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September 13, 2016

Is gluten-free all it’s cracked up to be?

Healthy Eating Lifestyle

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The American obsession with health has experienced a series of paradigm shifts since the turn of the millennium. Modern dieters have a habit of adopting new and improved nutritional regimens that promise better results in a shorter period of time.

Often via celebrity publicity, diets easily become viral overnight. Of the most recent dietary trends, removing gluten from your plate has gained the most publicity from stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow. After multiple books were published about the potential dangers of gluten, the idea has proliferated into a massive variety full of both skeptical and satisfied results.

What exactly is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. What started as a diet fad has quickly transformed into a lifestyle, with everyone from fast food to fine Italian restaurant chefs offering non-gluten alternatives. Even American universities, such as Ohio’s Kent State University, have begun to open gluten-free cafeterias on campus. And many believe the popularity of the gluten-free trend was leveraged by the positive reputation of many low-carb diets, including the South Beach,Atkins, and Paleo diet fads. With low-carb diet successes, a gluten-free diet was bound for fruition.

What caused the gluten-free trend?

Avoiding products with gluten has not always been a mainstream trend; in fact, for many Americans, avoiding gluten is a necessity instead of a lifestyle choice.

Celiac disease is a diagnosable autoimmune gluten-related disorder that affects about 1 percent of the population. For those suffering from Celiac disease, consuming even a single bite of a gluten-filled cupcake can lead to violent immune system attacks causing diarrhea, bloating, gas, fatigue, anemia, and osteoporosis. Eliminating gluten is, therefore, mandatory for many affected by the disease .

But not all gluten-free eaters are doing so for medical reasons. Since gaining popularity, the trend has led more than one million Americans that do not suffer from Celiac disease to adopt a gluten-free diet.

After a series of published books revealed the potential dangers of eating gluten, the idea exploded across all media platforms. “Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar -- Your Brain’s Silent Killers” by Dr. David Perlmutter became the inspiration for a surge in gluten-free dieters. The message was concise, yet harsh: bread, crackers, cake, pasta, and all other delicious gluten-rich foods are the cause of almost every modern neurologic disorder, be it headaches, depression, ADHD, anxiety, epilepsy, dementia, and even decreased sex drive.

Is gluten-free the way to go?

While many continue to swear by the effects of withdrawing gluten from their diet, many doctors continue to be skeptical based on the lack of documented evidence. Some even believe a gluten-free diet could have adverse effects, causing people to gain weight.

According to the Mayo Clinic, people who follow a gluten-free diet may have low levels of certain vitamins and nutrients including iron, calcium, fiber, and folate. Furthermore, “ despite claims to the contrary, no credible study has shown that gluten/ wheat is the cause of the current obesity epidemic; there is also no credible evidence to suggest that eliminating gluten and wheat from your diet is a wise lifestyle choice,” states fad diet debunker Tim Caufield.

The general consensus on limiting gluten in your diet seems to be unknown with a heavy dose of suspicion. Without scientific validation or objective diagnoses criteria, it’s difficult for today’s medical practitioners to support the claims.

Because American diets are saturated with refined wheat products, cutting back is definitely beneficial for optimal health. Many even believe this is the true reason so many are seeing results from the gluten-free diet fad. The gluten-free mindset has forced people to think more delicately about the food they ingest, leading to a stretch of healthier decision making.

One major topic most dieticians and medical physicians can agree upon are the positive benefits of eliminating processed foods from your diet. Whether it’s cutting back on complex carbohydrates like cookies and crackers or adding in more fruit and vegetables into your daily meals — many dieticians believe that less wheat is a good thing. For this reason, the gluten-free diet fad continues, and with this mindset perhaps healthier decisions are being made.

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