Nutrition

Are gluten free diet helpful in weight reduction

Haya Al-Ali/ Clinical Dietitian
Hamad Medical Corporation
16 September, 2018

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According to Qatar biobank annual report for 2016 more than 70% of the population is either overweight or obese, being overweight or obese have serious impact on physical, psychological and social health. Cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, depression and low self-esteem are few examples of comorbidity diseases associated with obesity which need a quick action to reduce government burden.

Individuals, government and stakeholders are trying to reduce risk of overweight and obesity by promoting healthy diet, awareness campaign which highlighted the importance of healthy weight, exercise and fitness. In Qatar the Emiri Decree No. 80 of 2011 designated the second Tuesday of February of each year shall be a Sports Day for the State, to encourage individuals to adapt healthy lifestyle.

Recognition of Gluten-free (GF) products from the media and celebrities promoted misleading information for Individuals who tried many ways to lose weight to be within the recommended range of body mass index(BMI) which is between 18.5- 24.9 kg/m2 without knowing the risk and consequences of the diet they are following, they equated "gluten-free" with “healthy”!

The market of dieting and weight loss become popular and booming of gluten-free increased to reduce weight quickly and to improve health for non-celiac patient without knowing the consequences of this diet. People who seek for gluten-free need to get dietary fiber, folic acid, calcium and B vitamins from other sources.

Gluten is protein found in the grains wheat, rye, spelt and barley, as well as products that made from these grains, such as bulgur, couscous, wheat germ, semolina, durum, and bran.

Gluten provide the body with protein which needed to build and repair muscle tissue, or to manufacture other body proteins like hormones and enzymes. People with celiac disease which is inflammatory immune system are sensitive to gluten are recommended to avoid any type of food who have gluten, possible damage to parts of the small intestine occur when gluten is consumed.

The studies show that gluten-free diet will not promote weight-loss for general population. On the contrary it leads to weight gain because they are consuming more calories, gluten-free products often have more added fats and sugars.

Gluten free Diet have no nutritional advantage for people who don’t have celiac disease especially for the long term use, the disadvantages and the risk are weigh higher than the advantages. Individuals who follow gluten free diet for weight reduction may face difficulties when eating out and it might lead to eating disorder and serious deficiencies in some vitamins such as B-group vitamins and Se plus micronutrients such as Ca, Fe, Zn and folate.

GF products are expensive and not palatable, due to removing gluten which changes the texture and reduced the elasticity. Moreover, GF diet might Interfere with diagnostic test like serology and histopathology of the small intestine which depends upon current exposure to gluten.

In fact, gluten have health benefits in supporting heart, gut and immune system health. Investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital, 2017 found that estimated gluten intake was associated with a lowering risk of coronary heart disease.

In conclusion there is no scientific evidence supporting the benefit of gluten-free diet in promoting weight loss, focusing in portion control and healthy food selections are the keys of losing weight for people who are not sensitive to gluten.  On the other hand, there is an evidence proposing that a gluten-free diet may harmfully affect gut health in those who have no gluten sensitivity.

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