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Study: gluten-free diet is expensive, has no health benefits

UB dietitian says the diet only benefits those with celiac disease

BUFFALO, N.Y. — People try a lot of different ways to lose weight. Some think removing gluten from their diet is a healthy way to drop pounds, but a new report says the only thing losing weight is their wallet.

Researchers from the University of Sheffield in England found that going gluten-free offers little to no health benefits for the average person.

"There's no evidence that the gluten-free helps normal healthy people. It's a diet designed for those with diagnosed celiac disease," says Danielle Meyer, registered dietitian and clinical director of the Dietetic Internship program at the University of Buffalo's Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences.

About 1 in 100 people worldwide are diagnosed with celiac disease, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. Those who have it can seriously damage the small intestines by ingesting any gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

According to Meyer, "this gluten-free movement has in a way helped that community so there are a lot more products that exist for them."

For those who are following the diet but do not have celiac disease, they are missing out on key nutrients.

"When they do these gluten free diets they're eliminating whole grain products," says Meyer. "Whole grains have the vitamins, minerals and the fiber. The fiber is what's most important."

Those otherwise healthy individuals who follow a gluten-free diet are spending 2-to-3 times more money for gluten-free foods they just don't need. A report from Research and Markets found the gluten-free products market was $2.7 billion dollars last year and predicts that will double by 2025.

If you do not have celiac disease, Meyer suggests ditching the gluten-free trend and instead trying a plant-based diet along with regular exercise.

"The advice is not sexy, it's not interesting, it's not new," Meyer says. "Physical activity, paying attention to what you're eating, choosing whole grains, colorful fruits and vegetables, and portion control."