The Gluten Free Diet Fad – Are you on it?
I think we can all agree that the Gluten free diet has become a bit of a fad.
Many people are gluten free but don’t really know what gluten is or why they are avoiding it.
Many athletes and celebrities attribute much of their success to the gluten free diet.
Books like the Grain Brain suggest that perhaps nobody should be eating Gluten!
The Gluten free diet has spread like wildfire over time, with the majority of the population view the Gluten free diet as “pretty healthy”.
However, this Post will look at the following questions…
• Is Gluten toxic?
• Is a Gluten free diet healthier for you?
• What are the Risks of following a Gluten Free Diet?
• Does a Gluten free diet really help with weight loss?
There are “Medical indications” to Avoid a Gluten which are:
• Celiac disease
• Non Celiac disease Gluten or wheat sensitivity
• Wheat allergy
Only people with the aforementioned conditions should avoid Gluten and adhere to a Gluten free diet:
There are several possible explanations for the gluten free diet’s popularity:
Do all of these people have gluten/wheat sensitivity?…probably NOT
Do all the these people know something we don’t about gluten?… probably NOT
Over 90% of people on a Gluten free diet do NOT have celiac disease. Only 1% of the population have celiac disease. Most patients on a gluten free diet are probably just misinformed as to the supposed benefits of such a diet. This may be compounded by the widespread availability and effective marketing of gluten free products. Interestingly, the major reason people buy gluten free foods is actually “No reason” at all!
Is Gluten toxic?
Gluten is a natural proline rich plant storage protein found in the seeds of cereal grains. Gluten is toxic and immunogenic for individuals with known celiac disease. Gluten is NOT toxic for healthy individuals. However we do know that many individuals develop gastrointestinal symptoms after eating gluten/wheat, yet these individuals have no evidence of celiac disease. Gluten is not the only protein found in wheat. There are several other non-gluten proteins in wheat, including ATIs (Amylase Trypsin Inhibitors). Wheat and ATIs may cause symptoms via triggering an immune reaction in non-celiac patients in some individuals, but not in everyone who ingests them, resulting in intestinal inflammation via intraepilethlial lymphocytosis (IELs).
Some patient’s wheat intolerance may just be FODMAP intolerance due to the long chain rapidly fermenting carbohydrates called Fructans.
Is a Gluten free diet healthier for you?
Whole grains are an integral part of our diet and have many beneficial effects
• Reducing cardiovascular disease
• Reducing the risk of diabetes
• Reducing the risks of several types of cancer
• Reducing the risk of obesity / weight gain
Recent data shows that individuals on a Gluten free diet have an increased risk of Type II Diabetes probably due to a reduced intake of whole grains.
So what are the risks of following a Gluten Free Diet?
• Increase in cardiovascular disease
• Increase in risk of diabetes
• Increase in risks of several types of cancer
• Increase in risk of weight gain
Gluten Free foods are not as healthy as you think. Gluten Free foods are typically are:
• Higher in Calories causing undesired weight gain
• Higher in Fat
• Higher in Protein
• Higher in Salt
• Higher in Heavy metals (mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic)
• Higher in price typically costing an additional $2000 per year
• Lower in Fibre
• Lower in Vitamins (B12, Thiamine)
• Lower in Iron
• Lower the diversity of the gut bacteria (Microbiome)
Other reasons NOT to follow a Gluten free Diet:
• Obscuring a Celiac disease diagnosis
• No medical indication to follow such a diet
Does a Gluten free diet really help with weight loss?
There is an abundance of evidence that a gluten free diet does NOT cause weight loss in fact it increases your risk of weight gain. A Low carbohydrate, Low Fat, Mediterranean diet rather than a gluten free diet may help you lose weight.
Many individuals commence a gluten free diet without sufficient information.
A minority of individuals may benefit symptomatically from a gluten free diet.
Gluten free processed foods do NOT offer health or nutritional benefits and a gluten free diet may pose risks of deficiency and inadvertent exposure in addition to inconvenience and expense.
Patients with celiac disease or who otherwise require a gluten free diet should be guided by an experienced dietitian to avoid dietary pitfalls.
Source: Digestive Disease Week 2017 Chicago (Lecturer – Dr Norelle Reilly)