Updated: Feb 28, 2019
You must have seen the phrase “gluten-free” on food packaging, take-out menus and at a lot of other places. Gluten is the newest dietary enemy. Millions of people all around the world are giving up on gluten in the pursuit of better health. There's a lot of information on the internet, lots of books, lots of media claiming that eliminating gluten from your diet promotes weight loss and makes you healthier, but is this true? Or the surge of popularity of the gluten-free diet is just a fad? Let's dig deeper into this and find out the truth!
What is Gluten?
Gluten is an insoluble protein composite found in wheat and other related grains such as corn, barley, and rye which the humans have been eating for thousands of years. Gluten is a family of storage proteins called Gliadins and Glutenins which helps to nourish the plant's embryos and plays a significant role in giving the foods you eat that chewy goodness! It is responsible for the elastic consistency of the dough and makes it stretchy and provides the bread with its sponge-like properties.
We have been eating wheat since an eternity. So, why does a food ingredient that we’ve been consuming for centuries suddenly become such a huge problem?
Is Gluten bad for everyone?
Despite the health claims for gluten-free eating, no scientific evidence suggests that a general population will be better off by excluding gluten from their diet.
Eliminating Gluten is necessary for those with Celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes malabsorption of nutrients whereby eating gluten causes the immune cells to react by mounting a fighting response against the intestine which is a critical organ in the absorption of nutrients from the foods. Only about 1% of people in the whole world have celiac disease, and gluten can damage their intestines.
Other than celiac disease, a small proportion of the human population suffers from a wheat allergy or Gluten intolerance. It is an uncommon condition that occurs when a person's immune system mounts an allergic response to wheat proteins leading to painful gut symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, joint pain or skin rash. A gluten-free diet is essential for them as well.
Others are just ditching Gluten for other reasons. Everything from stomach pain to fatigue to acne is being linked to Gluten, but in reality, Gluten is neither making you sick nor enhancing your health. It is not affecting you in any way unless you have celiac disease or are Gluten intolerant.
What happens when we switch to a Gluten-Free Diet?
A lot of people believe that a gluten-free diet can actually help someone lose weight and that a gluten-free cupcake has fewer calories than a regular cupcake. And to be honest, that’s just false. Gluten-free cupcakes and other products tend to be higher in calories as extra oil, sugar, and fats are added to make them taste better, and it is well known that increased consumption of fats and sugar can ultimately lead to obesity, diabetes and insulin resistance. Furthermore, people on a gluten-free diet may also suffer from deficiencies in Vitamin B, Foley and Iron.
Why this misconception?
If a Gluten-free diet is specifically beneficial for only 1% of the total population then why majority of people say that their stomachs feel upset when they eat Gluten?
In most of the cases, people mistake a FODMAP Intolerance for Gluten sensitivity and go Gluten-Free. FODMAPs are a group of small carbohydrates or sugars found in everyday foods that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and can produce gastric discomfort, abdominal pain, cramps and bloating. These symptoms overlap with symptoms of gluten intolerance, and people often confuse between the two.
So, if you're one of the persons who think that the Gluten-free diet is doing something great for your health, think again!
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