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Gluten free diets: More harm than good?

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(WJLA) - You’ll notice more and more gluten free products on grocery store shelves these days as many people turn to gluten free diets. But are they doing it for the right reasons? Doctors are warning about cutting gluten out of your diet.

Photo: The Associated Press

Augusta McQueen is living with a food intolerance. She has been gluten free for seven years, forced into the diet after years of being sick and going undiagnosed.

“Being gluten free to me means I have to eat much healthier, much simpler. It does mean being very conscious of what I’m eating, checking things all the time,” she says.

Augusta stays away from gluten out of absolute necessity, but going gluten free is becoming a trend among Americans looking for a way to feel better and lose weight. A 2013 consumer marketing study shows 29 percent of Americans are trying to avoid gluten.

But Nutritionist Katherine Tallmadge says making the lifestyle change can be a big mistake.

“Americans are all about quick and easy and they love fad diets,” Tallmadge says. “A gluten free diet is not a diet for everyone. It is only a therapeutic diet for people with celiac disease.”

And experts say that is only one percent of the population, or three million people. The marketing of gluten free food has grown into a $4 billion industry.
Tallmadge says that could be fueling the fad, but the health repercussions from going gluten free without a celiac diagnosis or intolerance can be harmful.

“Number one, you are missing out on all the important nutrients and health benefits from whole grain. You have to be eating gluten to be diagnosed with celiac disease.”

Gluten free diets can be low in fiber, iron, foliate and calcium, nutrients we need to stay healthy. So while you may lose weight because you’ve taken processed foods and desserts out of your diet, the downside if you could be doing more harm than good.

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