free diets simply to feel healthier or lose weight? Marilyn Geller, chief operating officer of the Celiac Disease Foundation, addresses that question on the CDF website:
“If you give up bread and pasta, tortillas and pizza crust and concentrate on a diet that’s more about protein, fruits and vegetables, you’re going to lose weight,” she said. “But if you truly just substitute gluten-free products for regular things, you can actually gain weight.”
In other words, if you reach for a gluten-free muffin instead of a regular one, you might not be accomplishing much.