Should You Go Gluten-Free? What the Research Says
Why Go Gluten-Free?
Celebrities, like Victoria Beckham and Miley Cyrus have touted that gluten is bad for our health.
Many claim that a gluten-free (GF) diet helps with weight loss and getting into shape.
And if you’re like the millions who have tried the Whole30 diet, you’ve likely read their thoughts on gluten:
“Gluten is such nasty stuff…”
But if you’re curious what the research says about gluten and if you should go GF, read on!
What Does the Evidence Show?
According to current scientific research, there’s no evidence that supports the health claims of a GF diet for the general public.
In fact, gluten itself has several health benefits…
What is Gluten Anyway?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.
Who Should NOT Eat Gluten?
There are a few groups of people who should avoid gluten:
o Found in about 1 % of the population
o An autoimmune disease
o Can lead to malabsorption of nutrients and damage to the intestine
o People with celiac significantly benefit from a strict GF lifestyle
· Gluten sensitivity
o Found in about 6% of the population
o Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, gas, bloating, and diarrhea when eating gluten
o Unlike celiac, there are no antibodies to gluten or damage to the intestine
· Wheat allergy
o Found in 0.1% of Western populations
o The allergy is to wheat, not to gluten
· Autoimmune disorders
o Examples include lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
o May see symptom relief when limiting gluten
· IBS, Type 1 Diabetes, and psoriasis
o Some data shows a GF diet can lessen symptoms
What About Weight Loss?
There are no published reports showing that those without celiac or gluten sensitivity lose weight on a GF diet.
And there are a few studies that actually show weight gain in overweight/obese people with celiac who go GF.
This weight gain may occur because, without the disturbance of gluten in their diet, people with celiac can better absorb other nutrients.
GF food does not mean it is low calorie. In fact, some GF foods have more calories than their gluten-full counterparts.
And many GF foods lack whole grains and fiber, both of which can help with weight loss.
What About Gut Health?
If someone does not fall into the areas where a GF would be beneficial, unnecessarily cutting out wheat, barley, and rye means cutting out health-promoting starches.
These starches are critical for gut health, and help:
· Lower blood sugar
· Reduce body weight
· Improve immune status
· Metabolize fat
· Absorb vitamins and minerals
A GF diet may unfortunately reduce the good bacteria in our gut, which negatively affects our gut health.
What About General Health?
There are several health benefits of gluten:
· May help lower triglyceride levels and LDL
· Gliadin (part of the gluten protein) can help lower blood pressure
· Gluten contains glutamine, an amino acid that boosts our immune system
GF food is great for those who definitely need a GF lifestyle (celiac, autoimmune, etc.)
A GF diet:
· Isn’t necessarily healthier for the general population
· Doesn’t help with weight loss
· May negatively affect gut health
And if you feel better on a GF diet, consider these:
· Could you feel better because you cut down on excess sugar, fat, calories, and salt?
· Did you lose weight because you cut down on processed foods that happen to have gluten in them (desserts, white breads, white pasta, sugary breakfast items)?
If you are GF:
Be sure eat a well-balanced diet so you don’t unintentionally worsen your health!
Replace gluten-full items with whole food, GF items, like quinoa, buckwheat, millet, and brown rice.
We have the best intentions for ourselves when it comes to eating healthy, and I hope this post helps you find what will work best for you :)