What is gluten? Does gluten make me gain weight? Why is everyone giving it up?
Gluten seems to be appearing everywhere and I know I can’t be the only one who's more than a little confused by what seems to be the latest diet trend. Seriously how can I know if I want to be gluten-free if I don't even know what gluten is in the first place !?
Market researcher YouGov found that as many as 60% of adults in the UK have bought a gluten-free product, whilst 10% of households contain someone who believes gluten is bad for them, but how many of us could actually tell you what it is, what is does and why some people should cut it out?
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein component found in Wheat, Barley, and Rye. It is made up of two forms of proteins: gliadin (a prolamin protein) and glutenin (a glutelin protein). Gluten is the glue that holds our foods together, giving the dough its elasticity and effecting the chewiness of the bread we eat.
Why is Gluten bad?
It’s time to bust the myth, gluten’s not earned its bad reputation. Many good healthy complex carbohydrate sources essential for our bodies wellbeing contain gluten. Whole-grain products which contain vitamins, minerals and fiber help to maintain a healthy digestive system, stabilize blood sugar and keep you full throughout the day. Unless you are suffering from a gluten-related disease such as Coeliac disease or gluten intolerance, removing gluten from your diet could, in fact, be unhealthy, forcing you to eliminate foods which can help fight cancer and heart disease. In fact, research has shown gluten-free diets can be low in fiber, iron, calcium, folate and zinc, along with many other vitamins and minerals, all of which are essential micronutrients for the body to maintain optimum health levels.
Will Gluten-free make you lose weight?
Whilst modern media will have you believe that the reason celebrities such as Victoria Beckham remain so trim is because they have excluded gluten from their diets, the reality is this just isn’t the case. In fact, many gluten-free products have the same, if not more calories than their original counterparts. When gluten is removed, something else has to be added to keep the foods holding together and ensure it remains palatable. Often this will mean an increase in the products fat, sugar or salt, which then rockets its total calories content up.
The reason most people lose weight when they swap to a gluten- free diet is nothing to do with the removal of gluten. As soon as we say the word ‘diet’ most people become more conscious of what they’re eating, they’ll eat less and make smaller portions. This creates a calorie deficit which is where the weight loss is coming from. Bottom line, don't be fooled into thinking gluten-free means low calories or healthy.
Who should go Gluten-free?
There is a disease caused by gluten, it’s called Coeliac disease. If a person suffers from Coeliac disease when they eat a product containing gluten their body physically cannot stomach it and it triggers their immune system to start damaging their small intestine. Gluten does this to a Coeliac by destroying their villi. Villi are tiny protrusions which line the intestine and transfer essential nutrients into the bloodstream. Once the villi are damaged a person will become malnourished, regardless of their food consumption, as their body simply cannot absorb the right nutrients from what’s being ingested.
Symptoms of Coeliac disease include stomach pain, bloating, gas, lack of appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, and vomiting. If you suspect Coeliac disease, it can be diagnosed with a blood test.
- Coeliac UK found that the disease affects as many as 1 in 100 in the UK.
- Coeliac disease is not an allergy or an intolerance, it is an autoimmune disease.
- You cannot ‘grow out’ of Coeliac disease, it is a lifelong disease.
- As little as a breadcrumb of gluten can harm someone with Coeliac disease.
As with most diets which gain momentum, people have jumped on the bandwagon because gluten free is being duped as ‘healthier’ and good for weight loss. However, as we have discovered, gluten-free can often rack up more calories, so why do people lose weight on this diet? Restriction. As soon as someone goes gluten-free, they restrict their diet, making more mindful decisions about their food choices and, as a result, they tend to eat fewer calories and, therefore, lose weight,weight-loss which has nothing to do with the gluten. So should we be gluten-free? Probably not. Cutting out a nutrient from your diet, unless you're a Coeliac, just isn’t necessary.