Should You Go Gluten Free?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects between two and three million Americans. For people with this disorder, gluten, a protein in wheat, rye and barley, cause their body to launch an immune response that attacks the small intestine.

Celiac disease can occur at any age after eating or ingesting products that contain gluten. If left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems like diabetes, anemia, and infertility. The only effective way to treat celiac disease is to adhere to a strict gluten free diet.

Recently, gluten free diets have become popular in America. For individuals with celiac disease, a gluten free diet is essential to maintaining their health, but many individuals without celiac disease are following the same diet. There is an ongoing debate about whether or not a gluten free diet is healthy for those without celiac disease.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center polled 1,000 people and found that 63% of these people believed a gluten free diet would make them healthier. These people attribute their gluten free diets to improving digestion function, weight loss and higher energy, but there is little scientific evidence to back these claims. Alessio Fasano, M.D., director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, argues that there’s no reason to eliminate gluten unless you have true gluten sensitivity, and doing so might even be bad for your health.

Before ridding gluten from your diet, or continuing your gluten free lifestyle, there are some facts worth considering:

  • Contrary to popular belief, gluten free foods do not have more vitamins and minerals that foods containing gluten. A gluten free diet could quickly lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
  • Gluten foods have strong flavors. When taken out of foods, extra fat, sugar and sodium is usually added to make up for the lack of flavors.
  • Evidence proves that protein in gluten foods has beneficial effects on triglycerides, may help blood pressure, and support healthy bacteria in your digestive system, which in turn may reduce inflammation.
  • Gluten free foods often have more calories, sugars, and fat than foods with gluten and are believed to increase the risk of obesity, according to the Journal of Medicinal Food.
  • Samantha Heller, R.D., senior clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone Medical Center, says, “If people lose weight on a gluten-free diet, it might be because they’re cutting calories, eating less processed food or sweets, or cutting portions of starchy foods like pasta and bread. Instead of a cookie, they’re eating an apple. Instead of pasta, they’re eating a high-fiber, gluten-free whole grain like quinoa. Eating more fiber helps satiety and may aid in weight loss.”


Jaime Venditti, State Coordinator, New York Health Works