A few days ago we asked our Facebook followers to weigh in (terrible pun intended) on the rising trend of going gluten-free to lose weight. This trend can be traced, at least in part, to celebrities like Gwenyth Paltrow, who sang the praises of a gluten-free cleanse in her January newsletter, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck, whose gluten-free recipe book claims weight loss as one of the many benefits of her “g-free” diet. Even Oprah got in on the gluten-free game, eliminating gluten (among other foods) in a 21-day cleanse back in 2008.
Looking at the growing number of gluten-free celebrities who also happen to be thin and smile-y, you can see why this trend would appeal to those of us who have tried everything to shed unwanted pounds. But there’s a pretty significant flip side: the American Dietetics Association does not endorse the gluten-free diet as a means to losing weight.
In a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article on the rising gluten-free diet trend, a spokesperson for the ADA, Heather Mangieri, says, “The stance on that is the gluten-free diet is not ideal for weight loss, and is not a weight-loss diet. There’s nothing magical about eliminating gluten, unless of course you have an intolerance.” She acknowledges that while some people do shed pounds after shedding the gluten, that can be attributed to the increased awareness that comes with any new diet. “For some people,” she says, “if they’re starting on a diet, they’re more conscientious about what they’re eating, so it’s more likely they are just taking in less calories and fat.”
Most of our wonderful Facebook followers agreed – and then some. More than a few of you pointed out that you had actually gained weight since going gluten-free. After all, celiac disease causes intestinal damage that disrupts digestion and absorption of nutrients, which can lead to varying degrees of malnourishment. In fact, many celiacs are underweight before going gluten-free, and begin to see the pounds pile on as their digestive system begins to heal and properly absorb nutrients again.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting both sides of this issue, but rather than explore them all here, I’ll turn things over to you, our readers. What do you think of the weight-loss – or weight-gain – potential of the gluten-free lifestyle? Have you lost or gained weight since going gluten-free? Are you offended by this fad – “This diet is awful! Why would you do it by choice?” – or excited by the increase in gluten-free products that could result?