Wednesday 28 January 2015

Why The Gluten-Free Diet Doesn't Aid Weightloss

Traditional gluten-free diet:
Cut out anything with gluten in it. No cake, no bread, no pasta, nothing with flour, unless you make it yourself with gluten-free flour such as millet or buckwheat.

Modern gluten-free diet:
Anything with a 'gluten-free' label, regardless of the additives included to compensate for lack of gluten

   First of all, what is gluten?
   Gluten is a natural protein found in wheat, rye, barley and other similar basic ingredients. It's the glue ('gluten' literally means 'glue' in Latin) that holds food together, just as protein in our body holds our cells together. It's also used to pack out processed foods and fast foods - now, you probably heard alarm bells when I said 'processed' and 'fast food' and may be writing this article off immediately. Well, you'd be wrong to. It's the method of cooking, the salt, the sugar, and all the other ingredients that make fast and processed foods bad. Not gluten. You shouldn't be eating fast food or processed foods anyway, whether you want to lose weight or not, as they contain little of anything good for you.

   What is Coeliac's Disease?
   Coeliac's Disease, (or Celiacs) is an auto-immune disorder directed towards gluten. It means that the body's immune response reacts badly to the gluten and can result in abdominal pains, bloating, nausea and other bad things, and, more critically, prevents the proper absorption of vitamins and minerals into your blood stream. People with Coeliac's Disease, which is about 1 in 100, or people with a gluten-intolerance (which mimics Coeliac's Disease but without the immune response) have to avoid gluten in order to absorb the important nutrients in food and to stay healthy. If they consume gluten, it can have awful side-effects for them, but by keeping away from it, they're able to gain weight and live healthily like the rest of us.

   Why is gluten supposedly bad?
   Gluten is linked to (not the cause of) things like bloating, indigestion, digistive problems and things like that that. The thing is, all of these are symptoms of Coeliac's and a gluten intolerance, so if you suffer from any of that, cutting out gluten is the only way to go. But these things can also be caused by other things within food, such as acid, sugar, speed-eating and so on. Gluten doesn't cause intolerance or Coeliac's, these are things you're born with or develop naturally. Consuming gluten or not won't affect it. You either have it or you don't.

   Why do people believe gluten leads to weight-loss?
   Maybe about 10-15 years ago, it did. Gluten is present in dense foods like bread, cake, biscuits, pasta and so on. People with gluten intolerances would have to have cut things with gluten out, which is more or less anything with flour. But, because the world wasn't so obsessed with gluten-free at that point, there were no gluten-free alternatives. This meant that people cut out bread, cake, pasta and such things and didn't replace them with gluten-free mimics. But it wasn't the lack of gluten that caused weightloss, but rather the lack of the sugar and density of the food. They were having lighter alternatives which inevitably led to weight loss.
   Now, however, there are loads of gluten-free mimics, so people who can't eat gluten can still have a delicious, spongey cake that won't crumble to pieces upon a first glance. Unfortunately, people who can eat gluten mistake these gluten-free alternatives as 'healthy'.

   What does gluten-free mean?
   What it says on the tin. The food has no gluten in it. This is usually done by replacing the wheat or flour with something else like buckwheat or quinoa, which works similarly to the flour except it doesn't contain gluten. However, this leads real gluten-free products to be very crumbly and not particularly moist or inviting, especially when home-made. This is because the gluten that holds them together simply isn't present.
   With the increasing understanding of Coeliac's Disease and gluten intolerances, a lot of food is now available as gluten-free. And with the sudden obsession - goodness knows where it came from - of the idea that gluten-free is good and healthy for everyone, even more companies are jumping on the band-wagon because they know gluten-free will sell. The trouble is that these companies add other ingredients to their foods to compensate for the lack of gluten - artificial ingredients which are certainly not healthy, in an attempt to make them more delicious and non-crumbly. These foods usually contain extra fat and sugar to compensate for the foul-tasting gluten-replacement, meaning that by eating any old store-bought food which claims to be gluten-free is much more likely doing your waistline and your health more harm than good - doubtlessly the opposite effect you're looking for.

