No evidence gluten-free diets lead to weight loss

by Jeff Gelski
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No published experimental evidence supports a gluten-free diet for weight loss in people without celiac disease or gluten-related disorders.

WASHINGTON — No published experimental evidence supports a gluten-free diet for weight loss in people without celiac disease or gluten-related disorders, according to a review article scheduled to appear in the August issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants. Furthermore, the authors of the article failed to find any evidence to suggest that a gluten-free diet may have any purported health benefits in people without gluten-related disorders.

The findings stand in contrast to a report on gluten-free foods published by Mintel in 2013 that found 27% of Americans choose gluten-free products to help them lose weight.

Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D., co-author of the study, a professor at Arizona State University and chairman of the Grain Foods Foundation’s scientific advisory board.

“Our research confirms much of what we already knew,” said Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D., co-author of the study, a professor at Arizona State University and chairman of the Grain Foods Foundation’s scientific advisory board. “While the gluten-free diet is a legitimate therapeutic tool for those affected by gluten-related disorders, there has been a corrosion of common sense from people needlessly jumping on the fad diet bandwagon.

“In fact, people who eliminate gluten may end up gaining weight because these foods often have more calories than their gluten-containing counterparts. There is also preliminary evidence that consuming gluten-containing foods, especially whole grain wheat products high in dietary fiber, may boost beneficial gut microbiome and its effect on health.”

Siddhartha S. Angadi, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Arizona State University, was the other co-author of the study. The article also provided information on such topics as data on weight change in people with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and the health benefits of wheat, which contains gluten.

Data on weight change in patients with celiac disease who follow a gluten-free diet are mixed, according to the article. People who are underweight frequently gain weight after starting a gluten-free diet, but people who initially are overweight or obese may lose weight.

In two studies of a total of 740 adults with celiac disease, 22 of 81 initially overweight people in one study gained weight and 55 of 67 initially overweight people in the other study gained weight. In a study of 149 children with celiac disease who followed a gluten-free diet for at least a year, the percentage of overweight children increased to 21% from 11%.

The article said evidence suggests that gastrointestinal symptoms in people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity may be due to the consumption of fermentable, oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPS).

The articled pointed out wheat is a source of fructan-type resistant starches such as oligofructose and inulin, which are substances that have a prebiotic action that helps create a healthy composition of gut bacteria and may reduce the risk of some cancers, inflammatory conditions and cardiovascular disease. Gluten also may have a positive effect on blood pressure, according to the article.

Internet sites may be spreading inaccurate gluten information. The article pointed to a study published in 2012 that found nearly one half of 98 Internet sites that provided information on celiac disease had information that was judged to be less than 95% accurate. Twenty per cent of commercial, non-profit and professional web sites provided information that was less than 90% accurate. Inaccuracies included information about the definition and prevalence of celiac disease, proper diagnosis of the disease, and various aspects of a gluten-free diet.
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