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Consumer Reports: Downsides of a gluten-free diet

According to Consumer Reports, just a small percentage of the population has a medical reason to avoid gluten. In fact, doing so could do more harm than good. (Image credit: Consumer Reports)

Going gluten-free is squarely in the mainstream now. Sales of gluten-free foods have nearly tripled in recent years, as more and more people become convinced gluten causes many health problems. But, according to Consumer Reports, just a small percentage of the population has a medical reason to avoid gluten. In fact, doing so could do more harm than good.

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, has been blamed for causing problems like migraines, depression and joint pain based on limited scientific evidence. Strong evidence links gluten to digestive problems, but only in very specific cases.

Consumer Reports says avoiding gluten is warranted in many cases, but it's not for the vast majority of those people who are not allergic to gluten yet still avoid it. Less than 7 percent of Americans have celiac disease or another condition that causes gluten sensitivity which can lead to severe digestive issues.

For the rest of the population, unnecessarily eliminating whole grains that contain gluten can also eliminate important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients which protect against cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Another downside: gluten-free foods often have added sugar, fat and sodium to make them more palatable. And, if the gluten-free foods are made with rice flour, as many are, research shows you could end up ingesting worrisome amounts of arsenic and mercury.

For those who need to be on gluten-free diets, you can still get the health benefits of whole grains, such as quinoa , buckwhea, and amaranth. They are gluten-free and full of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2018 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org.

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