The $2.6 billion gluten-free food market is continuing to grow. Not only are more gluten-free products appearing on the grocery store shelves, but even restaurants are beginning to offer entire menus of gluten-free food.
This is great for the 1% of Americans suffering from celiac disease — an autoimmune disorder that interferes with absorption of nutrients — and also beneficial for anyone who has gluten allergies. However, can the rest of the population benefit from a gluten-free diet?
Unfortunately for us, the medical community doesn't seem to have a clear answer.
According to one expert, the only way to find out if your body is intolerant to the protein composite is to go without it for at least 2 to 3 months, then see how you feel.
Chevy Chase gastroenterologist Robynne Chutkan, on the other hand, believes the sudden gluten-free business boom has more to do with fad than health, saying:
“Many people will feel better when they cut out processed, refined carbohydrates, including gluten-containing foods — they might have better regulation of blood sugar, fewer fluctuations, when they’re not eating starchy food, and they might lose weight or have less bloating — but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have a disease."
For those hopping on the bandwagon because they're hoping to lose a few pounds, a gluten-free dietician who has celiac disease recommends otherwise. Cheryl Harris advises that foods without gluten may be loaded with other unhealthy nutrients to make up for it, explaining:
“Most gluten-free processed foods are less healthy than their gluten-full counterparts. They’re higher in calories and less nutritious. Most of the cookies have more sugar, most of the breads have more empty starches and lower fiber; they’re not enriched.”
Overall, the opinion seems to be that if you're experiencing symptoms associated with celiac disease or an allergic reaction after eating foods with gluten, it could be beneficial for your body to avoid it. However, if you're just trying to lose weight, stick to eating less and exercising more!
[Image via AP Images.]
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