Gluten-free diet: because it hurts when you are not celiac. When you suffer from celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is the only therapy possible. In fact, it is gluten that triggers the autoimmune reaction that leads to the destruction of intestinal villi typical of this pathology. Excluding any food contaminated with gluten, the gluten-free diet extinguishes this reaction by allowing the intestine to heal and eradicate intestinal disorders, nutritional deficiencies and increased risk of coronary artery disease.
All this does not mean that gluten is a substance to avoid even when you are not celiac, indeed, according to recent scientific studies follow a gluten-free diet when there is no need can worsen the quality of food, depriving it of absolutely healthy substances: the fibers.
Gluten-free diet for non-celiacs: research
The evidence of the risks associated with a gluten-free diet followed in the absence of celiac disease comes from research published in the British Medical Journal by a group of researchers coordinated by Andrew T. Chan, a professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, United States. The study involved more than 100 thousand men and women without problems with the coronary arteries (the arteries that bring blood to the heart muscle) that starting from 1986 have compiled every 4 years, until 2010, a questionnaire on eating habits. From the collected data, Chan and co-workers estimated the consumption of gluten, which was then compared to the onset of coronary artery disease (fatal or non-fatal).
One of the reasons why a gluten-free diet is sometimes considered better than a gluten-free diet is the belief that it can increase the risks run by the heart and arteries. However, this research has shown the opposite, revealing that gluten consumption is not associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease and that, on the contrary, a gluten-free diet can significantly reduce the consumption of whole grains, thus providing a lower dose of allied cardiovascular health.
Based on the results of their research, Chan and colleagues concluded that “the promotion of a gluten-free diet among non-celiacs should not be encouraged”. Moreover, other authors have also concluded that from a nutritional point of view, foods specially designed for those who have to follow a gluten-free diet are not better nutritional compared to others.
Over the years there have been no reports that according to which in the specific products for a gluten-free diet there would be greater quantities of sugars, fats, and salt. From this point of view, the Italian Celiac Association has to clarify by comparing almost 600 products between traditional and gluten-free, reaching the conclusion that, apart from the gluten, between the two types of food there are no substantial differences from the point of nutritional view.
How to orientate yourself in this informative chaos? The best choice is to choose a gluten-free diet only if you really need it, excluding gluten from your diet only after talking to your doctor. This recommendation also applies to those who have every reason to think they are celiac. Starting a gluten-free diet before a diagnosis of celiac disease can, in fact, prevent recognition of the disease and therefore lead to underestimating a situation that should not be underestimated in any way.
As regards, then, the belief that the gluten-free diet is a diet suitable for losing weight, it is certainly not the absence of gluten in foods to lose weight. Rather, if to eliminate gluten you replace sweets and snacks with fruit or vegetables you reduce the calories consumed during the day, and if the latter is lower than those consumed you can end up losing weight. But if traditional sweets and snacks are substituted with sweets and snacks designed for a gluten-free but just as caloric diet, you can not hope for a slimming effect.