Eating Gluten-Free: Myths and Facts

Eating gluten-free is a decision that many people are making recently. However, most healthy people don't need to cut gluten out of their diet.
Eating Gluten-Free: Myths and Facts

Last update: 15 January, 2021

There are lots of products that have “gluten-free” on their labels, which makes people think that eating gluten-free is beneficial. Because of this, you may know people who suddenly only purchase products with this label.

There are all kinds of myths about gluten-free diets. However, when we look at them closely, we see that there are various health risks, and the benefits are uncertain. Also, this analysis isn’t to cause alarm, but rather to raise awareness.

It’s important to use common sense when selecting, buying, and consuming products. Therefore, we need to learn how to use it.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein in foods containing wheat, barley, or rye. It can affect people with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and irritable bowel syndrome.

About 1% of the world’s population is sensitive to gluten. However, throughout the last decade, it’s become more and more frequent for people to start eating gluten-free that don’t need to.

A woman rejecting pieces of bread.

Additionally, gluten-free foods are increasingly present in supermarkets. The idea that gluten is bad is due to advertising and marketing, creating the idea that eating gluten-free is beneficial for everyone equally.

Scientific research actually dismisses this idea. In fact, it recommends that only people that have trouble metabolizing gluten avoid eating it.

Eating gluten-free doesn’t mean you’re healthier

In an Australian studythey didn’t find evidence that there’s a nutritional advantage of gluten-free foods versus foods with gluten.

Gluten-free foods don’t have anything that makes them nutritionally better than traditional foods.

Gluten-free diet.

Now, let’s take a look at the reality of eating gluten-free:

  • First, foods labeled gluten-free may have other added ingredients, such as trans fats or sugars.
  • Second, gluten-free foods have the same or more calories. Therefore, by eating them (and excluding other foods at the same time), you won’t lose weight.
  • Gastric symptoms only decrease in people with gluten sensitivity.
  • Finally, if you don’t have an intolerance, these diets are most likely not for you.

Living gluten-free isn’t the solution

If you think that removing gluten from your diet will be the solution to your health problems, you’re wrong. It’s not yet clear whether reducing gluten, rather than avoiding it, is enough to control symptoms in patients with gluten sensitivity or irritable bowel syndrome.

When you remove gluten from your diet without a reason, you can consume significantly fewer carbohydrates, fiber, folic acid, iron, and calcium.

Also, some gluten-free foods can be higher in saturated fat and cholesterol, affecting cardiovascular health. This is stated in the journal BMC. 

Don’t remove gluten from your diet without medical advice

  • If you don’t have a gluten-related medical diagnosis, you don’t need wheat, barley, or rye-free diet.
  • Variety is key to having a healthy diet.
  • Include other cereals like corn, spelt, and rice without eliminating gluten. That way, you’ll have a balance.

In short, following a gluten-free diet without needing it can be risky for your health. Therefore, it’s important not to succumb to the messages that product labels and marketing may send you.

Finally, if you have any questions about how to follow a balanced diet, according to your needs, talk to your doctor before making any changes. Don’t forget to work out your concerns with a professional, since they will know how to guide you correctly.

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  • Niland B., Cash BD., Health benefits and adverse effects of a gluten free diet in non celiac disease patients. Gastroenterol Hepatol, 2018.
  • Wu JHY., Neal B., Trevena H., Crino M., et al., Are gluten free foods healthier than non gluten free foods? An evaluation of supermarket products in australia. Br J Nutr, 2015. 114 (3): 448-54.
  • Gupta R., Abraham RA., Kondal D., Dhatwalia S., Jeemon P., et al., Association of trans fatty acids with lipids and other cardiovascular risk factors in an indian industrial population. BMC Res Notes, 2019.