Gluten has become a popular health buzzword that floats around dinner, networking events, parties, and hovers over the loaf of bread, bowl of pasta, or slice of pizza sitting on the table. Celebrities, writers, and everyday health freaks have all claimed the wondrous health benefits associated with a gluten-free diet. The gluten-free industry, worth over $10 billion dollars, is especially invested in this new diet fad. Does gluten actually help one lose weight or better their overall health?
Gluten is a set of proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye. Cereals, bread, candies, pizza, cupcakes, and processed foods. For those with Celiac Disease, which roughly translates to an inability to properly digest the proteins found in the aforementioned products, cutting gluten is an essential part of life. For people with Celiac, their allergy to wheat products can cause nutritional deficiencies stemming from severe digestive problems. Many people who have not been diagnosed with Celiac are following a gluten-free diet due to the supposed health benefits of cutting out wheat, barley, and rye products. Whether the intention is weight loss or an alleviation of digestive symptoms, the phrase “gluten-free” has become synonymous with “panacea for all of life’s ails.” Jimmy Kimmel recently interviewed a few people in LA intending to discover whether people following a gluten-free diet actually know what the word gluten means. The people he interviewed did not appear to understand what, exactly, gluten is. Others along with Kimmel have recently speculated as to the health benefits of “gluten-free” diets for those who do not have Celiac.
Lydia Kaume, in an interview with HPJ, affirms that individuals should only cut out wheat products if they have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. For those without the disorder, cutting out such products is unnecessary and may even harm a person’s health if they are not careful about making up lost nutrients. She has said that gluten-free substitutes are often higher in fat than the original wheat-based product.
Boston.com, however, identifies what is known to some as “gluten sensitivity.” Someone who is gluten sensitive may experience positive results from cutting down or cutting out gluten even if they have not been diagnosed with Celiac. Rachel Begun, a Nutritionist and Author of The Gluten-Free RD blog, says that 18 million Americans may be living with some form of gluten sensitivity. These people may be experiencing some gastrointestinal discomfort without the severity associated with Celiac, and may experience other symptoms due to their sensitivity to gluten. These individuals may also be subject to discomfort caused by dairy, alcohol and other foods.
A study coming out of the journal Diabetes has found that the pups of mice fed a gluten-free diet were less likely to develop type 1 diabetes. Even though the mice pups were fed gluten, those whose mothers were fed a gluten-free diet did not develop the disorder. Although these findings may not necessarily apply to human children, researchers believe that mothers who cut gluten from their diet may prevent their children from developing type 1 diabetes. While some are fervent about the benefits associated with a gluten-free lifestyle, others question whether the lifestyle change is the health cure-all some claim or just the latest dietary fad.
By James Ryder