Gluten Free and Low-Carb Hype: Let’s Integrate the Information…

 In Mind and spirit, Nutrition information                                                                                            (, photo Ds011)

Like skinny jeans and bold prints, Gluten Free and Low Carb diets have become “all the rage”. Consumer data from MINTEL marketing firm claims that 22% of adults are trying to avoid gluten, a protein found in wheat and certain grains, which has led to a 63% growth in the Gluten Free Product Market, (an $8.8 billion dollar market from), 2012-2014.   Dr. Alessio Fasana, director of the Center For Celiac Research and Treatment at the Mass General Hospital for Children  says this Gluten Free Fad, “is simply fashion”.   Whether this trend for cutting carbs, particularly Gluten, is in the hope of weight loss, improved health or because we “heard” that gluten was “bad”, many people are following a trend without all of the information to improve health overall. The booming Gluten Free (GF) market and avoidance of grains has revealed the confusing and often misleading information circulating in books, TV and even Holistic Health.

There have been numerous studies looking at low-carb diets vs low-fat diets and “good carbs” vs “bad carbs”.  The study on ABC news headlining “Low-carb May Trump Low-Fat in Diet Wars” found that people in the low-carb diet group lost 12 lbs over a year while low-fat dieters lost 4lbs.   Dr. David Katz of the Yale-Griffen Prevention Research Center criticizes the study as the Low-fat diet created fewer changes to eating habits and calories than the Low-carb diet. Dr. Katz states carbs are everything from “lentils to lollipops”.   Dr. Bradley Johnston, assistant professor of epidemiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada did a meta- analysis of studies/trials involving blended diets, low-carb, low-fat, and mixes of the two. He found differences in weight loss to be more in low-fat, low-carb vs the blend of two in the short term. However, in 4 year follow up studies, such as the DIRECT trial, the low-carb group tended to gain back more weight than the low-fat group. His findings suggest what many experts recommend: 1) Pick a diet that you are able to follow long term and adhere to it and 2) Pick a diet based on whole and minimally processed foods.

As I discussed with Dr. David Pearlmutter, author of Grain Brain, on my radio show, Carbs, in general are not the problem as Fruits and Vegetables are carbohydrates along with many whole grains like brown rice, farro, barley and oats. Eating whole grains has been found, in many studies, to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. The problem people tend to have, often leading to weight gain and health issues, are with processed and refined carbs laden with GMO wheat and sugar- the ultimate in “bad” carbs. An NIH sponsored OmniCarb Study found that cutting these “bad” carbs or Higher Glycemic Index foods – as in most low-carb diet plans, , can ultimately lead to better health and weight management. Something to remember in the Gluten Free diet trend, is many processed GF foods are laden with sugar and fat. Like any processed or “bad” carbs, just because they are GF does not mean they are “good” for you or “healthy”.

A Gluten Free Diet of whole grains/seeds like quinoa, oats, brown rice, and millett and plenty of fruits and vegetable can do nothing but improve your health. However, to be strictly Gluten Free is truly only necessary if you have Celiacs Disease, an immune disorder affecting the small intestines when the protein, Gluten, is ingested.   The small intestinal wall and villi are disrupted and attacked by gluten, which affects nutrient absorption in the gut. This can lead to anemia, infertility, Type 2 Diabetes, weak/brittle bones, and other skin and health problems.

How can you tell if you have Celiacs Disease ? What if you have a Non Celiac Gluten Sensitiivity?

Signs and Symptoms of Celiac Disease     VS.     Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

  • Stomach pain                                                       Stomach discomfort
  • Bloating/ gas                                                         Bloating/gas
  • Diarrhea                                                                 Constipation/Diarrhea
  • Extreme Fatigue                                                   Fatigue/tiredness
  • Mood Changes                                                       Crankiness
  • Weight Loss                                                           No weight change
  • Itchy skin, rashes                                                 Can have skin irritation
  • In Kids, slow growth                                           Headaches and joint pain

How can you test for Celiacs Disease or Gluten Sensitivity?

Celiacs Disease :

  • Intestinal wall biopsy
  • Blood testing for High levels of tTGA (anti-tissue Transglutaminase antibodies) and EMA (anti-endomysium antibodies)
  • Further blood work if above tests are negative
  • Make sure to NOT be on GF diet when tested.

Gluten Sensitivity: (Usually related to GMO grain affects on immune system)

  • Blood Testing: C-Reactive protein for inflammation, Cyrex array 3 and Cyrex array 4 to look for gluten sensitivity and cross sensitivity
  • Elimination Diet

For a list of Gluten Free foods and Foods containing Gluten, go to

SO, for most people, following a whole food, minimally processed, low glycemic index diet seems to be the best for maintaining a healthy body and healthy weight. Whether or not you choose to eat plant or animal based proteins is up to the individual, but protein is essential for hunger management, hormone balance and energy. Find the right fit for you and your body. We are here to help- just a phone call or email away. Be well!

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