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Health Column: Are gluten-free diets a fad?

Angela Wetzel
LIVING AGAINST THE GRAIN
Free Press Health Columnist

I’ve recently talked to several people who are new to the gluten-free diet and have had a lot of questions and concerns about being gluten free. I’ve also talked to others who are not gluten free, but are trying to understand the lifestyle.

One thing has come up in all conversations — are gluten-free diets a fad?

I can understand why the question is being asked. I mean, we have had several types of diets come and go over the decades. Some of them were a little outlandish, some had potential, and still others were here one day and gone the next.



So why would gluten free be any different?

First, the term “diet” has several meanings, according to Bing Dictionary: “What a person or animal eats; the food that a person or animal usually consumes controlled intake of food; a controlled intake of food and drink designed for weight loss, for health or religious reasons, or to control or improve a medical condition; regular intake of something; and a continuous or daily experience of, or indulgence in, something other than food.”



Typically, when we think diet, we think restrictions due to the desire to lose weight. You have the South Beach diet, the Atkins Diet, and so many more. In the case of a gluten-free diet, it is to “control or improve a medical condition,” and this means removing gluten, the protein in wheat, barley and rye, from the diet completely.

There has been a lot of publicity for the gluten-free diet as celebrities jump on the bandwagon to use it as a weight-loss tool. For the most part, eating gluten free doesn’t mean eating healthy as I’ve explained in previous articles.

With gluten-free doughnuts, cookies, cakes and so on, you can gain more weight than lose it if you are eating these items because you think gluten free is healthier. Gluten free can be healthier, but only if you stay away from the items that would make you gain weight on a regular diet. I believe that this is where the fear that gluten free is a fad comes in.

Then there are those of us who have to eat gluten free and spend our dinners out and luncheons explaining to our friends, family and co-workers that this isn’t a choice; it’s a necessity. That is where our job begins by educating those around us to what gluten free really means and how it’s here to stay.

GJ Free Press health columnist Angela Wetzel has celiac disease and is president of Gluten Free Grand Valley, a support group for those with celiac disease and wheat allergies. Contact her at glutenfreegrandvalley@gmail.com or visit Gluten Free Grand Valley on Facebook.


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