Can going Gluten-Free make you fat?

January 21, 2010 9:48:05 PM PST
For people with Celiac Disease, it is a medical necessity to avoid eating gluten, but recently, other people are also going gluten-free in the hopes it will help them shed pounds. Experts warn that could backfire.

Whether it's baked goods or fine dining cuisine, it's becoming much easier to find gluten free foods in Philadelphia.

For people with Celiac disease who are allergic to gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, this is great news. But lately, going gluten-free has also been touted in women's magazines as a new way to help everyone shed pounds quickly. It worked for John Libonati who launched

"I lost seven pounds right away and 25 pounds over the next two and a half months," he said.

His girlfriend Rose Miller also cut out gluten and dropped seven pounds. But neither has been diagnosed with Celiac Disease.

Registered dietician Emily Rubin of Jefferson University Hospital says in some cases going gluten free can mean eating healthier because people may be eating more fruits and vegetables and no preservatives. But as a diet overall, Rubin said, "I would not recommend a gluten-free diet if you need to lose weight."

Here's why: In order to make some bread and starches gluten-free without killing the taste, many food-makers add in extra fat and sugar and gluten free products have less fiber.

"Here's a piece of gluten-free bread, it's 150 calories for one slice, zero fiber," said Rubin comparing it to Pepperidge Farm's double fiber bread which has six grams of fiber and 100 calories.

As for cereal, gluten-free Perky O's have 120 calories per serving, compared 60 for a comparable cereal with gluten. Soy snack crisps (with gluten) are 60 calories for the regular, 140 calories for the gluten-free.

But that's not the case with all gluten free foods. At the Sweet Freedom Bakery on South Street, they cut out gluten without adding extra bad fat and refined sugar. Same goes for Jose Garcia's restaurants. Both say they use all natural healthy ingredients instead.

"We didn't want to compromise the integrity and quality and the nutritional value of the product," Allison Lubert, co-owner of Sweet Freedom Bakery said.

Rubin said there are people without a true allergy to gluten but who may have an intolerance to it. That's what Libonati and Miller think they have. If that's the case, Rubin said she's all for going gluten-free, if it'll make you feel better but again she warns to read the nutritional labels.

If you have no intolerance symptoms such as stomach pain and bloating after eating gluten, then despite some of the buzz experts say going gluten free isn't worth the hassle or the money.

"There's no reason you cant just buy fresh fruits and vegetables and do whole wheat products and oat based products and be just as healthy as someone who is gluten free," Rubin said.

The reason some people lose weight when they cut out gluten, even if they don't medically have to, is because they cut out bread and starches altogether, basically going low-carb. Libonati said he does substitute some of their breads, but does so in moderation. caters to people with food allergies. Their products are gluten-free, vegan, corn-free, soy-free and refined-sugar-free.

For more information about Celiac Disease, visit: