NOV 11, 2017 6:39 AM PST

How a Gluten-Free Diet Can Harm More than Help

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

In the past several years gluten-free foods have been more popular than ever. Just peruse a grocery store aisle and you'd likely come across products marketed as gluten-free. Moreover, restaurants are getting in on the action too, offering gluten-free options on their menu.

While a gluten-free diet may have been linked as a weight-loss strategy, the basis for this diet is a serious health condition known as celiac disease.

Celiac disease is on one of the most pernicious gastrointestinal conditions brought on by the presence of gluten in foods, and affects about 1 in 133 Americans. The condition is an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten, which is a protein found in common foods like bread and pastas. Unlike a food allergy, gluten causes several autoantibodies to be produced, which go on to wreak havoc in many organs. Notably, villi - finger-like projections that line the intestines - are most vulnerable to attack. This leads to the classic celiac symptoms, which include diarrhea, abdominal distension, and other ailments associated with malabsorption of nutrients. Currently, there is no cure for celiac disease. The only effective treatment for the condition remains a diet completely devoid of gluten.

Because celiac sufferers have to avoid carb-loaded foods like bread, cereal, and pasta, along with many high calorie junk foods, they may experience some weight loss. But before you think about jumping on the gluten-free train, just remember that celiac patients restrict their diets to avoid serious health issues, not for weight loss purposes. In fact, healthy people who forgo gluten are seriously short-changing their nutrition and incurring health risks unnecessarily. Watch the video to learn why a gluten-free diet is not for everyone.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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