Gluten free = weight loss?

There has been a lot of hype around gluten-free diets and gluten-free products lately amongst the weight watcher community, specially after endorsements of celebrities but is going gluten-free a solution for weight loss or are there hidden nuances? Is gluten an enemy of fitness freaks? Can everyone follow a gluten-free diet without any side effects? Keep reading to find out.


What is Gluten?

Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye and barley. When flour of these grains is mixed with water, it forms a network of elastic structure which when heated, traps gas and helps in rising of the dough as well as maintaining optimum moisture. This glue like property of gluten provides the final product its desired chewiness, porosity and taste this is why gluten is also used as a food additive in baked goods. Fun fact, the word ‘gluten’ is derived from ‘glue’ I wonder why!?


Diseases related to gluten:

  1. Celiac disease: it is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own cells of small intestine when gluten is ingested. The exact cause(s) of this disease is unclear but it is genetic hereditary is the prime suspect. Best remedy for this disease is to follow a strict gluten free diet.

  2. Wheat allergy: some people are not sensitive to gluten but develop allergic reactions after consuming wheat and its products. These people may consume other grains like barley and rye without developing any reactions and may not need to go on a strict gluten-free diet.

  3. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity: presence of gluten in diet may cause several health problems in some people but they do not test positive for gluten or wheat allergy. Very little is known about this disorder and sticking to a strict gluten-free diet is the best recommendation.


Gluten free diet and weight:

The gluten-free diet eliminates all sources of gluten ergo wheat, barley, rye and oats (oats intrinsically have gluten but have a high chance of gluten contamination in farms or factories). Grains which can be consumed are amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, quinoa, sorghum, and rice along with all sorts of vegetables, fruits and protein sources ofcourse. A lot of people swear by their gluten-free diets in shedding their extra pounds but was it really ‘gluten’ which was the culprit? Well the answer is hidden in plain sight, you see eliminating gluten means giving up fast foods, processed snacks and baked goods which are usually high in calories and deficient in nutrients thus nudging the follower towards healthy eating.

Opposite of the expected is also observed in numerous cases where weight increases after going on this diet. This could be due to the fact that gluten-free counterparts of conventional processed foods contain higher amounts of food additives, fats and sugar to compensate for the missing gluten and the flavor it imparts to the item. Combining this with the perception of ‘healthy eating’ which an individual develops about gluten free foods resulting in over eating can cause increase in calorie intake than before. Whereas in the case of gluten sensitive people, alleviation of digestive aliments and improved absorption of nutrients followed by increased appetite can be the reason for weight gain.


The takeaway box:

A gluten free diet isn’t as complicated as a paleo diet or keto diet and in theory everyone can go on this diet but not everyone needs to, because a gluten-free diet is not necessarily a weightloss diet and was initially designed for gluten sensitive people which is about 1-2% of the population while a third of America’s population is buying gluten-free products. Apart from pushing the follower towards healthier food options, a gluten free diet has no proven benefits for rest of the population, on the contrary, in some cases it can even lead to weight gain. There are other downsides such as constipation due to reduced fiber intake and increased expenditure as gluten free options may cost upto 2.5 times more. If you have no health problems after consuming wheat, barley and rye then you don’t “need” to eliminate gluten to reach your weight goals, a balanced diet will do just fine and if you’re looking for some help with designing a personalized diet plan which works for you to help you achieve your goals then do get in touch with me!


References and further reading:


Bjarnadottir, A., 2020. Gluten: What Is It And Why Is It Bad For Some People?. [online] Medicalnewstoday.com. Available at: <https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318606> [Accessed 29 December 2020].


Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. 2020. The Surprising Truth About Gluten-Free Food And Weight Loss. [online] Available at: <https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-surprising-truth-about-gluten-free-food-and-weight-loss/> [Accessed 29 December 2020].


Marcason, W. (2011). Is there evidence to support the claim that a gluten-free diet should be used for weight loss?. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(11), 1786.


Raman, R., 2017. Gluten-Free Diet Plan: What To Eat, What To Avoid. [online] Healthline. Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gluten-free-diet> [Accessed 29 December 2020].


The Nutrition Source. 2019. Diet Review: Gluten-Free For Weight Loss. [online] Available at: <https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/gluten-free-diet-weight-loss/> [Accessed 29 December 2020].


The Nutrition Source. 2019. Gluten: A Benefit Or Harm To The Body?. [online] Available at: <https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/gluten/> [Accessed 29 December 2020].