Many eating gluten-free foods for health benefits

August 27, 2013 3:05:53 PM PDT
We know it helps people with Celiac disease to eat a gluten-free diet, but many other people are doing so by choice.

Are there actual medical benefits, or drawbacks, to going gluten-free?

Gluten-free eating means avoiding foods made with wheat, barley or rye, and that's just about everything with carbs: bagels, muffins, cereals.

Some people react badly to gluten, but many on this diet are using to treat all sorts of ills. What's the fad, and what's the fact?

Lawyer Jennifer Schramm loves running as a sport, but eating foods made with gluten before a race went right to her stomach.

"When I was having things like bagels and pasta before a run and would have side stitches and have to make pit stops along the way. But if I filled up on rice and potatoes, that didn't happen," said Schramm.

Those foods are gluten-free, and Jen is apparently one of the 10 percent of people who are sensitive to gluten.

In sensitive people, gluten can produce constipation, diarrhea and stomach aches, milder symptoms than with Celiac disease, an immune system attack on the intestine, causing poor food absorption, rash, and a higher cancer risk.

But gluten-free foods are not a panacea.

"The main reasons people say they're trying gluten-free are weight loss, insomnia, headaches, ADHD, there are all kinds of reasons," said dietician and nutrionist Lauren Antonucci.

Lauren says there is no harm in trying this diet for any problem, unless people forget the basics.

"The key to this diet is to remember that this gluten-free chocolate chip cookie has the same calories as one that's not gluten-free..tasty."

And for these products, that's what people forget.

"I see people eating more cookies, more cake, more pastry, because they say gluten-free, which may be making other conditions worse," said Antonucci.

Such as obesity and diabetes. Jen eats gluten-free before a long run. She may be in the minority.

"For a large segment of the population, I think it's just a quick diet fad, that they can lose ten pounds quick if they go on a gluten-free diet," she said.

Don't forget, the only way to lose weight on this diet is to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, count calories, and as Jennifer does, exercise a lot. That is, what you would do to lose weight on any regimen. Gluten-free will not help take off the pounds by itself.