There is no question that the popularity of “going gluten-free” has risen sharply in recent years. The question is, does a gluten-free diet (GFD) pose a true benefit to those without a diagnosis of celiac disease, or is it doing more harm than good?

Norelle Reilly, MD, pediatric gastroenterologist at Columbia University, recently sought to investigate those questions, challenging a variety of commonly-held beliefs. Below is a summary of some of her most eye-opening findings:

  • Gluten-free processed products often contain more sugar and fat than traditional products, and may lead to weight gain and insulin resistance.
  • Strict adherence to a GFD may result in increased exposure to certain toxins, and decreased intake of vitamins (B vitamins, folate, iron) which are less often used to fortify gluten-free food products.
  • It is more expensive and inconvenient to maintain a GFD.
  • Following a GFD can cause a diagnosis of celiac disease to be overlooked, as symptoms will not be present.
  • People with wheat allergy or non-celiac gluten sensitivity can also benefit from a GFD, but these conditions are still not widely understood or diagnosable.
  • The age at which gluten-containing foods are first given to a child does not seem to make a difference in whether or not that child will develop celiac disease.
  • A GFD is not inherently healthier than a diet containing gluten.

Regardless of the reason for starting a gluten-free diet, it is important to consult with a physician or dietitian to make sure that all the risks and benefits have been discussed.

Check out Celiac Disease Foundation’s Healthcare Practitioner Directory to find a provider in your area who is familiar with treating celiac disease.

Read the original article here.