Should You Go Gluten-Free? Miley Cyrus Thinks So.
If you watch Entertainment Tonight or happen to follow Miley Cyrus on Twitter, you have surely heard about the latest Hollywood trend.
Apparently the young star has been working to lose weight by following a gluten-free diet and is encouraging her fans do the same. She has even been quoted as saying “Everyone should try it!”
As a registered dietitian and someone with several loved ones following a gluten-free diet for medical reasons, PLEASE ignore her Tweets!
Unless you have a gluten intolerance or have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, following a gluten-free diet (or “G-Free” as Elizabeth Hasselbeck from The View would say) may actually do you more harm than good. Without careful monitoring, going gluten-free may cause you to miss out on essential nutrients in your diet - and thereby place your health at risk.
Are There Actually Benefits to a Gluten-Free Diet?
The only people who TRULY benefit from following a gluten-free diet are those who have been diagnosed with a gluten intolerance or the more serious, Celiac Disease.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder with serious dietary requirements. In fact, the only remedy is to follow a completely gluten-free diet. This disease affects 1:100 people yet only about 5-10% with the disease are diagnosed. If you have been diagnosed, you will want to avoid all foods containing wheat, rye, barley, and in most cases, oats. Each of these grains contains the specific gluten protein causing the negative reaction in the digestive system.
If gluten is not avoided, people with Celiac disease will experience severe inflammation and malabsorption issues, causing malnutrition. This is not only dangerous for growing children who are in need of every grain of nutrition in their diet; the inflammation may place adults at an increased risk for a variety of chronic diseases later in life. Continuing to eat gluten after diagnosis is truly risky business!
Can a Gluten-Free Diet Help Me Lose Weight?
As for celebrities such as Miley claiming that the “G-Free” diet will help you to lose weight, I beg to differ.
Many products marketed as being gluten-free are actually heavily processed, low in fiber, and high in sugar. Yet as soon as we see that striking gluten-free claim, it seems to give any product a health halo - making it seem far healthier than it actually is.
If one were to follow a gluten-free diet, but ignore the gluten-free section of their supermarket, overflowing with gluten-free cookies, crackers, brownies, breads and pastas and the like, then perhaps they would have a chance at losing weight. Not only are these products typically more expensive, they are typically more dense and calorie-rich.
While it is certainly possible to lose weight on a gluten-free diet, it's not the absence of gluten that will do it. You'll need to follow the general healthy eating tips recommended for all of us: make half your plate fruits and vegetables, go lean with protein, make at least half of your grains whole (gluten-free grains include amaranth, quinoa, sorghum, teff, millet, brown rice, or buckwheat), opt for low-fat or fat-free dairy and limit higher calorie sweets and sugary beverages.
Is a Gluten-Free Diet Right For Me?
If you or someone you know swears they feel better on a gluten-free diet, despite never having been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, let me remind you of the fact that only about 5-10% of those with the disease have actually been diagnosed. If someone feels better on the diet, they may unknowingly have the disease. Or they may be one of the hypothesized 6% of the population with non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
What is tricky about jumping onto the gluten-free bandwagon however is that once you start a gluten-free diet, your physician is unable to diagnose you has having the disease – that is, until you reintroduce gluten into your diet once again. In fact, you may need to be on a gluten-containing diet for at least six weeks and up to three months before the tests will show a true positive. So, before you self-diagnose, visit your doctor and talk to him or her about the possibility of having this widespread disease.
For more information on the gluten-free diet, visit this site where my colleague and Celiac expert, Shelley Case, sets the record straight on exactly what the gluten free diet is and how those with special dietary needs can safely adhere to its recommendations.
Photo Credit: Come Back on The Radar