Grocery store shelves are bulging with new products geared to help those who want to eat gluten free but why are they choosing gluten free?
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye and barley, for those with Celiac Disease, a genetic, auto-immune disorder, the only way to manage this disease is to completely avoid gluten. Celiac Disease affects about one in every 141 people in the US. 1 Those with Celiac disease have an immune system response to gluten that results in damage to the intestines, poor absorption of nutrients and if consumption continues, permanent damage to the intestines will occur. So why are so many people searching for gluten free?
Avoidance of gluten means avoidance of wheat products such as bread, pasta and cereal, along with a wide variety of foods that contain flour, malt, dextrin, caramel color or food starch. Avoidance of these foods means a reduction in calories – unless someone chooses a replacement food – so avoiding gluten can lead to weight loss. Given the fact that almost 70% of Americans are either overweight or obese this leaves lots of people looking for a way to lose weight. 2 As celebrities found gluten free more and more people decided to use gluten free as a way to lose weight. The problem with this choice is that elimination of gluten can also mean elimination of many nutrients with fiber being one of significance.
With the growing interest in gluten free more and more products have hit the shelves to provide gluten free options but before you try one consider the following.
- Choose gluten free foods that provide nutritional value – empty calorie gluten free foods are no better than empty calorie gluten containing foods
- Remember that portions still matter since Calories do Count
- Don’t eliminate gluten – unless you have Celiac disease – since grain foods are a good source of fiber
- Collaborate with a Registered Dietitian for the best product development and choices.
1Rubio-Tapia A, Ludvigsson JF, Brantner TL, Murray JA, Everhart JE. The prevalence of celiac disease in the United States. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2012;107:1538–1544
2 Obesity and Overweight. CDC FastStats. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/overwt.htm. Accessed January 7, 2014