Guest post by Vicki Bovee, M.S., R.D., L.D., a registered dietitian with over 25 years experience in weight loss, weight management, and specializing in bariatric nutrition since 2003. www.chefdave.org
In the 1990's we had the lowfat/fat free diet craze. In 2002, Dr. Atkins launched his revised low carb diet and the food manufacturers flooded the markets with low carb and no carb products. Now our grocery stores are stocking the shelves with gluten-free products and many people are paying more for these foods with hopes of losing weight and/or feeling better.
Clearly there is a need for gluten-free products for people who have Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or gluten intolerance. The number of people who have been diagnosed with these intestinal disorders has risen in the past 50 years, and for these people it is a blessing to have a wide variety of gluten-free products to choose from.
Gluten-free does not necessarily mean healthy or low in fat and calories
But there is no published data to support weight loss claims for eating gluten-free. Gluten-free does not mean calorie free or low calorie. Many of these products are just as high in calories as their wheat-based counterparts. The fat and sugar is still there. The wheat flour has been substituted with another grain, such as rice. These products are also typically more expensive than the gluten containing products.
Gluten-rich grains may have health benefits by creating healthy colon bacteria and may protect the gut from some cancers, inflammatory conditions, and cardiovascular disease. One of the components in gluten may help control blood pressure.
Some people eat gluten free because it makes them feel better. In some instances it is because they are eating less processed and refined foods and more fruit and vegetables. Personally, I think as long as someone is eating healthier and making better food choices, it's not important if they are eating gluten-free (unless they have Celiac or are gluten sensitive and must eat gluten free). But is important to remember that a gluten-free diet is not a weight loss diet and is of no significant benefit to the general population.
Vicki Bovee, MS, RD
Gaesser GA, Angadi SS. Gluten-Free Diet: Imprudent Dietary Advice of the General Population?, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2012.