The truth about gluten



Facts from the experts about gluten and the gluten-free diet


Celebrities, athletes, talk show hosts and nearly 30 percent of people say they are turning to gluten-free diets to solve health issues from "foggy mind" to bloating and obesity. 

But before you throw out the flour or start embracing all things non-wheat, barley and rye, it's important to consider that nutrition experts do not advocate a gluten-free diet for most people. 

According to Dr. Stephano Guandalini, founder and director of the Center for Celiac Disease at the University of Chicago, "There is a popular belief that gluten is bad for everyone. This is not the case. There is no evidence to show that anyone who does not suffer from celiac disease (CD) or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) benefits from following a gluten-free diet."

Wheat and Gluten Facts

Celiac disease is very real and affects about 1 in 141 people — less than 1 percent of the population. For people who have celiac, even a small amount of gluten is unsafe.  "It's very important that people who have celiac get diagnosed and tested so that they can begin following a gluten-free diet as soon as possible. And, it's something they have to stay on for the rest of their lives," said Dr. Joseph Murray, celiac disease researcher at the Mayo Clinic. 
A Rare Condition 

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is the other condition that proponents of a wheat-free lifestyle say affects everyone when in fact, research indicates that it, too, is quite rare. According to Dr. Guandalini, "Around 0.5 percent of people react to gluten in a way that is not a food allergy but is also not celiac." 

Dr. Alessio Fasano, one of the world's top scientists in celiac disease and director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Mass., explained, "Some people simply don't react well to gluten and feel better when it's removed from the diet. Unfortunately, there is no test for NCGS and this is part of why going gluten-free has become 'the' answer to all that ails us digestively and otherwise. It's unfortunate because there are a lot of causes besides gluten for digestive issues."

The Topic of Weight Management

According to the NPD Group, a leading market research firm that has followed nutrition trends for more than 20 years, the biggest driver behind the gluten-free trend is weight loss.


"Eliminating wheat products (bread, rolls, cereals, pasta, tortillas, cakes, cookies, crackers) will result in fewer calories, but important nutrients like B-vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid), and iron and fiber will also be lost," said Pam Cureton with Boston's Center for Celiac Research and chair of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' sub-practice group, Dietitians in Gluten Intolerance Diseases. Cureton recommends that anyone thinking about starting a gluten-free diet see a skilled dietitian first to be sure it is nutritionally sound and to help guide them through the difficulties of the diet. 

Gluten-Free: The Bottom Line

Most of us can eat and enjoy the many varieties of wheat foods available to us. And, luckily, for the few of us who can't, there are gluten-free options. The bottom line: gluten is a complex plant protein found in some of our favorite foods, and most of us have been tolerating it for thousands of years.


Article provided by Family Features