Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What's all the hype about the gluten-free diet?

I've been hearing a lot about gluten-free eating recently.  There are tons of gluten-free products showing up on grocery store shelves and the label is even being added to products that never contained gluten in the first place. I suppose that's just to remind people that they are safe. Still, there are a lot more options than there used to be for people who can't eat gluten.

Some celebrities eat gluten-free diets.  Keith Olbermann and Zooey Deschanel have celiac disease so they cannot tolerate the gluten in wheat, rye and barley.  Other celebs like Ryan Phillippe have stated that they have a wheat allergy so they avoid gluten, as well.  Chelsea Clinton's wedding cake was gluten-free as she is said to have an allergy to wheat - though some sources say that it is her father, former President Bill Clinton, who has the allergy. Either way, her cake was gluten-free.

A recent study shows that around 29% of American adults are on a gluten-free diet.  Less than 1% of the population has celiac disease so why are so many others on the diet?  People can have a sensitivity to gluten even if they don't have celiac disease and others may have a wheat allergy and therefore avoid products containing wheat but what about the rest of them?

It seems that some people think that going gluten-free will help them lose weight or be healthier. In fact, I think it's fair to say that it is a current fad diet for those wanting to lose pounds.  The truth is that eating gluten-free may help you lose weight as you will have fewer options to eat (so you might not overeat) and because you might have to avoid pastries and pies but it is not a magic key to weight loss. What's worse is that some gluten-free processed food might contain more fat or salt than the regular products so they aren't good diet foods. Before you decide to go gluten-free you need to be aware that you have to watch that you are receiving enough iron, calcium, fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate in your diet as gluten-free diets can lack some of these important nutrients.

The take-away from this is that eating a gluten-free diet is necessary if you have celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten but there really isn't a benefit for those without a medical reason to eat this way. In fact,you might be robbing yourself of some much needed nutrients if you aren't careful.

Also, for the record, a gluten-free, casein-free diet has not been shown to help autistic children despite what Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Jenny McCarthy would like you to believe.

Image found here and adapted as allowed by license.

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