Can you lose weight on a gluten-free diet?

Recently Miley Cyrus has been touting a gluten free diet as a way to lose weight.   Is this true or just another celebrity fad? Gluten is a protein present in foods including wheat, rye, oats, and barley  but may also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, and even lip balms.    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating gluten unless you have celiac disease, or gluten sensitive enteropathy (GSE), an autoimmune disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.

If you are sensitive to gluten, the body produces an abnormal immune response to it, attacking the lining of small intestine where digestion takes place. This leads to the symptoms of celiac disease:

• abdominal bloating and pain
• chronic diarrhea
• vomiting
• constipation
• pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool
• weight loss

About 1% of the population has GSE. But there may be another 9% or so who have what is called gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance. These people may have similar symptoms to those with GSE but do not show the same damage to the bowel as those with GSE.

The only treatment for celiac disease is a lifelong, gluten-free diet.  But can it cause you to lose weight?  The answer is complicated.  Studies have shown that patients with GSE who were underweight gained  weight on a gluten-free diet. Those with GSE and obesity tended to lose weight after starting a gluten-free diet.

What about people who don’t have GSE?
Celebrities have touted a gluten-free diet as a way to lose weight. Proponents hype it as a healthier way to eat. They claim it improves sleep, increases energy, and clears skin. Some go so far as to say it helps those with autism and rheumatoid arthritis.

But Dee Sandquist, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, who also happens to have celiac disease, says:   There is nothing magical about eliminating gluten that will improve your health or enhance weight loss unless you are intolerant to gluten.   The academy points out that “Research on individuals with celiac disease reports that long-term compliance with a gluten-free dietary pattern improves outcomes related to bone density, iron deficiency anemia, villous atrophy, gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms, pregnancy outcomes and quality of life.” One problem is the fact that many people with GSE don’t even know that they have the disease, and those with gluten intolerance are less likely to be diagnosed.  Researchers conclude that there is no scientific evidence supporting the alleged benefit that a gluten-free diet will promote weight loss and  that adherence to the gluten-free dietary pattern may actually result in a diet that is low in carbohydrates, fiber  and important vitamins.

Many confuse a gluten-free diet with a low-carb diet (which can promote weight loss).     A gluten-free diet eliminates foods such as bread and pasta, it doesn’t eliminate other high-carb foods such as rice, beans and corn.    The popularity of gluten-free diets has lead to an explosion of gluten-free food availability and a financially growing industry that  is expected to exceed $5 billion by 2015!

This is great if you need to be on the diet. However, people need to be aware that these are not low-calorie foods! Some prepared foods have additional fat and sugar added and mixed into substitute flours such as white rice flour or potato starch to make them more palatable.

A gluten-free diet is not a panacea for weight loss. It is, however, an important diet for those who suffer from GSE or intolerance.

 

22 Comments

  1. Erin Heatherton
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    I guess increasing my protein intake has helped me lose a lot of extra pounds. I just think getting your metabolism right is the key to successful weight loss.

  2. Vince
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    That was a very informative article about gluten free diets. What a great read!

  3. Beyond Diet Reviews
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    What a great info wish other websites post these useful kind of stuff i realy appreciate your work

  4. Rosadi
    Posted June 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    It think it’s wise to avoid this method for whom who want lose their weight, why we don’t go back to nature by eating an organic food? More healthy I guess…

  5. Natalie
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    I really did try just about everything to lose weight. When I went gluten free I never counted a single calorie, never once felt deprived, and I finally felt alive again. I have unlimited energy all of the time now and the best thing about my new lifestyle is that it is so easy. There are so many items today that are available gluten free and so many gluten free recipes that you will never get bored with your meals.

  6. Derek
    Posted July 2, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    While I agree that gluten-free doesn’t automatically mean healthy or have a direct affect on weight loss, I also think it’s silly to think there is notable risk of deficiency. It’s fairly easy to replace the lost nutrients found in wheat with other foods like brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, oatmeals, vegetables, etc.

    In other words, it really can’t hurt to reduce or eliminate gluten and see how one responds to it so long as they eat a healthy diet.

  7. Homeopathic Hemorrhoids treatment
    Posted July 24, 2012 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Great read, very interesting article about gluten free diet.

  8. Neal
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    You can absolutely lose weight on a gluten free diet. I lost 50 pounds with only a change in diet.

