Going gluten-free: Is the diet a good fit for everyone?

June 28, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- One of the latest trends in the food market and among celebrities is going gluten-free. Snack giant Frito-Lay has announced it will introduce new gluten-free labels and products, and Miley Cyrus has credited her recent weight loss to a gluten-free diet.

Experts at Kansas State University say going gluten-free may be a good choice for some individuals, but that just because a product's label says it's gluten-free doesn't means that it's healthy.

Going gluten-free was an obvious choice for Kathryn Deschenes, a Kansas State University master's student in food science from Ellsworth. She has celiac disease, which runs in her family. The disease is a digestive disorder triggered by eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Those with celiac disease often experience symptoms like nausea and diarrhea.

"It can have funny symptoms like depression, and it can stunt children's growth," Deschenes said.

For the 1 percent of the population with celiac disease, giving up gluten products usually takes away those symptoms. Deschenes went gluten-free in high school and likes the recent gluten-free trend.

"It's been beneficial for the market," she said, adding that it means more companies are producing gluten-free products and labeling their products as such.

But are products labeled "gluten-free" healthier?

Take a good hard look at those labels, recommends Mark Haub, associate professor and interim head of Kansas State University's department of in the College of Human Ecology. Haub studies and dietary fiber.

"Just because a product says it's gluten-free doesn't mean it's healthy," he said.

The gluten-free product likely contains as many calories as gluten options, Haub said, because a gram of sorghum, corn or rice flour appears to be metabolically similar to a gram of .

Haub said that gluten isn't bad for the average person.

"People have been eating wheat, rye and barley for thousands of years, and there are people who live to be 100 who eat wheat and don't seem to exhibit any types of health issues," he said.

Gluten-free diets are now being adopted by people without . Haub said as long as they do their research about the diet, he's fine with the trend.

"I'm totally supportive of people selecting and choosing lifestyle habits that best suit their needs and preferences, and this would fit that category," he said.

If someone eats more varieties of vegetables and fruits and engages in portion control of other foods, then this type of gluten-free living may elicit health benefits, he said.

Deschenes cautions that gluten-free is not necessarily a weight-loss program and can be a bad diet if you aren't aware of the things it lacks, such as a sufficient amount of fiber.

To help add more fiber to her diet, Deschenes buys breads with more fiber. She also said you can add flax seed to your , which is high in fiber.

Explore further: Gluten-free holiday strategies minimize stress

Related Stories

Gluten-free holiday strategies minimize stress

November 29, 2011
Holidays and food go hand-in-hand. If you follow a gluten-free lifestyle or will be with someone who does, the holiday season can present challenges.

Recommended for you

No evidence that widely marketed technique to treat leaky bladder/prolapse works

October 16, 2017
There is no scientific evidence that a workout widely marketed to manage the symptoms of a leaky bladder and/or womb prolapse actually works, conclude experts in an editorial published online in the British Journal of Sports ...

Ten pence restaurant chain levy on sugary drinks linked to fall in sales

October 16, 2017
The introduction of a 10 pence levy on sugar sweetened drinks across the 'Jamie's Italian' chain of restaurants in the UK was associated with a relatively large fall in sales of these beverages of between 9 and 11 per cent, ...

New exercises help athletes manage dangerous breathing disorder

October 16, 2017
A novel set of breathing techniques developed at National Jewish Health help athletes overcome vocal cord dysfunction and improve performance during high-intensity exercise. Vocal cord dysfunction, now also referred to as ...

Learning and staying in shape key to longer lifespan, study finds

October 13, 2017
People who are overweight cut their life expectancy by two months for every extra kilogramme of weight they carry, research suggests.

Blueberries may improve attention in children following double-blind trial

October 13, 2017
Primary school children could show better attention by consuming flavonoid-rich blueberries, following a study conducted by the University of Reading.

Menopause linked to changes in brain energy use

October 13, 2017
Researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine and the University of Arizona Health Sciences have found that women's brains use less energy during the menopause. The reduction in energy use by the brain was found to be similar to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.