It is the diet of the moment in Hollywood, hailed by the likes of Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian to be the latest and trendiest way to lose weight (although Kim Kardashian is now pregnant and so obviously not losing weight). The major increase in the availability of gluten-free products on our supermarket shelves shows that many of us have followed suit. But why have people become so obsessed with gluten-free diets when only ~8-12% of us are buying these products for medical reasons?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. In order to eat gluten-free, you must remove any foods containing gluten from your diet. Foods which contain gluten include bread, pasta, cake, biscuits, crackers, some sauces, batter and ready meals. However, due to the increased popularity of this diet there are gluten-free alternatives to the majority of these foods in the supermarket.
When Miley Cyrus hails gluten-free as health promoting and responsible for her recent weight loss, she probably wasn’t heading to the gluten-free aisle and stocking up on alternatives to bread, biscuits and pasta. If you want to stick with naturally gluten-free foods, you can eat unprocessed meat, fish, fruit, vegetables (including potatoes), rice, quinoa and lentils. These healthy foods and the lack of simple carbohydrates combined with a regular exercise routine are the most likely reason behind the weight loss .
Oats are a grey area when it comes to the gluten-free diet. They contain avenin, which is a protein similar to gluten. Oats are also often produced in the same place as wheat, barley and rye which means the gluten contamination risk is high. If you are certain that the oats are produced separately from gluten containing foods, feel free to add it to your diet. Personally, I would steer clear just in case.
If nutritional supplements are part of your healthy lifestyle, there are products available which are gluten-free and completely safe for those with gluten sensitivity.
CNP Professional Pro Recover, Cytosport Monster Mass and Maximuscle Promax Protein Bars are all popular gluten-free supplements. We have approximately 20 gluten-free supplements available to customers, so if you do struggle to find supplements which are suitable for those with gluten allergies, be sure to visit our website.
Medical Reasons For Avoiding Gluten
Those who suffer from Coeliac Disease must avoid gluten for their entire lives. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition. When people suffering from this disease ingest gluten, it triggers the immune system to attack its own tissues (namely the lining of the small intestine). The damage caused means that the person is unable to properly absorb the nutrients of food and may suffer from severe symptoms including diarrhoea, vomiting, gastric pain and bloating. There is no current cure for this disease but a gluten-free diet reduces/illuminates the symptoms for most sufferers. Left undiagnosed, the malnourishment this condition causes can lead to infertility, anaemia, osteoporosis and an increased risk of developing bowel cancer.
Sensitivity to gluten is another reason to avoid this protein in your diet. Jessica Alba is one of the celebrities who follows a gluten-free diet for medical reasons. Research concludes that those with sensitivity to gluten (even those who are not aware of it) have fewer gastrointestinal issues and improved overall health when placed on a gluten-free diet.
Non-Medical Reasons For Avoiding Gluten
Members of the public with no sensitivity to gluten have been trying this diet in a bid to lose weight, increase energy levels, improve their complexion and to feel healthier. The issue here is that if you just eat naturally gluten-free foods and reduce your calorie intake you will lose weight. But if you merely substitute normal bread, pasta and biscuits for the gluten-free versions, it is highly unlikely that you will lose weight.
The other thing to consider here is the cost of gluten-free substitutes. Expect to pay much more for your weekly food shop if you buy gluten-free substitutes of everything you would normally eat. If you are diagnosed as allergic to gluten or have coeliac disease, you will be able to purchase a limited number of gluten-free items for free.
There is limited scientific support for eating a gluten-free diet if you have no medical reason to avoid it. However, studies have found it may help improve mental health, increase nutrient absorption and reduce digestive issues.
If you want to try the gluten-free diet, I would recommend focusing on naturally gluten-free foods such as meat, fish, vegetables and fruit to optimise health and guide you towards your goal weight.
Niewinski MM, Advances in Coeliac Disease and Gluten-Free Diet, Journal of American Dietetic Association, 2008, 108(4): 661-72.
The Management of Adults with Coeliac Disease, British Society of Gastroenterology, 2010.
Coeliac Disease, NICE Clinical Guidelines, 2009.
Siniscatchi M, Iovino P, Tortora R, Fatigue in Adult Coeliac Disease, Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 2005, 22(5): 489-94.