One of the popular diets Americans choose to stay healthy and/or lose weight is gluten-free diet. But experts warn people this type of diet, mostly recommended for celiac disease patients, is not good for everyone.
Celiac disease (CD) or gluten intolerance is a genetic disorder that causes intestine pain and flatulence, constipation or diarrhoea, anaemia and chronic tiredness to people intolerant to gluten, a protein found in most of grains. About 7% of the Americans are affected by this condition.
Other Americans, the non-CD patients, chose a gluten-free diet because they believe it helps them lose weight in a healthy way, keep a stable cholesterol level and a proper functioning immune system, have a good digestion and a high level of energy, keep their brain functions at maximum capacity for a long period of time and many more.
Alessio Fasano, celiac disease expert and researcher in a Boston celiac research center, says these health benefits are major myths, since there’s not enough scientific evidence to support them. Dr Fasano said healthy people shouldn’t remove gluten from their food because they also remove valuable nutrients from their nutrition thus leading to diseases.
Another common belief is that gluten-free diets help people to rapidly lose weight. Nutrition experts say this is simply not true, because gluten free processed products often contain more calories and saturated fats than regular ones.
People on a gluten-free diet usually avoid wheat by consuming more rice products. A high amount of rice intake increases the level of inorganic arsenic in the body, thus leading to brain illnesses in children, cancer, and lung disease. About half of the gluten-free labeled products contain rice or rice flour. A person on a normal diet gets about 17% arsenic exposure from his/hers regular rice take. In a gluten-free diet this percent increases exponentially.
Another drawback of gluten-free diets is that gluten-free producers are sometimes dishonest about their products and leave gluten in their merchandize. This isn’t fair for consumers, because gluten free foods are more expensive (sometimes double) than regular ones.
Instead, scientists found that gluten has important health benefits. It is believed to normalize blood pressure and triglycerides, and prevents inflammatory diseases.
Some parents use a gluten-free diet on their infants hoping that by doing so they will prevent celiac disease. Some new studies show the opposite – the longer parents wait, the higher is the disease risk.
All in all, researchers recommend healthy people should avoid gluten-free products. Instead, if they are looking for a healthy lifestyle, they should stay away from processed foods and switch from their gluten-free diet to an increased daily intake of fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains products.