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Are Celebrities Putting Too Much Glamor on Gluten-free Diet?

More celebrities than ever are on a gluten-free diet. Photo: Fake Hollywood sign - CC-Marcus_Vegas 10/29/2010 - From Elisabeth Hasselbeck's popular book, The G-Free Diet, to Chelsea Clinton's gluten-free wedding cake to Gwyneth Paltrow's website praises, the focus these days seems to be on gluten, or, rather, on going gluten-free.

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, is fast becoming like high-fructose corn syrup, or rBGH, products whose name gets mentioned only to tell people it's not an ingredient in what they are about to eat or drink.

More and more, people mention gluten to say that they do not eat it, and to talk about the lengths they go to exclude it from their diet. Even the new Old Spice guy avoids the ubiquitous protein to help stay buff, he told Jay Leno on a recent television appearance.

In some ways, going gluten-free is the latest twist on the low-carb diet fad of the late nineties. In some cases, the gluten-free diet, which is a must for people with celiac disease or gluten-intolerance, is just the latest diet to be chatted up on daytime talk shows, promoted by beautiful celebrities, and tried by multitudes.

For the benefit of people with celiac disease and gluten-intolerance, the number of gluten-free products on grocery shelves has exploded over the last five years. Once scarce or nonexistent, products like gluten-free pasta, pizza, cookies, crackers, cereal and, yes, even beer have opened up a whole new range of dietary possibilities for celiacs and non-celiacs alike.

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Still, some are concerned that many who do not need, and will not benefit from a gluten-free diet may be setting themselves up for just the latest dietary failure.

As with regular people, so with celebrities. For people with celiac disease and gluten-intolerance, a gluten-free diet and a gluten-free life are both necessary and beneficial, helping these people to stabilize their immune systems and to avoid associated disorders.

So, while celebrities with celiac disease or gluten-intolerance require and benefit from a gluten-free diet, everyone else does not require it, and will gain questionable benefits from adopting the diet. The gluten-free diet is not a way for people without celiac disease and gluten-intolerance to automatically lose weight. That's in part because many gluten-free products are no healthier than their gluten-free counterparts. A cheese-doodle is pretty much a cheese-doodle, whether it contains wheat or not.

For people without celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity, eating wholesome breads or pastas that contain gluten is not only delicious, but part of a healthy, balanced diet. So, after the summer buzz dies down, those folks might want to go back to their gluten.

Not only is gluten an essential protein that gives traditional breads and pastas their flexible, chewy structure, it often is used to thicken processed foods like ketchup and ice cream.

People who suspect that they have celiac disease or gluten intolerance should get tested, and consult a qualified medical professional. People seeking to model themselves after celebrities should look to do so in more productive ways than adopting a gluten-free diet without needing to do so. There's just no good evidence to support the idea that eating gluten-free will help people to safely lose weight. welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).

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7 Responses:

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said this on
01 Nov 2010 4:17:22 AM PST
Many studies and research has been done, that gluten is effecting everybody; some less, some more. Eventually The effect is severe in most people as age progresses. Then it is too late to switch to gluten free diet. In my humble opinion it is better to be safe, than sorry.
It surprises me that article like this came from you, who is well respected and educated in celiac community.

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said this on
22 Jul 2011 2:38:47 AM PST
What study? where was it published and by who I would love to read that considering I've never heard any doctor or anyone say that ever.

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said this on
01 Nov 2010 8:39:12 AM PST
According to Dr. Christiane Northrup, it may be that 3 out of 4 women will develop a wheat sensitivity as they hit middle age. So, reducing or eliminating wheat is probably a good thing. Also, the natural food gurus keep pushing whole wheat products incessantly, which may be triggering some intolerance and could lead to further problems down the road. Stuffing your kids with these amplified wheat products is probably predisposing them to intolerances later on. Also, over the years wheat has been modified for growing conditions - do we really know what the genetic changes have wrought?

rick lenger
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said this on
01 Nov 2010 10:08:11 AM PST
Gluten-free diets may not help people lose weight, but I believe everyone would benefit from a gluten-free diet. Gluten is toxic for everybody.

Robin Bethel
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said this on
01 Nov 2010 1:33:36 PM PST
The conclusion of this article seems to imply that you should not consider a gluten-free diet unless a doctor confirms your gluten intolerance. This contradicts much of the gluten-free community's experience--and articles on the issue--where a gluten-free diet may alleviate many people's physical symptoms, but they are not clinically diagnosed with celiac disease.

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said this on
02 Nov 2010 11:15:52 AM PST
I think the point of the article was to the effect that "going gluten-free because a celebrity is gluten-free may be much like following a lemming over a cliff."
there are reasons to go gluten-free -- some of which are based on confirmed CD/CS diagnosis and some of which are based on one's own awareness of what one's body tells oneself.
Another important aspect of the article is basically to know what one is consuming and to make decisions re consumption based upon valid, relevant, appropriate reasons.
The LAST thing that those of us who NEED gluten-free products to survive (i.e., we have CD/CS) and those of who WANT gluten-free products for other reasons should want to see is the gluten-free diet/lifestyle being relegated to cult or celebrity or hair-brained status.
What if your insurance company begins to look at CD/CS as being merely something you think you have in order to emulate the celebrity of the month.
A few years back, my insurance company would not pay for osteoporosis screening (i was "TOO YOUNG" -- notwithstanding that I had shrunk from 5'5 1/2" to 5'4") UNTIL i "proved" to them that CD/CS was a marker for early onset osteoporosis.
Now I am arguing with them re othotics re the peripheral neuropothy and balance problems (see companion article re ganglionopthy!!). The Insurance company has stopped paying for othotics unless one has diabetes. If the CD/CS is linked to my gait and balance problems, then the need for gluten-free products gets even more critical.

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said this on
04 Nov 2010 7:53:53 AM PST
Sometimes having the celebrities supporting an issue it helps get it more focus. I have not been diagnosed celiac but I am definitely know that I have gluten intolerance. I don't believe the testing has been refined enough to find all cases of gluten problems. I think in time, they will develop better tests.

The awareness of the problem IMO, is only helping the people that truly need it. It is helping companies and restaurants learn that it is truly a problem for many people and how to accommodate these people. I know that Outback has really gone out of their way to learn about how to prepare gluten free foods for their customers. More people and servers, know about gluten free and can help you have a good dining out experience.

People will always think what they want to no matter what anyone says or does. I think the attention and focus on gluten is only helping those that really need it. Insurances are going to do whatever they want to. They really aren't there to help people, it still is business for profit.

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