Is the Gluten-Free Diet a Healthy Way to Lose Weight?

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This article explores the dangers of going gluten-free for those who do not struggle with celiac disease.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks itself in response to the ingestion of gluten, a component of wheat, barley, or rye.

The only cure for this disease is to entirely avoid all foods that contain gluten, found in products such as bread, pasta, cake, pastries, as well as barley and rye based beverages.

Those who have celiac disease have a broad range of symptoms in response to these foods. These include stomach cramping, nausea, diarrhea, skin rash, and weight loss. It used to be thought that this was a rare disease, but according to the Mayo Clinic, it is now estimated that it is over four times more common than it was 50 years ago.

Gluten-Free Diet as a Means to Lose Weight

Many celebrities, such as Oprah Winfrey and Gwyneth Paltrow have claimed the efficacy of going gluten-free. It has gained popularity as a quick-fix diet. The idea works in a similar way the Atkin’s Diet works: by cutting out carbohydrates from the diet, one loses weight. The downfall of this, as many other crash diets, is that the weight comes back on once the regular eating resumes.

Gluten-Free and Grains

People who have celiac disease often struggle to get enough grains in their diet. The breads and cereals available from grocery stores are often made with corn, tapioca, and nut flours. The missing “glue” (gluten) that holds regular bread products together is replaced by extra fat in gluten-free products. For example, a wheat flour bagel may only have 5 grams of fat per serving.

A gluten-free bagel may have twice that much. Those with celiac disease often complain about gaining weight as a by-product of their gluten-free diet because of all the added fat. People without celiac disease who are replacing regular flour products with gluten-free products may find themselves gaining instead of losing weight.

In addition there have been studies that have proven that gluten-free products are not as vitamin-fortified, according to Stefano Guandalini, MD, director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. She warns that eating gluten-free can cause deficiencies in iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium, fiber, and other nutrients because people are avoiding breads, cereals, and grains that are fortified.

The Dangers of Gluten-Free Dieting

Cutting any food from the diet should always be done with careful consideration. It can be dangerous to cut gluten out of the diet when it is not deemed medically necessary to do so.

If the body is unused to processing gluten for some time, and it is suddenly reintroduced into the diet, there can be symptoms similar to celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. By cutting gluten out of the diet, one can accidentally cause their body to react poorly to gluten. As always, it is best to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet.

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