Gluten-free diets gain popularity

Published On: Jan 03 2012 02:30:15 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 05 2012 04:34:35 PM EST

The debate over the health benefits of avoiding gluten is growing.


In 2008, Amy Tecowsky suffered from so much joint pain she could hardly move. She quickly started packing on the pounds.

"I just didn't feel good and I couldn't do things," she said.

Tecowsky said her pain subsided and she lost more than 50 pounds by going gluten-free.

"People are telling you gluten is fine. People are telling you it's not fine. It's a controversy," said Dr. David Blyweiss.

Gluten is a special type of protein found in grains, but it's also incorporated into everything from ketchup to candy.

People with a condition called celiac disease cannot consume gluten, but experts differ on whether the general population should be avoiding gluten.

"If someone doesn't have a need to get rid of gluten, it's a choice for them," said Lillian Craggs-Dino, a nutritionist with the Cleveland Clinic Florida.

Craggs-Dino said gluten is actually a good plant-based protein that can provide vital nutrients, especially for vegetarians.

"If they're just getting rid of gluten and don't know what to replace them with, then they're cutting out a whole food group. That could lead to vitamin deficiencies," she said.

Blyweiss believes going gluten-free can improve overall health and facilitate weight loss.

"Gluten is triggering a high blood sugar. It's crossing the brain barrier creating glutio-morphine, the operative word there being morphine, so when you don't eat it, you have a craving to eat it again," he said.

If weight loss is your key goal, be careful when choosing products that claim to be gluten-free.

"Some of the gluten-free products actually have higher sugars or fats to make them more palatable," said Craggs-Dino.

"You can still gain weight with all the starches that are gluten-free," said Blyweiss.

Tecowsky said she's managed to find tasty gluten-free foods and keep her weight stable.

"This has really been a turnaround for me, and it's changed my life," she said.


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