Should You Go Gluten-Free?

By Kristin Ohlson, July/August 2009

Whole grains are good for you. So why are so many Americans giving up wheat, rye and barley? Should you?

"I am a vegetarian whose blood sugar was creeping up past the normal range. (Type 2 diabetes, here I come) Several friends who had been on medication for years for type 2 CURED their disease by going completely gluten-free. I joined...

In the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, researchers reviewed studies that had been published on the effect of a gluten-free, casein-free diet on the behavior and cognitive and social functioning in people with autism. They only found two randomized, controlled trials (the gold standard of scientific research), both small, with a combined total of 35 participants. The review deemed the evidence inconclusive.

While only people with celiac disease react to gluten in ways that damage the body, others can have sensitivities to gluten or wheat allergies. These people may feel better avoiding gluten, especially if they’ve been getting it in fatty, sugary processed foods that offer little nutrition.

Can a Gluten-Free Diet Lead to Weight Loss? There’s no evidence that a gluten-free diet leads to weight loss—or even a plausible theory for why it would. In fact, moving from “regular” processed foods to gluten-free ones may result in weight gain. “Lots of gluten-free products are higher in fat,” says Tricia Thompson, M.S., R.D., author of The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide. “Pretzels, for instance--manufacturers add fat to give them better mouthfeel.” (Plus, these pretzels cost four times as much as “regular” ones.)

Next: Can Going Gluten-free Help Diagnose Celiac Disease? »

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