  9. Celeste
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I think that for those who are sensitive to gluten along with feeling better overall once gluten is removed from their diets if they follow a healthy eating plan they may also experience some weight loss. Many gf diets though (if you’re eating a lot of processed gf products) contain a lot of corn and potatoes which can cause some to gain weight as well.

  10. Enema for constipation
    Posted August 17, 2012 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    I totally agree with you on minimizing or removing gluten from our diet would create a huge impact in our digestive system and specially constipation. Although its the most popular diet right now. Learning to count calories in our food would help rather than totally eliminating gluten.

  11. Himanshu
    Posted November 5, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Losing weight requires much more time & patience as compared gaining it, it might be because you can’t resist food & you’re a foodie. Thus you need to avoid eating more, this you can achieve in a variety of ways as: Avoid going to parties, Avoid eating late nights etc.

    It is also observed that people having breakfast are less fatty as compared to people skipping their breakfast, this is mainly due to the fact that when you skip your breakfast you probably eat more as usual at your lunch. So having breakfast is a part of your diet. There are so many other things that you can do to loss your weight. First of all you need to have a healthy diet which should be followed properly, Also you need to follow some aerobic exercises to give your body a shape…

  12. Stacy Cooper
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    I remember the first time I heard about Celiac and thought the guy was crazy! He drove our office crazy because he couldn’t eat pizza – anyway, I now realize that this is truly legit and staying off of both gluten and all wheat products can help you lose weight. Thanks for posting!

  13. Harrison
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    I eat Gluten free just to avoid the crap they call wheat. The processed wheat we eat these days is nothing like our grandparents ate or even our parents…it’s modified to death, and goes straight to your stomach as sugar.

    This of course means taking supplements, because there use to be some pretty good stuff in wheat – back in the day…I don’t miss it, but I need natural supplements to satisfy those hunger pangs. I’ve found only one place where they take their supplements seriously

  14. burn fat
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    I already read your article above about gluten free diet and I think that was very useful for me and very informative. But I think if want to lose weight someone should go on a healthy diet and eating the right foods. And also can combine protein and fiber in their diet.

  15. Wl.L. Geeks
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    I don´t know about this gluten free diet “hype”……..If you don´t suffer of CD or GSE why not simply stick to healthy eating, and/or low fat, low calorie programs.

  16. Heather
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    What a nonsense concept that using a gluten free diet will yield weight loss. Consuming fewer calories than you expend (whether they contain gluten or not) is what causes weight loss. Using gluten sensitivity as a tagline like this subverts the real issue for many people crediting a pseudo scientific validation to a fad diet. I know a lot of people who are gluten senstitive by varying degrees. I also know that finding gluten free products is hard and expensive and can be a big pain and limit your lifestyle – what about eating out for example. IMHO if you think you have gluten sensitivity or intolerance get it checked out before you do anything, go to your doctor

  17. JB Harrison
    Posted January 4, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Thanks Sharon…

    I find most of my readers confuse the 2 as well, gluten free vs low carb diets… Most don’t realize that a lot of people don’t have a choice but to eat a gluten free diet.

  18. James B
    Posted April 4, 2013 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    I absolutely believe you can

  19. Joshua
    Posted June 1, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Gluten which is a protein and a component of wheat certainly can cause a allergic reaction in the body. It is absolutely conceivable that as a result of your immune system reacting to this protein that the body would try to flush it out of system and send fluids to the area. These fluids can accumulate and hence weight gain. I have personally seen individuals eliminate wheat from their diets and not only lost excess weight but also reduced or removed many other symptoms resulting from a wheat sensitivity.

  20. http://ketogenicdietplan.org/
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    It is not because our favorite actress or singer is on a diet (whatever diet it is) and claimed its effects, it will also has a fantastic, positive effect on us. We have to be very careful what diet programs to follow and find time to see a doctor and ask their advice what diet is best for us.

  21. Matthew Allen
    Posted July 12, 2013 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    A gluten free diet may or may not lead to weight loss, depending on the individual. I wonder if such a diet is compatible with, or could be considered as a good alternative for natural remedies for constipation . It seems that many of the foods that contain gluten are also some of the same foods that trigger constipation.

  22. Eclyptix Health.info
    Posted October 26, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know about celiac disease, but I do feel overwhelmingly tired when I eat wheat. So I mostly eat gluten-free – and sadly have not lost weight.

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