By Emily Little, RD, LD and Paige Prestigiacomo, RD, LD

When you account for all the diet trends promoted and advertised by our favorite celebrities and social media accounts, or the ones that are marketed on grocery store shelves, it gets confusing to know which diet plan can help you reach your weight loss goals. Lately, one of the claims we’re seeing is that a gluten-free diet benefits weight loss.

For those of us who have tried everything to lose weight, what’s one more fad diet, right? Before jumping into this trend, consider taking a minute to pause and read through the rest of this article to gain some insight before going gluten free for weight loss.

What is Gluten?

With so many people going gluten free, it’s surprising to hear how many eliminate it from their diets without knowing what it really is:

Gluten is a commonly misunderstood part of bread. It may even be more maligned than the carbohydrate itself! Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye that acts as the glue that holds dough together and gives it a soft, chewy texture. This is why gluten-free bread may have less of that desirable sponginess we love.

Typically, we think of gluten as an ingredient in breads, baked goods, pastas, and cereals. Many do not know that it is also found in other popular products[1], such as

  • Beer
  • Soups
  • Sauces
  • Fries
  • Soy sauce

It may be important to note that gluten is not in all carbohydrate-containing foods. For instance, the following food products are all gluten free and can be part of a healthful diet:

  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Wild Rice

Who Should Limit Gluten Intake?

In 2017, Forbes reported that about 3 million Americans are following a gluten-free diet plan[2]. Of those individuals, about 70% are PWAGs (people without celiac avoiding gluten). That 70% may be people who have gluten sensitivity, self-diagnosed or not, and those who believe there are other health benefits to a gluten-free diet aside from reducing gut discomfort or damage. The other 30% include individuals with celiac disease, where eating gluten could put their health at risk.

About Celiac Disease: For those living with celiac disease, as small as a fork full of spaghetti can cause gastrointestinal discomfort. Consuming gluten triggers an autoimmune response, where the body attacks the villi, or finger-like hairs, in the lining of a person’s intestine. Celiac disease is genetic and can be diagnosed with a blood test to determine if antibodies are present and confirmed by a biopsy of the intestine for damage to the villi.[3][4]

Those who are gluten sensitive may also limit their intake of gluten. Individuals who follow this eating path find that eliminating gluten helps with gastrointestinal symptoms, such as

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea

Research defining gluten sensitivity and treatment is a relatively new area of study, and therefore, has not yet been scientifically proven.

Eliminating gluten may help alleviate the aforementioned symptoms, but perhaps it can also be tied to the decrease in other allergens, such as wheat, dairy, or eggs that are commonly found in the type of products removed from a gluten-free diet plan. According to the Mayo Clinic, Dermatitis Herpetiformis, or Duhring disease, is a skin condition characterized by an itchy rash of red bumps and blisters. Though the cause is not known for this disease, maintaining a gluten-free diet plan can help treat this skin condition[5].

Does Going Gluten Free Lead to Weight Loss

There is no scientific evidence that proves eliminating gluten leads to weight loss. In fact, eliminating gluten unnecessarily could cause deficiency in important nutrients, such as B vitamins and fiber, that we get from hearty whole grains[6]. Choosing pre-packaged or processed products that are made to be gluten free can sometimes lead to weight gain as ingredients are added to substitute the gluten, such as polysaccharides (more carbohydrates) in the form of xanthan gum or guar gum used to thicken, stabilize, and make the product more palatable. They may also substitute wheat flour with white rice flour or tapioca.

While many companies market their gluten-free products as healthier, often these products are higher in refined carbohydrates as well as calories, fat, and sugar. Learning to read the nutrition label and look at the ingredients in the products you are buying can help determine if it’s a healthy choice.

Following a gluten-free diet plan can have its benefits. It challenges you to open your mind and rethink the way you choose food. If you choose more naturally gluten-free foods, you are incorporating more whole and unprocessed foods.

For example, one might skip the deep-fried chicken sandwich and choose a salad with grilled chicken instead. When making these changes, you incorporate more lean meats, vegetables, and fruits into your diet. This cuts out excess calories, which in return leads to weight loss and gluten was removed in the process. As mentioned above, there are carbohydrates and grains that are naturally gluten free that may be a great alternative to a processed-to-be-gluten-free product. This is another reason why reading food labels and understanding what is in your food is an important piece to a healthy lifestyle.

Why Livea?

When looking to make a change in your health and wellness lifestyle, it can be overwhelming to sort through incorrect information and fad diets on social media.

At Livea, we offer customizable meal plans that include a healthy balance of protein and carbohydrates. Having consistent carbohydrates throughout the day helps better regulate hunger levels and controls blood sugars. If you have celiac disease or need to omit gluten for medical reasons, one of our registered dietitians can help create a plan that fits your needs. Not only do we provide support during your weight loss journey, we also provide education to guide you in making your own decisions once you reach your goal to help you stay there.

To get started, fill out our online form or give us a call!

References:

[1] https://www.novanthealth.org/healthy-headlines/is-going-gluten-free-a-good-idea

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2017/01/17/the-number-of-americans-going-gluten-free-has-tripled-since-2009-infographic/#65fb709732f2

[3] https://celiac.org/gluten-free-living/what-is-gluten/

[4] https://celiac.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Global-prevalence-of-celiac-disease_GGH_2018.pdf

[5] https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(16)30634-6/fulltext

[6] https://www.todaysdietitian.com/enewsletter/enews_0514_01.shtml