ShareThis Page
Gluten-free diet fad can add pounds— and lose nutrition |

Gluten-free diet fad can add pounds— and lose nutrition

Nanci Hellmich
| Thursday, March 7, 2013 8:55 p.m

Perhaps with a boost from such celebrities as Miley Cyrus and Gwyneth Paltrow, the number of Americans showing interest in a gluten-free diet has reached new heights.

Almost a third of U.S. adults (29 percent) say they want to cut down or eliminate the gluten in their diet, according to new data from the NPD Group, a market-research firm. The latest finding is based on interviews with 1,000 adults during the last week of January. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

That’s the highest percentage since the company began asking the question in 2009.

Some people try a gluten-free diet to lose weight because they’ve heard that’s what celebrities are doing, says Andrea Levario, executive director of the American Celiac Disease Alliance. “What people don’t realize is that many gluten-free products are higher in fat than other products, and people may not lose weight but actually gain weight eating them.”

She says about 1 percent of the population suffers from celiac disease, which triggers an immune system reaction that causes inflammation in the small intestine when they eat food containing gluten. Common signs and symptoms of the disease may include diarrhea, iron-deficiency anemia, lactose intolerance, fatigue, joint pain, abdominal pain, migraines, depression, short stature and osteoporosis, Levario says.

“For people with celiac disease, the gluten-free diet is medically prescribed. It is the only course of treatment for this life-long chronic condition. It isn’t a choice; it is a matter of life and death.”

One problem: There’s no standard for gluten-free labeling on products in the United States, she says. “We are looking forward to the administration finalizing one in the near future.”

Some people may have a similar condition called gluten intolerance or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, Levario says. They don’t test positive for celiac disease, yet they have similar symptoms. While celiac disease, wheat allergy, and gluten-intolerance are treated with similar diets, they are not the same condition, she says.

“Clearly, more people are interested in a gluten-free diet than really need it,” says Harry Balzer, NPD’s chief industry analyst. “This is the health issue of the day, based on the increase in the number of Americans interested in this subject.”

Registered dietitian Judi Adams, president of the Wheat Foods Council, says “we respect all those people who have to go gluten-free, including people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity and some who have irritable-bowel syndrome.

“But the people who are using it as a cleansing diet or calorie-controlled diet are using it as a fad diet,” she says. “People often gain weight when they go on a gluten-free diet, particularly if they substitute products that are higher in calories, fat and sugar.”

Fiber is just one of the main nutrients people miss out on if they eliminate all grains, she says.

Nanci Hellmich is a staff writer for USA Today.

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.