There is no evidence gluten-free diets help people who do not have coeliac disease and they could be actively harmful, a leading scientist has warned.
Gluten-free diets have increased in popularity recent years, with 2.7 million people in Britain believing gluten is harmful. Many celebrities and advocates of healthy eating credit going gluten free with losing weight, ending stomach bloat and boosting energy levels.
However, renowned gastroenterologist Dr Norelle R. Reilly from Columbia University’s Medical Centre, has warned that while people suffering from coeliac disease, a condition which means the body rejects gluten, may benefit from such a diet the same cannot be said of ‘healthy’ people.
Writing in the Journal of Pediatrics, Dr Reilley warns: “There is no evidence that processed gluten free foods are healthier nor have there been proven health or nutritional benefits of a gluten free diet. There are no data to support the theory of intrinsically toxic properties of gluten in otherwise healthy adults and children.
“Gluten free packaged foods frequently contain a greater density of fat and sugar than their gluten-containing counterparts. Obesity, overweight and new-onset insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome have been identified after initiation of a gluten-free diet. It also may lead to deficiencies in B vitamins, folate, and iron, given a lack of nutrient fortification of many gluten-free products.”
She also warned that unnecessary gluten-free diets could also place considerable financial burdens on people as gluten-free specialist versions of items such as bread or cakes can cost considerably more than standard versions.
The gluten-free market is rapidly growing around the world. It has grown 136 per cent between 2013 and 2015 and is estimated to be worth more than $4bn dollars globally.
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