Is Gluten Free Healthy?
So, I'm sure you've deduced at this point from my newsletters, and the fact that we are a site about the Paleo diet (which is a gluten-free diet) that we are proponents of living a gluten-free lifestyle.
Beyond myself, you've probably even heard about stars like Oprah Winfrey and Gwyneth Paltrow touting the benefits of going gluten free.
Not to mention the dozens of new products have appeared on the shelves of your local grocer. AND you’ve seen gluten-free options popping up on restaurant menus and in bakeries. With all this fanfare, you may have stopped at some point to wonder the legitimacy of going gluten free - especially with recent articles making claims that gluten free is simply just another "food fad" and that non-celiac gluten sensitivity doesn't really exist. In this newsletter, I'm going to break down for you WHY a gluten-free diet is a wise and healthy choice. I will also show you how a gluten-free lifestyle could help you lose weight and dramatically improve your health. But first, an important word of warning… The term “gluten free” does not automatically equate to “healthier.” Nor will avoiding gluten itself necessarily lead to weight loss. In fact, if you follow the advice of many gluten-free "gurus", it could increase your chances of gaining weight and raise your risk for disease. According to the market research firm NPD Group, about 100 million Americans are actively seeking gluten-free foods. Nearly two-thirds of those people believe that eating a gluten-free diet is a “healthier” option. And nearly one-third believe that it will help them “lose weight.” So, what is gluten? And how can it affect your health and your weight? As you may know, gluten is a protein found in grains, such as wheat, barley, rye, spelt and kamut. At least three million Americans – and millions more around the world – cannot stomach this protein (literally).
For those with celiac disease, even the tiniest amount of gluten triggers an autoimmune reaction that could result in severe stomach pain, damage to the gastrointestinal tract, systemic inflammation, vitamin and mineral deficiencies and a host of other painful and debilitating symptoms. However, until very recently, the notion that gluten could have negative effects on people without celiac disease was denied by mainstream medicine. But the evidence is mounting…
· A review in the New England Journal of Medicine linked gluten to 55 conditions, including chronic fatigue, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, osteoporosis, anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, ADHD, and even cancer.
· Another study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that people diagnosed with gut inflammation had a 72 percent increased risk of death (mostly from heart disease and cancer), while those with gluten sensitivity had a 35 percent increased risk.
Dr. David Perlmutter, a respected neurologist and author of the book, Grain Brain, believes that as much as 40 percent of the population cannot tolerate gluten – and that most of us would be better off without it.
Why Bread, Pasta and Cereal Don’t Fit in Your Genes As you may know, twelve thousand years ago our ancestors hunted and foraged to survive. The meal of the day included fresh-picked greens, berries, nuts, seeds, eggs and anything they could catch or kill. But with the advent of agriculture and the Industrial Revolution, grain-based foods (not previously on the menu) began to fill our plates. Today, the average person consumes grains and gluten at nearly every meal… cereal and toast for breakfast… a sandwich at lunch… a granola bar for a snack… pasta and rolls at dinner. And while 12,000 years might seem like a long time, it is the blink of an eye in evolutionary terms. Our genes have changed very little from those of our Paleo ancestors. And most of us haven’t developed the capacity to handle these “foreign” proteins.
In fact, in Dr. Alessio Fasano's presentation in the Gluten Summit, he stated that, essentially, it is impossible for humans to digest gluten. AND, not to mention that modern, hybridized grains contain up to 40 times more gluten than the heirloom varieties grown just thirty years ago… we’re eating more than ever. In other words, we’ve super-sized our consumption of super-gluten! The evidence clearly suggests that most of us would be healthier if we did not consume gluten. But what about shedding fat? Will Going "Against the Grain" Help you Lose Weight? The truth is that there is nothing inherent about gluten that will cause you to gain or lose weight. But that’s not the whole story… You see, grains are a high glycemic food. They stimulate the production of insulin – your body’s fat-storing hormone. The more bread, pasta, cereal and flour you consume, the more likely you will be overweight. In fact, a recent review of the data behind the China Study (not the largely discredited book, but the study itself) shows that wheat consumption is the strongest dietary predictor of body weight and is closely correlated with body mass index. In other words, the more wheat you eat, the heavier you are, regardless of height. So, while it has little or nothing to do with gluten… a gluten-free diet CAN help you lose weight. But that’s not the way it works for most people. One of the biggest complaints about the gluten-free diet is that people have a hard time losing weight. Many people actually GAIN weight on a “gluten-free” diet. Gluten-Free: Out of the Frying Pan... and into the Fire Most commercially prepared gluten-free foods are no better than their “super-gluten” counterparts. Most of these foods are highly processed and contain chemicals and preservatives. But that’s not the worst part about them… Gluten-free packaged foods, such as bread, pasta, cookies, crackers and cakes, typically have just as high of a glycemic index as their wheat-based counterparts. Basically, they harm your blood-sugar regulation system just as much as wheat does. The same goes for make-at-home baking mixes. Not to mention the bread and dessert recipes on most “gluten-free” food blogs. Most of these foods and recipes are made from rice, corn, potato and tapioca flours and other high-glycemic grains. In fact, most gluten-free flours are WORSE than eating a candy bar when it comes to your blood sugar! And if these foods are not sweetened with harmful chemicals like sucralose and aspartame, they usually contain excess amounts of sugar, agave syrup, or even corn syrup. In other words, the very same unhealthy ingredients that promote inflammation, weight gain and blood sugar issues in the foods that contain gluten! But that doesn’t mean you can’t lose weight AND protect your health on a gluten free diet. Going gluten free – the right way – is the key to healthy longevity.