Monday, August 2, 2010

Gwyneth Paltrow Avoids Gluten...Should You Too?

It seems like lately, gluten is becoming a 4-letter word.  Along with "cleanses", gluten-free diets seem to be all the rage in Hollywood.  Gluten-free foods and bakeries are on the rise and why not....who wouldn't give up gluten in an effort to look like Gwyneth Paltrow!

Should you give up gluten?  Before you decide, here are a few facts for your consideration:
  • Gluten is a protein naturally found in wheat, triticale, rye, barely, and oats (at a low level).   It is also used as a food ingredient in many processed foods.  It's everywhere!
  • About 1% of the population has a diagnosed gluten disorder (e.g., Celiac's Disease), but its estimated that 2-3% of the population actually has some form of a gluten sensitivity (many cases go undiagnosed).  Rates have been increasing over the past few decades.
  • It's not clear why some people develop a gluten sensitivity and some don't, but it appears to be a function of being genetically predisposed and encountering some sort of environmental trigger.
  • Other conditions are linked with gluten sensitivity.  For example, people with schizophrenia are more likely to have a gluten sensitivity than the people without schizophrenia.  Whether people with a gluten sensitivity are more likely to develop schizophrenia (or the reverse) is unclear. 
  • People with a gluten sensitivity are at a much higher risk for other diseases (e.g., cancer), especially when they are not treated.  The treatment for a gluten sensitivity is a gluten-free diet. 
Proponents of a gluten-free diet boast that it will lead to weight loss, increased energy, and other warm fuzzy benefits in anyone...whether you have a gluten sensitivity or not.  These "anti-glutenites" contend that American gluten is the worst (as opposed to European gluten), a function of our breeding/farming practices.  That said, there is overwhelming evidence that people that eat more whole grains have lower body weights, lower risk of diabetes, and lower risk of heart disease.  The whole grain most commonly consumed in America is whole wheat....loaded up with gluten. 

I have never tried a gluten-free diet myself, so I cannot speak from experience.  I will say that studies have shown that going on any kind of a restricted diet (e.g., salt restriction) can often lead to weight loss because people become more conscious of what goes in their mouth and the number of possible foods that one might consume is greatly reduced.  I believe this is one of several reasons why a low-carb diet works for folks in the short term.  

And there does not appear to be any harm in avoiding gluten (although a vitamin/mineral supplement is recommended).  In a perfect world, unprocessed foods like fruits and vegetables and lean sources of protein would replace the gluten-containing foods.  And then of course, a person would probably lose weight, feel more energetic, and vibrant!  So is it the gluten-free diet or the healthier diet that is responsible?  

What do you think?  Has anyone gone gluten-free?  Has it been a good experience?  Has anyone tried to migrate their blog from blogger to their own host site and successfully completed this process without developing an ulcer?  

Just wondering...