   The trouble is that gluten is often confused with carbs. It's true that gluten is present in a lot of foods high in carbohydrates, and carbohydrates are what really fill you up and, when eaten excessively, can indeed lead to weight-gain. But you're still getting just as many carbs, if not more, by going for the gluten-free option because of all the added ingredients. These products are made for people with Coeliac's so that they can eat non-crumbly cake like the rest of us.
   There is no evidence that going gluten-free leads to weight loss. A close friend of mine actually has Coeliac's Disease, and since she was diagnosed and has eaten gluten-free foods, she's actually gained weight. This is good for her because she was sickly skinny before and now she looks and feels healthy as she's able to absorb vitamins properly, but with so many food companies jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon, most of the gluten-free food out there won't help you lose weight, as the gluten's been replaced with things that actually will affect your weight in a negative way.

   So what should you do?
   Don't even give gluten a thought unless you have an intolerance. Gluten isn't an ingredient on it's own, it's a part of an ingredient, and cutting it out doesn't change a single thing. Swapping normal food for gluten-free versions of the same thing will give you less nutrients and less of the good things that are in the original because of all the added ingredients. You must remember that gluten contains no fat, sugar or anything like that, it is only a protein. Instead, if you really want to target a food group, you might want to look at cutting down on foods that are known to have a lot of it, as they usually happen to have a lot of carbohydrates as well. Don't cut these foods out, however, as, contrary to popular belief (the same kind of 'popular belief' that has people thinking gluten-free works), you need carbs to function properly, as well as protein, some fats, water and so on.
   Instead of reaching for a fad diet, just eat well. You can have your cakes, you can have your pizza, just go easy on them, and make sure you get the fruit, veg, meat and water that you need, too.
   You may wonder "if it doesn't work, why do so many people do it?" Because it's a fad diet. Eating healthily may not get people the results they want, or give them the results quickly enough. As a result, it's common to start thinking that doing something completely different will shock your body enough to get it to lose weight, but that simply doesn't work. As a result, these diets die out because they don't work, or, worse, are unhealthy. At the end of the day, the only diet that truly works is a balanced one, with all food groups taken in moderation.

   Gluten does not relate to calories. Gluten does not relate to fat. Gluten has no effect on weight loss or weight gain, it's everything else in the food that does that. And dieting alone will certainly not get your body where you want it to be safely and reliably. You can only melt fat away by burning more calories than you take in (keep in mind that going about your normal day also burns calories), which means you must exercise. By dieting alone, the weight you've lost can come back much easier than if you've exercised it away, as with exercise your muscle becomes leaner and needs more energy to move it which leads you to burn even more calories while going about your day to day business.


• Gluten doesn't contain fat, sugar or anything like that. It is only protein. It doesn't contribute to weight-gain or weight-loss.
• Gluten isn't an ingredient, it's a part of an ingredient - it's a part of wheat, barley, rye, flour and so on, which are basic ingredients for a lot of different foods.
• Most of the gluten-free foods out there add other ingredients to replace the gluten to keep the products moist, soft and non-crumbly. These added ingredients do include sugars and fats, and these are more likely to adversely affect your waist-line than the original food. These are not foods made for weight-loss, after all, they are made for people with a gluten-intolerance so that they can have soft, spongy cakes and doughy pizzas like the rest of us.
• Gluten is confused with carbs, and carbs are usually more dense and filling foods which, when eaten too frequently, do contribute to weight-gain. However, cutting carbohydrates out is a bad thing, too, as you do need them, despite popular belief. You should never cut foods out, only cut them down.
• A gluten-free diet won't change a thing. If you choose proper, naturally gluten-free foods without added ingredients you may see a slight decrease in weight, but that's because you've replaced gluten foods with fresher, nutritionally denser foods, which is always advised for weight-loss. The gluten has nothing to do with it at all. Gluten simply doesn't work that way.


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