Question from our in box: I have been working out with a personal trainer for the past several months and the other day he suggested that I follow a gluten-free diet to help me lose weight. What are your thoughts on this and will going gluten-free really be the answer to my weight loss issue. JK
My first question for you is, have you been diagnosed by your medical doctor with Celiac Disease? If your answer is no then following a gluten-free diet is not your answer for weight loss. There is no scientific evidence indicating that gluten itself impacts weight in people who do not have Celiac disease. The gluten-free diet is the new trend in the “diet” world. It’s becoming as popular as the low carbohydrate diets of a few years ago and the fat free craze of the 90’s. So what’s the deal? Why is everyone jumping on board and cutting gluten out of their diets.
First, let’s discuss why there is such a diet in the first place. A gluten-free diet is what we; Registered Dietitians call a “therapeutic diet”. They are prescribed to help treat a medical condition. Just like the diabetic diet helps manage blood sugars, a gluten-free diet helps manage the side-effects of Celiac Disease. Celiac disease is a digestive condition triggered by consumption of gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye and barley, and is nothing to be taken lightly. Gluten is found in everything from bread, pasta, cookies, and pizza crust to medicines, dietary supplements and even lip balms. People with celiac disease who eat foods containing gluten experience an immune reaction in their small intestines causing damage resulting in the inability to absorb certain nutrients. Eventually, this can cause vitamin deficiencies that deprive your brain, peripheral nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of vital nourishment. No treatment can cure celiac disease; however, it can effectively be managed by changing the diet and eliminating the culprit — gluten. Hence, the gluten-free diet is born. Early on in my career there weren’t many options on the grocery store shelves for those prescribed such a diet. In fact it was quite a challenge which leads to a lot of frustration and noncompliance. In recent years there has been an increase incidence of Celiac disease; more than 2 million people in the United States have been diagnosed. This puts greater demand on the food industry to produce more gluten-free products and grocery stores to stock them. Today there are hundreds of gluten-free products which is great for those with celiac disease but leaves the rest of consumers scratching their heads and wonder if they too should be avoiding gluten.
So why are some people claiming that a gluten-free diet has helped them with weight loss. Believe it or not gluten has nothing to do with it. Plain and simple, it’s a calorie restriction diet. Wheat accounts for a large portion of the gluten we consume. Wheat is everywhere including in cookies, crackers, breads, cakes, dressing and sauces. And what do all these foods have in common? They are all calorically dense. While there is no magic bullet to avoiding gluten, cutting gluten out of your diet means cutting out these high calorie foods which always results in weight. Remember, cutting out gluten can decrease consumption of high calorie foods, but at the same time you’ll be cutting out some of those foods that actually do your body good, like whole wheat and multi-grain breads.
JK, hope this information has helped. If you are in need of further assistance our office offers a variety of weight management programs depending on your weight loss goal.
If you have a nutrition question you’d like answered in this column send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Question for the Breeze” as the subject title.
Lisa Eisele, RD, CSO, LD is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. She also holds a Board Certification as a Specialist in Oncology Nutrition. Lisa and her partner Stacy Paine, RD, LD own Oconee Nutrition Consultants, LLC located at Cowles Clinic. (706) 473-5801.