The Gluten-Free Fad

Larissa Lieberson, Staff Writer

You can’t walk into CVS without being bombarded by at least twenty magazine covers claiming they found the best way to lose weight. It’s something new every time: juice cleanses, meal pills, Jenny Craig diets, vegan diets, metabolism boosts, Atkins. The list goes on forever and ever.

However, the diet that seems to have skyrocketed in the last few months not only in the tabloids, but also at Staples, is gluten-free.

This diet cuts out all products that include gluten, a protein found in many grains such as rye, wheat and barley.

“I started the diet as a New Year’s resolution because I had heard it was a healthier way to eat, and along with losing weight, I also feel much happier for some reason,” Alex Collins ’15 said.

Up until recently, most people who were on gluten-free diets only followed them because of celiac disease, which is classified by having inflammation of the small intestines when consuming gluten.

Some scientists believe that humans didn’t develop the ability to digest gluten and that shunning gluten leads to better absorption of nutrients.

Not only do science geniuses feel this way, but also many students think that since they started eating gluten-free, they feel better.

“Even though I crave pizza occasionally, my stomach has stopped hurting,” Hanna Refvik ’15 who also started following a gluten-free diet recently said.

Furthermore, this diet has gained so much popularity in the last few years that Betty Crocker started selling a collection of gluten-free dessert mixes in 2010.

Many people are starting gluten-free diets because of the big time stars such as Miley Cyrus, Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow who have publicly announced their love for it.

However, Chef Cecily Gans, a culinary teacher at Staples warns students about going gluten-free to lose weight.

Some products that are said to be gluten-free are actually just more processed.

“The problem with some gluten-free goods is that the manufacturers are using other types of starches and gums to replace wheat, so you may actually be consuming more sugars or processed carbohydrates when you should be sourcing out healthier options like whole grains,” Gans said.

“People think that gluten-free diets are a variation of low-carbohydrate or South Beach diets,” Gans continued. There have been many misconceptions about gluten-free diets. This is because a majority of the products that contain gluten are carbs.

So, people will go on carb free diets, which technically do exclude gluten. However, not all carbs contain gluten such as rice, potatoes and corn.

Dieters think they are losing weight because of the lack of gluten on their plates, when they are really just cutting carbs and calories, and in turn losing weight.

“Gluten-free foods aren’t designed as weight loss foods, and the only people who should look at a gluten-free diet are people who really have a gluten intolerance where it is a matter of their health and well-being,” Gans said.

For people with celiac diseases, following this diet is not just a fad to try and lose weight.

“It sometimes bothers me when people on gluten-free diets complain they can’t eat anything when they can just cheat and eat wheat without any consequences and I can’t,” Gabrielle McNees ’15 said.

Amelia Green ’13, author of Sweet Without Wheat: Great Recipes for Gluten-Free Baking, agrees with Gans.

“If you’re trying to avoid eating carbs, going gluten-free does help. But unless you actually have a gluten allergy, eating wheat is fine in the right portions,” Green said.