Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Is Gluten Making You Fat" on Dr. Oz...

"Is Gluten Making You Fat?" is a popular subject after Dr. Oz included the topic on his show last week: The Gluten Diet: Just a Myth on The Dr. Oz Show.

The subject is pretty complicated and the answer is even more complicated than what was discussed on the show. Part of it depends on the person you are speaking about and the type of intolerance or sensitivity to gluten that they have AND the type of gluten free diet that is undertaken after going gluten free.

Celiac causes malabsorption for people who have the genetics for celiac and consume gluten. When they eat gluten, their villi are stripped away which causes them not to absorb fat or nutrients. So, for many people with celiac who have a lot of intestinal damage from consuming gluten, gluten can actually cause them to waste away and not absorb nutrients. In these cases, gluten would NOT be making you fat, gluten would be making you skinny!

But, here is where it can get complicated. For other people who have celiac and are not absorbing nutrients, the lack of nutrient absorption causes them to be super hungry and to eat constantly to try to get extra nutrients that aren't being absorbed. So why they might have poor absorption of certain nutrients, they will have voracious appetites and need to eat constantly to try to get the necessary nutrients their brain and bodies need to function. In these cases, celiac leads to being overweight and obesity--which is often overlooked by medical doctors. For these people, when they go on a gluten free diet, they can become less hungry because they will be absorbing nutrients. But, if they have habits of overeating from years of nutrient malabsorption, they won't necessarily lose weight on a gluten free diet.

And here is where it gets even more complicated--lack of nutrients from celiac can cause a thyroid problem because your thyroid needs nutrients to function properly! So if you aren't absorbing nutrients your thyroid--which controls your metabolic rate--can decrease your ability to burn calories. And to make it even more complicated--celiac is an autoimmune disease triggered by eating gluten and if you have celiac, you can get another autoimmune disease such as hashimotos thyroiditis in which thyroid autoantibodies attack they thyroid. So for these people, who either have low nutrients from malabsorption or from an autoimmune attack of the thyroid, gluten might be contributing to weight gain. But for these people, even though gluten might have been a contributing factor to the weight gain, the weight might not fall off when gluten is removed from the diet, because often these processes that are happening in the body don't necessarily correct themselves as soon as gluten is removed from the diet.

Often skinny people who get diagnosed with celiac and go on a gluten free diet gain weight, but in many cases, these celiacs were not absorbing the calories necessary for their bodies or brain to function, so while they might be disappointed by the weight gain of a few pounds, it actually is a sign that they are absorbing calories and nutrients. For these people, it is a sign that healing is occurring and in the long run they will be healthier. But, for people with celiac who are used to being super skinny, it can be a shock to suddenly be a normal person and have to worry about weight gain. But their being super skinny was not a normal state for their body--it was a side effect of a wasting away disease that was having a profoundly negative effect on many body functions, but also left them skinny.

Then, there is the fact that so much gluten free food is really junk food and not very nutritious which can complicate things even more. This is what Dr. Oz spoke of in his show: processed gluten free food is often loaded with white rice flour, sugar and starch to compensate for the fact that gluten is absent. For people who load up on gluten free junk food, you can gain weight even though you are avoiding gluten.

But, to make it even more complicated, for some people, gluten is creating an opiate like reaction in their body and brain, so they become addicted to eating gluten because it causes a drug like reaction. These people cannot eat one bowl of pasta--they eat one bowl of pasta and are voracious for more. For these people, they might eat less calories of a rice pasta, which contains more starch/sugar and calories per serving, because they will not get this high/drunk feeling from the rice pasta. This might be the same for bread or other gluten containing food.

A gluten free diet--even thought it is referred to as a "diet" should bot be lumped together with other weight loss diets. It is not a fad--it is not a weight loss diet. It is a diet that people need to follow who have celiac or the 50 diseases that are associated/triggered by eating gluten.

And there are healthy ways to follow a gluten free diet that Oz discusses in The Gluten Diet Part 2: Just a Myth? on Dr. Oz.


Anonymous said...

Thankyou for the FIRST common sense article, i thoroughly enjoyed it and it was very informative. You have all the facts and have researched every angle. I am tired of people who can eat normally, eating gluten free because it's a "healthy" fad. I've even had people say "you're so lucky, i wish i had that problem, forcing me to eat healthy. Then i'd be skinny!"

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