How Good Is Gluten-Free Food Really? Here’s What Science Says

Core foods were found to have significantly higher levels of protein than gluten-free foods. 
Core foods were found to have significantly higher levels of protein than gluten-free foods. (Screenshot/YouTube)

The gluten-free food industry may very well be sitting back laughing with the gluten-free fad growing every year, with over a third of adult Americans cutting the stuff out of their diets.

There are about 1 percent of people that have celiac disease, which means they cannot eat gluten without getting seriously ill.

But if you do not suffer from celiac disease, are there really any benefits to eating gluten-free products?

Dr. Jason Wu from The George Institute for Global Health, Australia, says probably not. “The foods can be significantly more expensive and are very trendy to eat, but we discovered a negligible difference when looking at their overall nutrition.” Wu led a study into the differences between standard products and their gluten-free counterparts.

What Gluten-Free Really Means:

After looking at over 3,200 products across 10 food categories, the researchers were able to find little to no difference in nutritional value of gluten-free food. They looked at core foods, like bread and pasta, but also at those considered to be junk, like cookies and chips, Ifl Science wrote.

“There has been a tidal wave of gluten-free products coming onto the market in recent years, and many people have been caught in the wash as they search for a healthier diet,” Dr. Wu said.

Dr. Wu said the research compared the nutritional content in core foods like breads and pasta that were staples in a balanced diet, as well as junk foods, such as potato chips, sweet biscuits, and lollies, wrote The George Institute.

Gluten free: The Truth Behind the Trend

“In the core foods, we found significantly lower levels of protein in gluten-free foods, but the remaining content, such as sugar and sodium, was actually very similar,” he said. “The same was the case in the discretionary foods, with almost no difference in their nutritional make-up.

“Many people need gluten-free food, but there is a growing group who are only trying it for its apparent healthiness; however, we found on average that gluten and gluten-free foods are just as healthy, or unhealthy, as each other.”

Dr. Wu said consumers should be aware of the so-called health halo effect. “Fancy labels on gluten-free foods have the potential to be used as a marketing tactic, even on products that traditionally don’t have any gluten in them anyway.”

“Misinterpretation by consumers, especially of junk foods, that gluten-free means they are healthy is a real concern. Whole grains along with fruit and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, while highly processed junk foods should be avoided,” he added.

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