By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
The 19-year-old pop star Miley Cyrus came into news after proclaiming on Twitter that the reason behind her skinny new frame is a gluten and lactose-free eating plan. She reportedly said, “Everyone should try no gluten for a week! The change in your skin, physical and mental health is amazing. You won’t go back!”
This has drawn criticisms from dieticians and nutritionists who have warned that a gluten-free diet, which omits grains such as wheat, rye, barley and triticale is said to be bad for health if they are not genuinely allergic to gluten.
Karen Ansel, a registered dietician and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Today.com, “There’s absolutely no evidence that a gluten-free diet promotes weight loss… A gluten-free diet can result in a diet that's low in iron, zinc and B vitamins such as folate and niacin.”
Dr David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, told ABC, “Cutting gluten… it is advisable only for those with genuine sensitivities.” Dr Peter Green, director of Columbia University's Celiac Disease Center in New York, told ABC that “the trendiest thing in the food industry right now is gluten-free.” He added that almost 90 per cent of dieters omit gluten products as a food fad, or a “weight reduction thing.”
In fact, eating too many processed gluten free foods can make one put on a few pounds. Rachel Begun, a registered dietitian living with celiac disease and food industry consultant, says, “People who go gluten-free may gain weight if they rely mostly on highly-processed gluten free foods, many of which tend to be higher in fat, calories and sugar than their gluten-containing counterparts." Ansel agrees, and adds, “Gluten-free foods also tend to lack fiber that fills us up and can help us manage our weight.”
In spite of this, the market research firm Packaged Facts projects the market for gluten-free foods and beverages will grow to more than 5 billion dollars in 2015 - up from an estimated 2.6 billion in 2010.