Life Lessons: Gluten-free: Fad or Fabulous?

You've probably heard about the gluten-free craze.

Millions are cutting it from their diet to lose weight and improve their health, but unless you're like 1% of the population with the autoimmune disorder celiac disease, is it really necessary to cut gluten out or could it backfire?

Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Kardashian, and Victoria Beckham - super stars who've gone gluten-free to peel away pounds and feel great, and they're not the only ones.

A recent poll shows 30% of Americans want to cut down on it or eliminate gluten from their diets, but Vanderbilt University health educator Stacey Kendrick says not so fast.

"There's a lot of hype about taking gluten out of your diet," Kendrick says.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Kendrick says the whole grains are a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Stripping away gluten could mean a deficiency in one of these areas.

"Anytime you eliminate something from your diet, it can cause health problems," explains Kendrick.

Despite weight loss claims, going gluten-free could actually make you fat.

Registered dietician Amanda Holliday says products labeled gluten-free can be highly processed and loaded with sugar and fat.

"I think the real trick is what you replace those calories with," says Amanda Holliday, MS, a registered dietitian at the University of North Carolina.

"There are so many grains that are gluten-free. There are more grains that are gluten-free than have gluten," says Holliday. "It's just the typical American diet doesn't know about them."

Holliday says quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat are all good choices.

Experts say the real reason so many people probably lose weight on a gluten-free diet isn't because they're eliminating gluten.

It's because they end up cutting out processed foods and nix the desserts, junk food, and wheat heavy beer. That can all lead to losing weight.

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