Over the past decade, going gluten-free has become the trendy fast-track to boosting health and losing weight; it has also been touted as a way to better cope with ADHD, autism, headaches and other conditions.
A gluten-free diet is one that excludes gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Avoiding gluten is required for those with celiac disease, for whom gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines and often leads to other health issues. About 1 percent of the U.S. population has celiac disease, while another 10 percent have non-celiac gluten intolerance. For these people, avoiding gluten isn’t about losing weight, it’s about not suffering the ill effects that gluten causes for them.
Many people who don’t have any problems with gluten believe that going gluten-free is intrinsically healthy anyway. For some this may be true, but experts warn that the diet is hard to follow and can be nutritionally problematic for people who have no medical reason to be on it. Many gluten-free products on the market can be unhealthy because of the added sugar and fat that stands in for gluten. In addition, gluten-free products are less often fortified with the iron and essential hard-to-get vitamins than regular bread products can contain.