In light of the recent mega-press on Miley Cyrus losing weight by going gluten free I figured now would be a good time to discuss this. But, let’s stick with science and not celebrities’ tweets. I’m not convinced her “gluten allergy” (not a true diagnosis) is the real reason behind her diet switch but time will tell. If, in fact, she really does have celiac disease maybe she would be a great spokesperson for our cause! The lactose “allergy” , more likely an intolerance, could be true. Read more here.
So, could changing to a gluten-free diet help you lose weight? Maybe. Studies have found that people diagnosed with celiac disease who are adherent to the gluten-free diet tend to lose weight if they are overweight or tend to gain weight if they are underweight. In a 2010 study of newly diagnosed celiac patients, 66% of patients underweight at diagnosis gained weight. 54% of overweight and 47% of obese patients lost weight after diagnosis. Of special note to this study, all patients were followed by a dietitian during the follow-up period. Another study from 2011 also found a positive effect on weight in children. 75% of the children that were overweight or obese [based on body mass index (BMI)] at the time they were diagnosed with celiac disease had a significant decrease in their BMI, even getting to a normal BMI range in 44% of children.
Do I believe gluten free is a good choice for a weight-loss diet? No. Gluten free does not mean low calorie, low fat, or miracle food—unless, of course, you have celiac disease, in which case eating gluten free really is like a miracle; especially if you have suffered for a long period of time before diagnosis. Gluten free does not mean healthy for those that do not have a medical reason to stick to a gluten-free diet.
It is true that if you cut out gluten-containing foods (a lot of carbohydrates like pancakes, pasta, bread, bagels, muffins, cake, cookies, and donuts) you will likely lose weight. The question is what do you replace them with? Gluten-free cookies will lead to weight gain in the same way gluten containing cookies will lead to weight gain.
On the following chart, you’ll see that the gluten-free choice is not always the lower-calorie choice. (All information is “per serving.”) Need some guidance reading a food label? Check this out.
|Gluten-Free Pretzels||140 calories, 6 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 420 mg sodium||Gluten-Free Crackers||210 Calories, 9g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 210 mg sodium|
|Regular, Store-brand pretzels||110 Calories, 0.5g Fat, 0 Saturated fat, 170 mg sodium||Triscuit Crackers||120 calories, 4g fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 140 mg sodium|
These are just a couple of the items I happen to have on hand in my pantry. My point is not that people who really need a gluten-free diet for medical reasons should not use these products. My point is, just replacing the gluten-filled item with the gluten-free variety is not going to lead to weight loss for those people strictly attempting a gluten-free life for the fad or perceived weight loss benefits.
Since my child was diagnosed with celiac disease at a young age I was thrilled to see her start gaining weight after switching to a gluten-free diet. What has your experience been with your weight related to a gluten-free diet? And, if so inclined, go ahead and comment/rant/rave about the celebrity attention to gluten-free!
Celiac disease in normal-weight and overweight children: clinical features and growth outcomes following a gluten-free diet. Reilly NR, Aguilar K, Hassid BG, Cheng J, Defelice AR, Kazlow P, Bhagat G, Green PH. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2011 Nov;53(5):528-31.
Body mass index in celiac disease: beneficial effect of a gluten-free diet. Cheng J, Brar PS, Lee AR, Green PH. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2010 Apr;44(4):267-71.