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Losing Weight on a Gluten-Free Diet

Marina Turea
5 Minutes
September 2, 2020
November 11, 2020

Adopting a gluten-free diet has become a popular trend in the last five or so years. Originally, this diet was developed to help those diagnosed with celiac disease. However, the gluten-free diet has now been adopted by a number of people that far exceed those that have actually been diagnosed with celiac disease.

People with celiac disease have a gluten intolerance, and going gluten-free helps manage symptoms like bloating, headaches, anemia, cramping, and more. The diet can help reduce these symptoms and their severity. It is the best way to manage celiac disease and reduce its impact on their lives.

Many people are now adopting the diet without any medical advice. They have not been told by a professional that they have a gluten intolerance or that gluten is unhealthy for them. They have not been diagnosed with any disease that would cause gluten sensitivity. It is completely voluntary.

So, why are people who don’t have celiac disease switching to a gluten-free diet? Most people cite the reason for the diet as weight loss and general health. But does going gluten-free actually facilitate weight loss and a healthy diet?

As it turns out, it does not.

There is no evidence to support that a gluten-free diet leads to weight loss.

In some cases, it can actually lead to weight gain. People with celiac disease who go gluten-free can gain weight where weight loss and anemia were symptoms. People who don’t have celiac disease and go gluten-free can also experience weight gain from gluten-free foods and as a result of an imbalanced diet.

Just because a food is gluten-free does not mean it’s healthy. In fact, some gluten-free foods have more calories and more fat than their gluten-containing counterparts. To compensate for flavor or missing ingredients, gluten-free foods can often be worse for the body.

According to The Cleveland Clinic, the reason that some people experience healthy weight loss when they take on a gluten-free diet is simply that they eat more fruits, vegetables, and healthier foods. A gluten-free diet also means that you can’t eat a lot of fast food and junk food. People who adopt this diet also tend to be more mindful of nutrition labels and are more informed about the contents of their food. With bad foods being cut out of your diet and more room for healthier foods, weight loss can happen.

This same weight loss can happen from simply limiting junk food, eating a balanced diet, and being mindful of the contents of your food. A balanced diet can include gluten. Gluten is in foods that are a great source of vitamins and nutrients that are good for your body. Those foods  can also be a good source of fiber. Making smart choices without eliminating gluten completely will have better results than a completely gluten-free diet.

One reason that a gluten-free diet can be a bad idea is that it’s harder to eat a balanced diet. Studies show that people who have celiac disease and follow a gluten-free diet have a hard time getting enough grains in their diet. Only about 1% of people were eating the recommended amount of grains, and 80% of people were eating less than half the recommended amount.

Following a restrictive diet that makes it difficult to get the nutrients you need should not be your first choice. For people with celiac disease, this diet is necessary to improve their quality of life. For people without celiac disease, it is an unnecessary stress on their health.

Some risks of a gluten-free diet also include:

  • Lack of fiber: Getting fiber is a whole lot easier when your diet includes foods that have gluten in them. Although many breads, like white bread, are processed and not very beneficial to your body, eating wheat bread is one of the easiest ways to get the recommended amount of fiber in your diet.
  • Increased risk of type two diabetes: Fiber and other vitamins and nutrients found in gluten-containing foods help to protect the body against type two diabetes. Choosing healthy foods that contain gluten helps to create a balanced diet to improve your overall health.
  • Lack of essential vitamins and nutrients: There is a long list of vitamins and nutrients that you can easily get from foods that contain gluten. When you cut out gluten completely, it’s harder to get these vitamins and nutrients. You have to be extremely mindful of the food that you eat to create that balance without gluten-containing foods.
  • Weight Gain: In a post where we discuss whether or not a gluten-free diet leads to weight loss, seeing weight gain as a risk of a gluten-free diet is pretty blunt, but it’s true. High sugar content, high calories, and high fat content can be found in many gluten-free foods.

These risks of a gluten-free diet may be an acceptable alternative for those who have been diagnosed with celiac disease and gluten intolerance. These risks pose a challenge that they will have to work to overcome, but it’s preferable to living with constant digestive issues and pain.

Taking on a gluten-free diet without a celiac disease diagnosis opens individuals up to these risks and struggles without any real benefit. There are other ways to achieve the same effects without the added stress and challenges.

If healthy weight loss is what you’re after, going gluten-free is not going to be the best option for you. Weight loss that is achieved from a gluten-free diet is often unhealthy, and when it is healthy, it could be even more effective with a balanced diet.

Before beginning a gluten-free diet, seek medical advice. Get tested for celiac disease. If you do not have celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is probably not your best option for healthy eating and weight loss.

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Marina Turea
Content Project Manager

With a Masters in Medical Science, Marina Turea is a professional health writer and content manager based in Chicago. Passionate about emerging tech in healthcare, she writes regularly for healthcare magazines and imaware.