Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Losing Weight on a Gluten-Free Diet?

Pretty Gluten-Free Noodles: Will They Help Me Lose Wt?
A few years ago my dear childhood friend underwent a number of surgeries related to a heart condition she had (unknowingly) for years, and she was told to forego gluten-containing foods. Forever.

 She lost 30 pounds.

 I, too, eat gluten-free and feel much better. I don't have Celiac disease, but I certainly notice when I eat too much bread or other foods made with wheat. But I DO NOT lose weight when I give up gluten.

Why not?

 Why don't I lose weight on a GF-diet when practically every one else I know does?

Giving up gluten-containing foods has become a trend sort of like giving up cigarettes was a few years ago.  Oprah Winfrey and Miley Cyrus and a lot of other people claim they've lost weight when they gave up gluten (like my friend).

But the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics are pretty adamant that a gluten-free diet doesn't really have any true health effect for anyone but people with Celiac disease.  

Whoa! What about the book "Wheat Belly"?? Doesn't the author, Dr. William Davis, attribute the loss of the midriff 'spare tire' largely to consuming wheat and other gluten-containing foods?  Dr. Davis believes that even non-Celiac sufferers (the so-called "gluten-sensitive", like I see myself), routinely drop 10-20 pounds when they give up bread and other gluten-containing foods.


What about me?.. I didn't "routinely" (or otherwise) drop 10-20 pounds when I went off gluten for several months.

Don't be fooled by expensive GF products?

A recent article in an Australian online news source contends that people who eat GF products don't attain any real health benefits and just get fatter, something that Dr. William Davis says about people eating wheat, even (and often, especially) whole grain wheat products. 

Alas, because extra sugars and  fats are added to GF breads to make them tastier and take on more of a bready texture, they are likely to contain more calories than 'regular' wheat breads.  

Dr. Davis contends that today's wheat is a fast-growing hybrid that is higher in gluten than the wheat grown during our grandparents' time, and even highly addictive.  

Nutritionist Ian Marber believes that the reason that people feel better eating GF is that they are making better choices (to eat more fruits and vegetables) and eat, in general, fewer processed, starchy carbs.

Although people like me may feel uncomfortable with eating a plate of wheat pasta over eating a plate of brown rice pasta, there is no way to actually gauge any level of "gluten-sensitivity".  

Some, like Ian Marber, claim that gluten-sensitivity might just be delayed  discomfort signals from having over-eaten our daily quota of starch.  

In an article on the CBC site, dietician Alexandra Anca suggests that the common processed GF foods are lacking in nutrients such as fibre, calcium, folates and Vitamin D.  She suggests that anyone who is choosing to eat gluten-free should focus on healthier grains such as quinoa, teff, sorghum, flax and millet.

Celiac disease is an auto-immune disease.  Dr. Mohsin Rashid, a gastroenterologist at IWK Health Centre in Halifax, points out that while gluten-sensitivity often mimics many of the symptoms of Celiac Disease, it is not an auto-immune disease.  He is with the rest of the scientific community on this one: stumped at the sharp rise in Celiac disease and non-Celiac gluten-sensitivities.

Some Hope in Sight?   

As you might well imagine, we are about five years away from an explosion of pills and potions meant to treat both Celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity.  

For the one percent of the population of Canada / United States who is actually diagnosed as Celiac, it is becoming easier to live in a wheat-infested world: food containing gluten is being better labeled, there is a broader range of delicious, healthier GF products coming out all the time, and people with Celiac disease in Canada are given some tax breaks.

The other important spin-off is that people with both Celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity are looking for ways to eat healthier.

I'm still not quite sure why I don't lose weight... maybe it has to do with a lack of exercise? Hmmm....


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