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Gluten-free diets rise in popularity, but may not be healthy

Nicole Lafond Contributor
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Eating gluten free as a dietary plan can be unhealthy if not done carefully, Scientific American reported.

Gluten-free diets are necessary for people diagnosed with a condition called celiac disease, in which the consumption of gluten can damage the intestine. Approximately 1 percent of the population has celiac disease, according to WebMD.

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as barley, wheat and rye, as well as pastas and processed foods. Gluten-free diets have risen in popularity over the last four years.

A recent poll conducted by The NPD Group revealed 30 percent of adults today want to cut down or be free of gluten — the highest percentage since the group began asking the question in its polls in 2009.

The NPD Group provides information and advisory services to businesses globally, according to its website.

People often attribute the weight loss they experience while eating gluten-free to the removal of the gluten protein. However, weight loss often occurs as a result of a decrease in consumption as a means of avoiding the gluten protein, Katherine Tallmadge, dietitian and author of “Diet Simple,” said.

Gluten-free dieters often eat a lot of foods that are “stripped” of nutrients such as fiber, iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and zinc, Tallmadge said.

“There’s nothing magical about eliminating gluten that results in weight loss,” Heather Mangieri, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said. “Any of us that eliminates or removes cookies and candies from our diets, and replaces them with fruits and vegetables is going to feel better.”

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