TEMPE, Ariz.Despite purported health claims, there is no benefit for the average healthy adult to follow the gluten-free diet, according to a new paper published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The findings also suggest a gluten-free diet is not an effective weight-loss method, and frequently leads to weight gain because many gluten-free products contain more added fats and sugars than their gluten-containing counterparts.
Gluten is a protein found in the grains wheat, rye and barley. People affected by celiac disease and gluten sensitivity must avoid all foods containing gluten; currently, the gluten-free diet is the only treatment for these conditions. Approximately 1% of Americans have celiac disease and another 6% are estimated to suffer from gluten sensitivity, yet many others believe going gluten-free leads to good health.
Researchers at Arizona State University said the paper is one of the first to look at the other side of the gluten craze. While the gluten-free diet is an important medical treatment for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, far too many Americans are following the diet for reasons that simply do not make sense," they said. "Even though it has been endorsed by celebrities for weight loss, let's face itthey are not the experts on nutrition and health. It's time to listen to the science."
These findings run counter to a recent Harris survey of more than 2,000 adults polled about their perceptions and use of the gluten-free diet. Of those participants who followed the diet, half reported doing it to "feel better" and 26% as a "diet for losing weight."
According to a 2011 report from Packaged Facts, the gluten-free product market grew by a rate of 30% each year between 2006 and 2010; reasons for this rapid growth include more accurate testing methods for celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, the perception gluten-free products are healthier in addition to endorsements from celebrities.
The researchers concluded there is need for stronger efforts to educate the public about reasons for following the gluten-free diet.