Suddenly everybody thinks they're allergic to wheat. Is that true? Or is this just a new trend? You probably know someone who's sworn off bread, pasta, crackers and cereal - blaming it on a wheat allergy, or maybe they say they just feel better without it. Well, the trend is big business. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston are wheat-free - even Oprah tried it. According to the LA Times, the sales of products made without gluten have skyrocketed. For those who don't know, gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains, and by some estimates, gluten-free products will be a $3-billion industry by 2012.
So what's behind this trend? Not a true increase in allergies. It's true that wheat, or gluten, is one of the eight foods people are most likely to be allergic to, but kids are usually the ones with a wheat allergy, and they typically grow out of it. Some people claim going gluten-free helps with autism, schizophrenia, chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, and ADD, but there's no conclusive clinical proof that any of those claims are valid. For most people, going gluten-free is just a new way to cut carbs.
Going wheat-free doesn't guarantee weight loss. As we all know, weight loss is about consuming fewer calories than you burn, and if you're not doing that, no diet will help. Especially when you can get gluten-free products like carrot cake, scones, cookies, pecan pie, chocolate chip muffins, pizza, beer and bagels.
People who actually do need to be gluten-free have celiac disease. They experience a severe immune reaction that interferes with the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Celiac disease can cause serious gastrointestinal symptoms and has been linked to osteoporosis, anemia, Type 1 diabetes, and thyroid disease. However, don't diagnose yourself. A simple blood test can determine whether or not you have celiac disease. If you don't, giving up gluten could result in an iron and folate deficiency.