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Impact of a Gluten-Free Diet

What you eat instead of gluten may have negative consequences.

Person labeling gluten-free diet food

While avoiding gluten is most certainly a necessity for those with celiac disease, many more people have bid adieu to any foods containing it with the belief that it will lead to health benefits. But such a dietary measures in a gluten-free diet can backfire.

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in foods of the wheat family.

A report in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition studied 23 women who followed a gluten-free diet for 6 weeks. Investigators determined that they had an increase in the intake of fat and sodium and a reduction in the consumption of fiber and some key micronutrients including B vitamins. This is compared with when they followed a diet for 6 weeks that did not avoid gluten.

Researchers also determined that the gluten-free diet increased the dietary inflammatory index, meaning that it had a higher inflammatory potential.

It likely comes down to what people are eating in replace of gluten-containing foods, which might be highly processed versions of breads, cereals and pasta that are not fortified with nutrients. With proper nutrition education, however, those adhering to a gluten-free diet can be guided towards more nutritious options.

See also: Another Win for Gluten


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Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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