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‘No evidence’ that gluten-free diet benefits general population, says researcher

7 commentsBy Caroline Scott-Thomas , 24-Aug-2012
Last updated on 27-Aug-2012 at 10:17 GMT2012-08-27T10:17:39Z

‘No evidence’ that gluten-free diet benefits general population

Stronger efforts are needed to educate the public about reasons for adopting a gluten-free diet, as many Americans are cutting gluten in an effort to lose weight, says Arizona State University professor Dr. Glenn Gaesser, an exercise physiologist and Grain Foods Foundation advisory board chairman.

According to market research organization Packaged Facts, the market for gluten-free foods has grown much faster than expected, at a compound annual growth rate of 30% from 2006 to 2010.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder with symptoms triggered by gluten consumption, the protein found in wheat, rye, barley and spelt – but although awareness of the condition has increased rapidly in recent years, most people consuming gluten-free diets do so for other reasons.

Dr. Gaesser claims that there is no evidence that gluten-free diets are effective for weight loss, and may even lead to weight gain if dieters switch out gluten-containing foods for gluten-free equivalents that may have extra sugar or saturated fat added to improve palatability.

“While the gluten-free diet is an important medical treatment for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, far too many Americans are following the diet for reasons that simply do not make sense," Dr. Gaesser said, following a review of the scientific literature regarding gluten-free diets in the general population, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

According to a Packaged Facts survey carried out in fall 2010, only 8 to 12% of gluten-free consumers said they bought gluten-free products because they or a member of their household has celiac disease or an intolerance to gluten, wheat, or other ingredients.

It found that the top reason (46%) for buying gluten free foods and beverages was a perception that they are ‘generally healthier’, while 30% of gluten-free consumers said they did so in an effort to manage their weight.

Celebrity endorsement

The idea of adopting a gluten-free diet for weight loss has been boosted by celebrity endorsements in recent months. Back in April, actress and singer Miley Cyrus said that she suffered from gluten and lactose intolerance, and urged her more than five million Twitter followers to embrace a gluten-free diet.

“Everyone should try no gluten for a week! The change in your skin, [physical] and mental health is amazing! U won't go back!" she tweeted.

Dr. Gaesser said: "Even though it has been endorsed by celebrities for weight loss, let's face it - they are not the experts on nutrition and health. It's time to listen to the science.”

He added that this disconnect illustrates the need for stronger efforts to educate the public about reasons for avoiding gluten.

Celiac disease is estimated to affect about one in every 133 Americans. The only treatment currently available is complete gluten avoidance.

7 comments (Comments are now closed)

I beg your pardon ???

Gluten Free is simply eating what God gave and ...he did not give us bread...bread is man made...eating gluten free processed food is as bad if not worse than regular gluten filled garbage...Lean meat ...vegetables and fruits...nuts... berries are very good choices...I resent the diet fad statement...I get violently ill from gluten in any form ...Physically and mentally.... equally... and it is an autoimmune issue for me and 1 in 133 others around the planet..it is a human fail and has many things in it to cause issues...Please be more sensitive to this issue...This is not a fad and those whom treat it as such as just robotically repeating..Yes the food is astronomical if you are eating processed lazy food and the few essentials are expensive to to the problem with cross contamination ..so special facilities have to be built and then there are those who love the money and have to mark up the prices...I had to figure out what was wrong myself and ask my Doctor for the tests ..I was right....We need healing.... not meds or people judging without really knowing what they are talking about.....FOODICATE ..NOT MEDICATE or listen to those we have been taught to listen too..those with degrees and power...Find out for your self about your health and take care of your body.

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Posted by Jennifer Shaver
15 October 2012 | 17h152012-10-15T17:15:14Z

Yes, Listen to the Science.

I feel as if someone needs to respond to all these negative comments regarding this article. First off, I'd like to see any credentials whatsoever coming from the people claiming Dr. Gaesser doesn't know what he's saying. Just because his findings differ from your fad diet, doesn't make him wrong.

This doesn't surprise me, when they tacked "Fat Free!" on products people began purchasing them blindly, failing to notice the added sugars used to compensate for the missing fat flavor, when they started tacking "Cholesterol Free!" on, again people bought it. And in both cases, it was simply a food fad. Fat has been shown, even saturated fats, to only primarily have a negative impact due to its high calories per gram. Food cholesterol has been found to be completely unrelated to blood cholesterol. And so it's no surprise to see another food fad finally having the spotlight shined on it.

Why do people feel better when they switch to it? Because they're finally consciously making food choices, not because it's necessarily better, more likely than not any positive results people may claim are results of taking this placebo food. And Miley Cyrus claiming it had all those benefits? Yes! Of course it'll have those if you're intolerant of the normal foods, but for the rest of us, cheap, solid wheat works fine.

And to you "natural" food people out there, the only reason you don't see ingredients with "names you can't pronounce" on gluten-free products yet is because they're not in high enough demand to be mass produced and preserved. Making the blanket statement that anything you can't pronounced is bad is probably the most ridiculous thing you can do, because if that becomes mainsteam, guess what, they'll come up with a name that's easy to be pronounced, check out MSG, plenty of fun names to make it "pronounceable."

I applaud this doctor for being a pioneer in shooting down a diet fad before it manages to get out the gates.

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Posted by Daniel
07 September 2012 | 05h362012-09-07T05:36:30Z

Listen to the science?

Dr. Gaesser says "It's time to listen to the science." Who's science? We've had the wool pulled over our eyes for years about how "healthy" wheat is. Wheat has been genetically modified so much that our bodies cant' process it the way our ancestors' did. I found a more reliable source of science from Dr. William Davis, in his book "Wheat Belly". He documents, and backs up with hard facts the reasons why wheat is poison for us.

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Posted by Bonnie
06 September 2012 | 01h272012-09-06T01:27:16Z

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