For as much good information about nutrition that is at our fingertips, there is a lot of bad information, too. No one monitors whether the information online is true, and often, websites and organizations have their agendas that can skew what is published. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, sensational headlines are more likely to arouse emotional responses and get a click.
We’ll take on some of these nutrition myths in the Healthy Habits blogs. Here is the first myth, because it is Celiac Disease Awareness Month:
Myth: Gluten is bad for everyone. Giving up gluten will solve many of your health problems, and you’ll lose weight, too!
Just the Facts: Gluten is the protein in wheat, rye, and barley. It’s found in many foods, including bread, pasta, crackers, pretzels, and cereals. People with Celiac disease (a genetic autoimmune condition that causes significant intestinal damage) must strictly avoid gluten for the rest of their lives. About 1% of the population has Celiac disease, and unfortunately, many of them don’t even know it. Untreated Celiac disease can lead to lots of long-term health problems.
People with non-Celiac gluten sensitivity also should also eat a gluten-free diet. Even though we don’t know exactly the number of people who have gluten sensitivity, it is a real condition which can have many debilitating symptoms. There are other health concerns that may benefit from eating gluten-free, but improvements in those conditions may happen for some, and not for others.
Some people have adopted the gluten-free diet because they think it is healthier or will cause weight loss. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. Despite the celebrity headlines, there is nothing magical about the gluten-free diet for weight loss. Some people may lose weight because they cut the calories found in some carbohydrate foods when they give up bread and pasta, but that has to do more with eating less food than with gluten. In fact, most newly diagnosed with Celiac disease GAIN weight on the gluten-free diet due to improved absorption. Additionally, many processed gluten-free foods are higher in fat, calories, and sodium than regular products.
It’s fine to choose gluten-free pasta, bread, and crackers, but think about WHY you’re purchasing them. You’ll probably find they’re not worth the expense (and they ARE expensive!) Instead, spend more money in the produce aisle. Outside of medical conditions that require a gluten-free diet, there is likely no benefit to the general population.
Hey, want to know more about Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity? Visit the Celiac Disease Foundation’s website at www.celiac.org.