YONKERS. N.Y. — An article published on-line Nov. 21 in Consumer Reports claims a gluten-free diet may not improve physical or mental health even though many Americans believe such a diet will. A gluten-free diet potentially may lead to a deficiency in certain nutrients, weight gain and exposure to arsenic, according to the article.

“Just as fat was vilified in the 1990s and carbs have been scorned more recently, gluten — a protein found in wheat, barley and rye — has become the latest dietary villain, blamed for everything from forgetfulness to joint pain to weight gain,” the article said.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed more than 1,000 Americans and found 63% said following a gluten-free diet would improve their physical or mental health. They said they believed a gluten-free diet would provide such benefits as better digestion and gastrointestinal function, healthy weight loss, increased energy, lower cholesterol and a stronger immune system.

The article, however, points out many gluten-free foods are not enriched or fortified with nutrients such as folic acid and iron. Also, gluten-free foods may contain extra fat, sugar or sodium to compensate for lack of taste. For instance, regular blueberry muffins from Wal-Mart contained 340 calories, 17 grams of fat and 24 grams of sugar while gluten-free blueberry muffins from Whole Foods contained 370 calories, 13 grams of fat and 31 grams of sugar.

In regard to weight gain, the article cited one study of 369 people with celiac disease in which 42% of those who were overweight or obese lost weight after almost three years on a gluten-free diet and 27% gained weight. People with celiac disease must follow a gluten-free diet. In another study, 82% of the people who were overweight gained weight after starting a gluten-free diet.

Consumer Reports found gluten-free products were more expensive than their regular counterparts in every category except ready-to-eat cereal. For example, brownies made from a regular Duncan Hines mix cost about 8c per serving while brownies made from a Betty Crocker gluten-free mix cost about 28c per serving.

Consumer Reports this month released a report on arsenic levels in rice, which is gluten-free. Scientists from the Food and Drug Administration in 2013 determined the amount of detectable arsenic is too low in rice and rice product samples to cause any immediate or short-term adverse health effects.

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, Ambler, Pa., earlier this year also commented on a gluten-free diet.

“Though some gluten-free options are healthful, eliminating gluten when people do not have a medical necessity for doing so is unwarranted,” said the Foundation, which seeks to improve diagnoses of celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders and improve the quality of life for those on a lifelong gluten-free diet.

Read the completeConsumer Reportsarticlehere.