Gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley) is a subject of hot debate lately. Everyone from movie stars to fitness gurus are touting the benefits of a gluten-free diet, but unless you have celiac disease, is gluten really as bad for you as people claim?
Gluten and Celiac Disease
Roughly 1% of the population has celiac disease, a serious gluten intolerance that can make it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients from food. For people with celiac disease, gluten is strictly off the table. That includes foods like breads, cereals, beer, pasta, processed meats, and more.
One survey from NPD Group, a market research company, found that nearly 30% of adults in the United States have reduced or cut out their gluten intake entirely—a much larger percentage than those who actually have celiac disease. But for those without celiac disease, is gluten really as bad as everyone says?
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS)
The answer is probably not. In 2011, a study conducted by a research team at Monash University in Australia stated that non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) could be a real disorder since participants who consumed gluten later reported bloating and fatigue.
However, in 2013 a study by the same team contradicted the 2011 findings. In the 2013 study, researchers found no evidence of NGCS, and attributed the bloating and fatigue experienced by the 2011 participants to the consumption of a specific kind of carbohydrate. Their conclusion? Gluten is only bad for you if you have celiac disease.
The Gluten-Free Diet
Many nutritionists now believe that adhering to a gluten-free diet if you do not have celiac disease offers no special health benefits. According to them, most people only think a gluten-free lifestyle is healthier because of all the media buzz.
Some experts even think that going gluten-free if you're not a celiac could harm your health, since you could be missing out on the important nutrients that come with eating a well-balanced diet. Plus, as they point out, many processed gluten-free foods are higher in sugar, fat, and calories than other foods, which can cause weight gain and other health issues.
If you're thinking about starting a gluten-free diet, be sure to do your research and weigh the pros and cons first. And if you still aren't sure whether going gluten-free is right for you, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.
And remember, if you have any concerns about your health, or even if you just want peace of mind knowing everything is OK, take our quick online health assessment today.