Gluten free diets have become very popular these days because of the belief that they have a lot of health benefits. However, a University of Florida nutrition expert said that it would be quite surprising to note that none of these beliefs have any scientific base and are not supported by research.
Karla Shelnutt, a UF assistant professor in family, youth and community sciences stated that about 1 percent of the US population which accounts to those suffering from celiac disease are required to follow the gluten-free diet as it's the only treatment for their condition. But what most people are unaware of is that the diet does not contain essential nutrients that have to be substituted with a multivitamin supplement.
"If I'm a college student, and I want to lose weight, and I read on the Internet that a gluten-free diet is the way to go, I may start avoiding products that contain essential nutrients such as those found in cereal grains fortified with folic acid," Shelnutt said.
The problem she states is that many healthy women go in for gluten free diets thinking it would make them healthier and would aid in weight loss. There is also a belief that it would give you healthier skin.
According to the statistics provided by Mintel, a market research company, the Gluten free food and beverages has grown tremendously. The 10.5$ billion industry has grown 44 percent from 2011-13 and this is due to the rise in celiac disease cases and an awareness of gluten free foods in the market. Mintel estimates sales will top $15 billion in 2016.
Caroline Dunn, Shelnutt's doctoral students was curious to find out the impact, the gluten free labelling had on the consumer's perception of the foods' taste and nutrition. She conducted a one day experiment on the UF campus in Gainesville in February. 97 people ate the cookies and chips, all gluten free but only half were labelled gluten free and the other half was labelled "conventional." The findings are published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
Participants were then given a questionnaire to fill and were asked to rate each food on a scale of nine. She found that nearly one third of the participants perceived gluten free food as healthier than those labelled conventional.
Health experts state that gluten free food is not better than conventional products except for those suffering from celiac diseases. Shelnutt said the experiment gives researchers insight into how the public views gluten-free foods.
More than half of the participants believed that gluten free foods helped cure medical conditions and about 32 and 32 percent believed it to aid weight loss and improve overall health respectively.
Celiac disease is a condition that can damage the lining of the small intestine, gluten free food is prescribed to them as gluten is a protein found in grains that they must not consume.