Saturday, July 9, 2011

Our Old Friend Gluten

Pity our old friend gluten. The latest casualty in a long list of foods to avoid on the bumpy road to thinner.

For 1% of our population gluten is poison. Eating it can trigger pain and cause severe damage to the digestive system that in turn prevents the body from absorbing critical nutrients. People with gluten intolerance---Celiac Disease---face a lifetime of serious medical challenges. There is no treatment, other than avoiding gluten, and no cure.

For the rest of us, gluten is a harmless protein found in grains like wheat, rye and barley. The gluten in these grains give us pizza, pasta, chewy bagels and fluffy bread. But, just the same, gluten free has become a major fad as many see it as a synonym for low-carb and weight loss.

Gluten free for a healthy adult is not nutritious eating and will not help us loose weight. 

Oprah Winfrey’s Dr. Oz, Nutritionist Samantha Cassidy and Dr. Mark Hyman (Founder Of The Ultra Wellness Center) looked at dozens of supermarket foods labeled gluten free. They determined this:

1.    There are More calories in gluten free foods
2.    Gluten free foods are low in fiber
3.    There are more carbs in gluten free foods.

"It's becoming extremely fashionable to the point that it's almost alarming," says Dr. Stefano Guandalini, Founder and Director of the Celiac Disease Center at the University of Chicago. He and other gluten gurus say most people on gluten-free diets don't actually need to be: they've either jumped on the bandwagon or misdiagnosed themselves as gluten-sensitive.

But seeing a trend and a chance to profit, food manufacturers are rushing to get a slice of the gluten free market, and a market where the Food and Drug Administration has yet to set a standard for gluten-free labeling. Nonetheless, gluten-free  has become a major selling point. Gluten-free Betty Crocker cake mix and gluten-free beer now line grocery-store shelves. There are gluten-free menus in restaurants and gluten-free lifestyle tips from celebrities who speak with little real knowledge of healthful eating or good nutrition.

Many health experts stress that gluten by itself is not a dietary evil. "Think of all the populations on the globe that have existed on wheat or other products that have gluten in them," says Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina.

"As for supposed weight-loss benefits, a gluten-free pretzel is not going to take off pounds any faster than a regular pretzel. In fact, if you avoid only gluten, rather than the carb-packed foods it's typically in, you will likely be getting more calories with fewer nutrients", says Dr. Guandalini, "because many substitutes end up being high in surrogate carbs and low in fiber. That's why celiac patients who go on prescribed gluten-free diets often see their body mass indexes increase, not decrease".

"Of course, people are free to eat what they wish, but a gluten-free diet is not necessarily a healthy diet," says Dr. Peter Green of Columbia University's Celiac Disease Center. "It's something people seem to take on without being aware of the effects."

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