Gluten-free: Is it the right choice for you?
consumer demands for gluten-free foods have flourished over the past 10 years. Sales of gluten-free food and drink have increased from $5.4 billion to $8.8 billion over the past two years, according to a global market research firm. Certified gluten-free food are typically three to four times more expensive than food that are not certified.
Why are gluten-free foods receiving all of this attention? Some people feel that eating gluten-free foods will help them lose weight faster and give them more energy (amongst many other claims). This is partially why the demand for gluten-free foods has skyrocketed in the past decade.
Gluten is a general name for the proteins that are found in wheat (examples include durum, emmer, spelt, einkorn), rye, triticale and barley. Oats will generally contain gluten from cross contamination unless they are certified gluten-free oats. Gluten is “the glue” that holds starchy foods (bread, cereal, pasta, cookies, etc.) together to help them maintain their shape and structure.
Despite the claims, eating a gluten-free diet will not help you lose weight. It is not the miracle diet that many have touted. The only groups of individuals who will absolutely benefit from eating a gluten-free diet are those affected with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder -- it is not a food allergy. When an individual with celiac disease consumes gluten, it leads to damage in the small intestines which can prevent absorption of nutrients from foods that are consumed. Common symptoms include weight loss, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating and skin rashes. When someone with gluten sensitivity consumes gluten, they can get many of the same gastrointestinal symptoms as those with celiac disease, but there is no damage to the small intestine.
Roughly one percent of the U.S. population has celiac disease (either diagnosed or undiagnosed) yet in 2013, a market research company found that 29 percent of Americans were cutting back or avoiding gluten altogether.
So why are individuals who do not suffer from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity trying to eat gluten-free? Misinformation or hype may be the cause.
Celebrities are touting the benefits of eating a gluten-free diet and people see as well as read news stories claiming eating gluten-free will cure various conditions, help them lose weight, increase energy and improve health. Scientific literature does not show that eating a gluten-free diet will benefit anyone with exception of those affected with celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity. There is some research showing that eating gluten-free may possibly benefit some with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and schizophrenia, but more research is needed in this area. Eligible WRNMMC beneficiaries that feel they would benefit from Medical Nutrition Therapy for any health related condition can call the Outpatient Clinical Nutrition Services to schedule a one-on-one appointment with a registered dietitian.