Top 5 myths about gluten

June 6, 2014 by Jamie Giller
Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat and other grains. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape.

In the past few years there has been a surge in gluten-free diets and products that claim giving up the protein can lead to healthier lifestyles. A New York Times article recently cited Mintel, a market research company, noting "sales of gluten-free products were expected to total $10.5 billion last year…[and] estimates the category will produce more than $15 billion in annual sales in 2016." Even the Girl Scouts have jumped on the proverbial bandwagon, introducing a gluten-free chocolate chip shortbread cookie into their lineup. But is gluten truly bad for you or has it gained a big market based on a bad reputation?

FIU News consulted with Student Health Services Registered Dietitian Christine Tellez to debunk the top 5 myths about gluten.

1. Gluten is bad for everyone.

"Gluten is a mixture of two proteins found in foods like cereal grains and wheat products," says Tellez. "Most people probably don't even know when they are eating gluten since adverse reactions generally only affect people who have celiac disease or those with a ." A doctor can test you for a gluten intolerance through a blood test.

2. Gluten makes you fat.

"Gluten itself cannot make you fat," she says. "Gluten is naturally found in wheat grains, including barley and rye, even beer and soy sauce. Wheat gluten is also added to imitation meats sometimes to improve the texture of the product." Overeating, an unbalanced diet and lack of exercise are still the leading causes of weight gain. In fact, Tellez says gluten-free pastas and breads may actually have more calories and lower fiber, vitamins and minerals than gluten-containing products. "Gluten-free diets really only benefit you if you have a true or celiac disease."

3. Not eating gluten will improve your skin.

"Most people probably wouldn't notice a difference," says Tellez. "On average, one in 133 people in the U.S. have which present severe symptoms, including recurring abdominal pain and bad acne, when consuming gluten." If you want to improve your skin, she says, eat a balanced diet with high fruit and vegetable intake to ensure your body is getting the full spectrum of vitamins and nutrients.

4. Gluten causes allergies.

"Some celebrities have claimed that gluten free diets have improved autism symptoms or autoimmune disorders, but research doesn't support these claims at all," she says. "Gluten isn't like fat. You can't just assume that less is better."

5. Not eating gluten makes you healthier.

"Not eating gluten can actually be bad for you," says Tellez. "Since gluten is present in many of today's staple foods, cutting it out altogether could mean you miss important nutrients." Tellez advises to consult with your doctor if you think you have a intolerance to determine the best course of action.

Explore further: FDA defining what "gluten free" means on packages

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1 / 5 (3) Jun 07, 2014
Less fat is not better than less carbs (thereby less gluten). In fact less fat in relation to carbs
is worse than less carbs in relation to fat. Stop spreading bad info. Fat is not more fattening than carbs, probably less so per calorie, and generally causing less inflammation and less risk for diabetes than carbs. Human can be well nourished without ANY grains or grain products, nor sugars or simple starches! For example the healthiest stock animals are grass fed, not grain fed. We eat grains only because they are cheap, store well, and are addictive. People constantly saying grains are important part of diet have NO reliable science to back that up. Human are not evolved to digest significant portions of many farmed foods like grains and legumes. Except for celiacs and those with yeast problems etc, gluten might be no worse than grains, which are themselves poor food choices compared to meats and vegetables.
1 / 5 (3) Jun 07, 2014
VOR is right about fat. We need to get over the "fat is bad" fairytale. But you certainly don't want to eat high fat with high carbs. I also agree that grains as a source of nutrients are a junk food choice under any circumstance. Fine, eat some junk every once in a while, but don't imagine they're healthy even if they've been fortified with synthetic nutrients.

And no, a doctor can NOT test anyone for "gluten intolerance." There's only a blood test available for celiac antibodies (they would be the EMA test or the tTG test, or better, both). Neither gluten sensitivity or "gluten intolerance" (whatever that means, it's not a medically recognized term anymore) can be tested for.

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