The Glamorization of Gluten-Free

When did it become hip to give up gluten?

Gwyneth Paltrow said she got rid of gluten to lose her extra “holiday” pounds. Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian declared their devotion to a gluten-free diet on Twitter. Now Lady Gaga is the latest celebrity to embrace a gluten-free diet, reportedly to slim down for her international concert tour.

Why is gluten-free the new diet craze?

That’s the topic of my recent post for WebMD: Will Going Gluten-Free Help You Lose Weight?

The answer is, it depends. There’s nothing inherent about a gluten-free diet that’s going to melt away the pounds. It may help if you “get rid of the junk” and eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains that are naturally gluten-free, says registered dietitian Shelley Case. But it certainly won’t help if you just simply load up on the burgeoning array of prepackaged gluten-free products that are selling like hotcakes.

An excellent research review article in the September issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics tackles this topic: Gluten-Free Diet: Imprudent Dietary Advice for the General Population?

Written by Glenn Gaesser and Siddhartha Angadi, the article looks at the data and makes the following conclusions:

While a gluten-free diet is important for individuals with celiac and gluten sensitivity, there’s no evidence to support that gluten-free diets are beneficial for weight loss
Some studies suggest gluten-free diets may actually make matters worse for some overweight and obese individuals (linked to an increase in BMI)
Research shows that gluten-free diets can be inadequate in essential nutrients (linked to deficiencies in B vitamins, iron and folate)
Gluten-free baked goods are often high in fat and calories
Going gluten-free for purposes of weight loss may have unintended consequences


Now gliadin may be the gluten, or at least if you buy into the book by Wisconsin preventive cardiologist and “seeker-of-truth in health” William Davis. Dr. Davis is building an entire empire on his Wheat Belly brand, but it’s based more on his opinions vs. fact. These bloggers have done a good job of breaking down the claims:

Wheat Belly Busted

Wheat Belly Review by Summer Tomato

Wheat Belly? Wheat Berry!

Slam Dunked and Wheat Belly

Dr. Davis makes a powerful case for his opinions, as you can see in one of his promotional videos below, but anecdotal observations are not a substitute for science.

Here’s an excellent article written by Julie Jones that analyzes the claims made in Wheat Belly. Hope it will help you think twice before buying the book or believing the hype.

Sure, we could all benefit from cutting down on refined, starchy, sugary carbs. No argument. But let’s not condemn whole grains, which have a bushel of studies supporting their positive impact on our health, including weight management.  

Image courtesy of disneymike on Flickr

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