The Health Hype
Thanks to the increase in diagnosed celiac and gluten sensitivity cases, and the corresponding uptick in foods marketed to sufferers, “gluten-free diets have emerged from obscurity, and now the pendulum has swung completely in the other direction,” says Fasano. And with this popularity push, people have latched on to avoiding gluten as a cure-all for many conditions aside from celiac, including migraines, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome. While some have found relief, that doesn’t mean a gluten free diet will work in all cases.
And then there’s the idea that a gluten-free existence is the ticket to speedy weight loss. But, says Mark DeMeo, M.D., director of gastroenterology and nutrition at the Adult Celiac Disease Program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, “there’s nothing magical about a gluten-free diet that’s going to help you lose weight.” What’s really at work: Gluten-free dining can seriously limit the number of foods you can eat. With fewer choices, you’re a lot less likely to overeat, says Shelley Case, R.D., author of Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide and a medical advisory board member for the Celiac Disease Foundation.
But it can backfire too, because gluten-free doesn’t mean fat-free or calorie-free.
“Without gluten to bind food together, food manufacturers often use more fat and sugar to make the product more palatable,” says Case. Consider pretzels: A serving of regular pretzels has about 110 calories and just one gram of fat. Swap them for gluten-free pretzels and you could get 140 caloriesand six grams of fat.
Next: Should You Go Gluten-Free?