Gluten is a monster that expands your waistline, right? Wrong. Along with the rise of gluten-free diets and foods, there has also been an increase in the misconceptions surrounding gluten. The appeal of gluten-free diets revolves around the main misunderstanding that it can lead to weight loss. Gluten avoidance can then morph into overall carbohydrate avoidance. This emerging trend is dangerous, leading to the misinformation and abuse of gluten-free diets.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale, which helps contribute to the structure and texture of baked goods. The only appropriate use of a gluten-free diet is for those with Celiac disease or for those who have been diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity. Because these two conditions are triggered with gluten consumption or exposure, the only foolproof intervention is the adherence to a gluten-free diet. Only one percent of the population has been diagnosed with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, but more than three times that follow a gluten-free diet.
Gluten-free diets can easily be abused and become a large influencer of disordered eating. A recent study revealed that some participants who were following a gluten-free diet developed disordered eating thoughts and behaviors. Their freedom and flexibility with food was replaced by hyper-focused preoccupation, fear and restriction of food. These thoughts and behaviors can easily morph into eating disorders such as anorexia, orthorexia, binge and/or bulimic eating disorders.
Bottom Line: The rapidly increasing gluten-free diet trend has led to the misinformation and abuse of gluten-free diets. It is important to remember that this diet is only appropriate for those with diagnosed medical conditions. The misuse of this medically-prescribed diet can lead to disordered eating thoughts and/or behaviors.
Written by: Ashley Nguyen, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern