August 12, 2014 / Amritha Roser
Grocery store shelves are filled with gluten-free products these days and there seems to be a great interest by many to follow a gluten-free diet. Gluten is a compound made up of two proteins and a carbohydrate and is found in the endosperm of grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale – a hybrid of rye and wheat. It is used most widely in the food industry in bakery products for its leavening qualities. It can also be found in unlikely products such as salad dressing, soy sauce, lunch meats, hot dogs, imitation fish, bouillon cubes, food additives and many packaged foods. For about 1 percent of the population diagnosed with Celiac disease, intake of gluten can be life threatening.Celiac disease is characterized by inflammation of the small intestine, which adversely affects the absorption of water and nutrients. For those affected, the only treatment is the strict avoidance of products containing gluten. Along with Celiac disease, there is a milder form termed non-Celiac gluten sensitivity, which is observed in about another 6 percent of the population. Although this group experiences an allergic reaction and similar symptoms, no damage to the intestinal lining is observed. Even though the prevalence of gluten sensitivity has increased, it still only affects a minority of the general population.
Recently, there seems to be this idea that gluten is “unhealthy” or “bad” for everyone and eliminating it from the diet will lead to better health and even weight loss. There is no evidence that gluten is unhealthy or bad for those tolerant of it. Following a gluten-free diet may lead to weight loss for some individuals, but this is because eliminating gluten includes eliminating many processed foods and following a diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, fresh fish, lean meats, low fat dairy, beans, nuts and seeds – a diet that is naturally lower in calories.
Bottom line: Besides those who have been diagnosed with clinical disease, there is no evidence that a gluten-free diet will benefit most people in any way.
For more information on Celiac disease and a gluten-free diet please see link below: