Yet another diet trend

Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow and Oprah Winfrey. What do all these high-profile celebrities have in common? All have either publicly declared their love for the gluten-free diet or have promoted it in some way.

Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow and Oprah Winfrey. What do all these high-profile celebrities have in common? All have either publicly declared their love for the gluten-free diet or have promoted it in some way. Now, a number of people are jumping on this trend, many of whom do not necessarily have health problems that might require this method of strict eating.

Some may be wondering what exactly a gluten-free diet entails. Let’s begin with the basics. Simply put, gluten is a type of protein found in various species of wheat, barley and rye that gives dough its elasticity and chewy texture.

Sufferers of celiac disease for example, are unable to consume such foods containing gluten. Found in the small intestine, villi help us absorb nutrients from foods; people with celiac disease, however, do not have this function and have an almost allergy-like effect in which the immune system attacks these villi and thus produces symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea and vomiting.

Most would agree that these symptoms do not sound particularly appealing. What people with celiac disease must do to minimize these uncomfortable side effects is follow a gluten-free diet. These diets require a strict avoidance of the protein. Generally, they must avoid most grains, cereals, pastas and processed foods. It is also important to ensure that dairy products and condiments that they might consume, such as ice cream and ketchup, do not contain it as a filler ingredient.

Americans often embrace new diet trends whenever superstar celebrities make claims that the reason for their smokin’ hot bodies is because of a new approach to eating they are trying. The gluten-free diet is no exception. According to the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center, about 1 in 133 Americans suffer from the disease. Latent celiac disease, which is considered to be less debilitating and is associated with having a gluten “sensitivity,” is becoming more prevalent in the U.S. Scientists are still trying to determine the cause for this.

An increasing number of Americans who do not suffer from celiac disease, however, are taking the initiative to convert to a gluten-free diet. Rising rates of obesity and diseases related to obesity are scaring people into thinking they need to take extreme measures against these conditions by vetoing all foods from a certain category—in this case, carbohydrates. A scary word for many people.

It must be understood, then, that the main carbohydrate believed to be the primary cause of obesity is sugar. As with any nutrient, excess amounts of carbohydrates can have adverse effects on one’s health; fiber, for example, can be found in several whole-grain products that often contain gluten, but it is still a necessary component of a healthy diet. Those who do not suffer from a gluten sensitivity, yet still participate in the special diet for reasons such as losing weight, are at a potential risk for developing some sort of nutrient deficiency.

Denying one’s self of these common foods (who could say no to a giant piece of toast or huge bowl of cereal if they are able?) does not seem like something one of the fattest countries would be interesting in practicing.

Nevertheless, when stars like Oprah and Jennifer Aniston announce to everyone that they are eating a certain way, it automatically makes people assume that the explanation for their thinness is these extreme dietary plans. What is not taken into consideration, yet should be, is their entire lifestyle, which probably includes regular exercise and personal chefs who prepare everything in the healthiest way possible.

One health benefit connected with eating gluten-free that should be mentioned—someone decides to cut out the majority of processed foods that are too often consumed in the U.S., they are also cutting out unnecessary extra calories coming from unhealthy fats and added sugars. Yes, weight loss is a definite possibility, but there are simpler and even healthier ways to do so.

Our society wants an easy answer to everything, and the gluten-free diet gives us a simple solution to dealing with problems related to being overweight. Still, it does not make sense to go to such extremes as to cut out such a large part of one’s diet when it is not necessary.

Moderation is key with almost everything, and the same goes with food. Unless gluten sensitivity is suspected or diagnosed, the gluten-free diet, no matter how glamorous the stars are making it seem, should be reconsidered by those who still have essential nutrient needs that are found in gluten-filled foods. ?