Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF)’s Registered Dietitian, Janelle Smith, was featured in a recent article in the New York Post on January 19, 2016. The article discusses how the gluten-free diet may not be the answer to everyone’s health issues. There is a common misconception that gluten-free food options are healthier than their gluten-filled counterparts. This is not always the case, and it’s important for people to seek advice from a Registered Dietitian to learn how to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.

Please find the original article here.

Gluten-free is total BS

January 19, 2016

By Haley Goldberg

When Dara Piken noticed her college roommate losing weight and feeling great, the always-dieting School of Visual Arts student decided to do the same — and avoid eating gluten.

With lots of gluten-free products available, the 22-year-old thought it’d be easy to hop on the diet. But instead of singing its praises, she gained 10 pounds and a host of stomach issues.

“I was so constipated and miserable,” she says. “My stomach was always grumbling, and I was hungry. [At first] I wouldn’t eat anything that wasn’t naturally gluten-free, and then I would [eat] gluten-free pretzels and gluten-free bread and bagels, and it just wasn’t doing it. It was just adding more weight on, and I felt so bloated.”

After a year without gluten, she went to see F-Factor nutritionist Tanya Zuckerbrot. A blood test showed Piken didn’t have a gluten intolerance, so Zuckerbrot switched her to a high-fiber diet. The change worked like a charm.

“I lost 15 pounds when I brought gluten back,” she says. “The gluten-free stuff — it’s not a legitimate diet plan.”

From celebrities like Miley Cyrus touting a gluten-free diet as the secret to her svelte bod to popular dessert spots like Sprinkles now offering gluten-free treats, it seems everyone is kicking gluten to the curb.

The protein — found in wheat, rye and barley — gives dough an elastic texture and foods like cereal and bread a chewy quality. The diet started as a medical necessity for the 7 percent of people in the US who either suffer from celiac disease — an autoimmune disorder — or a diagnosed gluten intolerance. For them, the protein wreaks havoc on their intestines.

But now, the diet has become a bona fide fad among those who’ve never suffered from eating a slice of wheat toast. A 2013 poll by consumer analysts NPD showed that 30 percent of all adults were trying to cut down or avoid gluten completely. Packaged Facts, a market research group, forecasts that the gluten-free food market will grow from $973 million in sales in 2014 to $2.3 billion by 2019.

The gluten-free food market is expected to grow from $973 million in 2014 to $2.3 billion by 2019.

But many nutritionists say a gluten-free diet is not the path to weight-loss success — and it can even be detrimental to your health.

“There’s absolutely no reason to go gluten-free if you’ve not been diagnosed medically with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance,” says NYC-based nutritionist and dietitian Keri Gans.

Gans says healthy whole grains — which contain vitamin B and iron — have a host of benefits, including preventing heart disease, lowering cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugar. “Going gluten-free seems to be an easy out as opposed to learning how to eat this food group in a healthier way,” she says. “A well-balanced, healthy diet includes bread and pasta.”

The problem is that people see the diet as a quick fix to their health problems, says Celiac Disease Foundation nutritionist Janelle Smith. They then jump on the baguette-free bandwagon.

“When people see a label on food that says anything ‘-free,’ they think it’s healthier than the original,” Smith says. “The media features stories from individuals, celebrities, even doctors who claim that a gluten-free diet will cure everything from fatigue to acne, obesity, ADHD and autism … whether or not there is actually scientific research that supports this.”

In fact, 63 percent of Americans believe following a gluten-free diet will improve their physical and mental health, according to a 2014 Consumer Reports survey.

Nutritionist Peter Osborne, author of the forthcoming book “No Grain, No Pain,” falls into the anti-gluten camp. He believes the protein can lead to problems with the thyroid, skin and joints. “There’s no harm in not eating gluten or grain,” he says, shrugging off contrary claims. “It’s like any field of science: There are always two sides.”

Zuckerbrot says it’s obvious why some people feel better after electing to go gluten-free — it’s a low-carb, low-calorie diet that makes it easy to cut out processed foods like bagels, doughnuts and cake. And, if you stick with naturally gluten-free foods, your diet will be rich in protein, fruits and vegetables.

But you still lose the vitamins from whole grains and their stay-full power, she says. And gluten-free alternatives — often full of more additives, preservatives, fat, and sugar than their gluten-packed counterparts — can lead to hunger and weight gain.

“A cookie and a gluten-free cookie — neither are healthy,” Zuckerbrot says.

Even gluten-free bloggers say the diet isn’t best for everyone.

Meg van der Kruik, 37, of Long Beach, Calif., serves as the editor-in-chief of Go Gluten Free magazine and runs gluten-free blog Beard + Bonnet.

The mom of two went gluten-free after both her son and husband were diagnosed with a severe gluten intolerance in 2012. But she advocates for a whole-food diet including grains over an all-natural gluten-free diet, if you have the luxury to choose.

“I wouldn’t be as strict as I am if it didn’t make other people sick in our home,” she says.

The “fad” of going gluten-free has made it easier and harder for her family. The bad: When she tells waiters her son is gluten-free at restaurants, they don’t always take their request seriously.

“We’ve had a lot of times when they ask, ‘Is this a preference for you?’” she says. “But going out now isn’t nearly as scary as when we started [going gluten-free]. I can take my son to Disneyland now.”