The gluten free diet is being more commonly used as a weight loss program, even though this is not the intended use of the diet. A growing number of people have reported the beneficial effects of their experience of using this diet for weight loss, but Is this true? and if so is it a healthy practice?
What exactly is a gluten free diet?
As stated in the name, a gluten free diet consists in removing all sources of gluten from your diet. Gluten is a protein found naturally in cereals like wheat, rye, oats, barley and spelt, meaning it is most commonly found in foods such as bread, pastries, pasta and other products derived from these cereals, like industrial sauces. A gluten free diet does not involve cutting out all cereals however, as cereals such as rice, buckwheat and quinoa are gluten free.
This diet was initially intended for a small portion of the population who suffer from coeliac (also known as celiac disease) and gluten allergies. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease linked to both environmental and genetic factors. When people with this illness consume gluten, their immune system attacks the intestinal lining, potentially leading to a variety of digestive disorders, such as severe stomach pains, diarrhoea or bloating.
The best remedy for these disorders is to adopt a gluten free diet and lifestyle. Coeliac disease can lead to more serious long term problems, due to poor absorption of nutrients by the weakened intestine (e.x: anemia due to poor iron absorption, osteoporosis due to poor vitamin d and calcium absorption). Gluten allergies are very rare and can present through a number of symptoms shortly after ingestion, such as digestive problems, itching and sneezing. Here again, a lifelong gluten free diet is the best way to prevent further allergy symptoms, which can be dangerous.
Can a gluten free diet also be helpful for weight loss?
Gluten itself is not linked to weight gain, unlike fat or sugar. Removing gluten from your diet therefore should not have any influence on weight. Some claims however have been made, supporting the notion that banning gluten can help people lose a few kilos. Let’s see to what extent this is true.
Gluten free diet and weight loss: why it could work?
Altho gluten is not linked to weight gain, it is present in many foods that are rich in fat and sugars. For instance pizzas, hamburgers, quiches, cakes and biscuits. Gluten is also used as a binder/thickener in some industrial dishes such as sausages, certain mustards and breaded fish. This makes following a 100% gluten free diet a little difficult to follow, as people with this diet must pay constant attention to food labels and find your way through the list of gluten free foods. This “downside” comes with a key advantage, as it encourages people to pay more attention to their diet, to avoid high-calorie industrial products and to prepare good home-made meals, preferably low in fat and sugar. This is how gluten free diets really have an effect on weight loss, especially if these new eating habits are combined with regular exercise.
Why does it not work for everyone?
As previously mentioned, a gluten free diet does not necessarily lead to weight loss, but can teach you good dietary habits which can. This can be explained by analyzing the composition of some “gluten free” versions of foods, such as breads, cakes and some pastas, which have become increasingly popular in recent years. The main issue that some people seem to miss is that these foods are not necessarily less fatty or sweet than their gluten containing counterparts. All you need to do is read the labels. Under these conditions, weight loss can be difficult, especially if you do not change eating and exercise habits, and consume more calories than you burn off!
The Nutrimis Team.