Arizona State University study finds limited health benefits to gluten-free diets

TEMPE, AZ - Chances are you know somebody who has tried to go gluten-free.

However, a new study by Arizona State University is finding that there are no major health benefits to the diet fad. 

About one-percent of the population lives with Celiac disease — meaning giving up gluten isn't really an option. Still, millions of people chose to go gluten-free and the number keeps growing.

"We've done some informal surveys here at ASU and about 40-percent of the people we surveyed said they actually chose the gluten-free products," said Carol Johnston, the ASU Associate Director of Nutrition.

The high popularity is one reason why Johnston chose to study the diet further, wanting to figure out if it truly benefits the body.

"We found adverse health effects," she explained. "Gluten is a protein that encapsulates the starch and makes that starch less digestible after you consume it. So that is going to keep the glucose from being available to digest in the bloodstream."

When you eat a gluten-free substitute, the gluten protein isn't there to protect the starch and it's more easily absorbed into your blood, causing a spike in your blood sugar.

Johnston said that can be concerning, especially for people trying to lose weight or are pre-diabetic or diabetic.

"It causes you to eat more if you have a spike, you sort of go down quickly and there is this urge to eat," she explained.

So why is a gluten-free diet often seen to aid with weight loss?

"It could be when people go gluten-free they stop eating more of the grains and so we've known for years some of these low-carb diets with higher protein do actually promote weight loss," Johnston said.

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