The Downside of the Gluten-Free Fad

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It’s the trendy food craze of the moment – gluten-free – and companies are cashing in. But a new article in Consumer Reports magazine suggests that unless you are actually suffering from Celiac Disease, a gluten-free diet may cause more harm, than good.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. More than 3 million Americans — about 1 percent of the U.S. population — can’t tolerate it because of an autoimmune disorder called Celiac Disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. For them, it’s medically necessary to avoid gluten.

However, others should proceed with caution. If you’re not careful to replace whole grains with other whole grains for those wheat products, then you could be missing out on a lot of nutrients and fiber. There are also concerns that people are turning to a gluten-free diet for the wrong reasons — incorrectly self-diagnosing digestive symptoms that may not be related to gluten. The increasingly common label of non-celiac gluten sensitivity raises questions about misdiagnosis.

There are many other digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), for example, that might be playing a role in symptoms, but people are opting for a gluten-free diet rather than a medical diagnosis.

Some people are going gluten-free in an attempt to lose weight – following the lead of some very vocal celebrities, but the report suggests that the opposite may be true. Many gluten-free foods actually caused people to gain weight. Think about it – a cookie is still a cookie – with or without gluten. It’s still loaded with sugar, calories, fat and sodium. And gluten-free isn’t going to save you any money, either! Consumer Reports found that in most cases the gluten-free option of a particular product was always more expensive – sometimes even double in cost!

Americans are buying into the gluten-free fad. The industry, which now includes products such as pet food, beauty products and household cleaners, is worth an estimated $9 billion. So before you decide to go gluten-free, consider talking with your doctor or nutritionist before making the change. And if you do decide to try gluten-free, do it naturally with things like fruits and vegetables instead of processed gluten-free products meant to replace their gluten-filled counterparts.