The Gluten-free Diet: A Fad or Necessity
As the word “gluten” becomes more popular among Americans, a couple of years ago it was hardly noticed by anyone who didn’t have a gastrointestinal condition that made them change their eating habits to the gluten-free diet. But nowadays as we see supermarket alleys filled with gluten-free products and many people, not necessarily patients of the celiac disease, saying they are now gluten-free and never felt better, I can’t help but wonder, is this “new" diet a fad or a necessity?
Gluten is a protein that can be found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. It is often used in dough to help it rise during baking and have elasticity. Used as an additive for foods low in protein and it can also be found in beauty products. These grains are composed by gliadin and glutenin, the first is soluble and the other is not. Not all people who consume this protein can be tolerant and in fact there is an autoimmune disease that prevents its patients from successfully consuming gluten called Celiac Disease, click here for an infographic showing you the most common symptoms. Basically when ingesting gluten those with celiac disease have an immune reaction to it, the small intestine lining gets damaged stopping the absorption of nutrients to the body.
Now this disease shouldn’t be taken slightly and it has been proven that a good gluten-free diet and a well medical planning with their doctor helps those suffering from this condition. But then why is everyone else doing this special diet when they really don’t need to? I would say, because it’s become a trend, celebrities and social media have taken charge of making it so famous that many people don’t even read the labels in the products they buy. Let's be honest, many people don’t even know what gluten is and why there are gluten-free diets, but it’s the latest and greatest making it one of the fastest growing markets in the food industry with large income growth of millions of dollars in the past decade.
Truth is, the gluten-free diet doesn’t mean you will lose weight, in fact in some product cases the gluten-free version actually has more calories and carbohydrates than the regular. On a recent Wall Street Journal report, they interviewed Amy Burkhart, a nutritionist in Napa, California, and she said that most of her patients who have gone into the gluten-free diet have gained weight. She also declared that gluten-free products are lower in fiber (which helps regulate blood sugar levels, bowel movement and lower cholesterol), proteins, iron, vitamins and is higher in carbs and sugars. In this report the nutritionist compared several brands and their regular and gluten-free versions concluding that unless you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, the best choice will be to purchase the whole-wheat pasta or the regular apple cinnamon cereal for example.
When asked about these facts, many of the companies inquired, replied back saying that they are only meeting the high demands from the public without making health claims. Even one of the CEO’s responded that he had no idea if gluten-free was healthier for most people. Which leaves us thinking that it is a media trend and that those celebrities swearing by it, probably didn’t do their homework. Of course if you have a celiac disease or gluten sensitivity go ahead and follow the gluten-free diet that truly is an important regimen for you along with checking these supplements that could assist your eating habits. But if you are not, you might want to check with your nutritionist first and have him or her teach you how to read the nutritional labels.