Is A Gluten Free Diet Healthier? – Dietitian Advice

There are many claims that a gluten free diet is healthier. But is this actually true? Find out from Dietitian Bethany Florey as she investigates.

gluten free healthier

What is a gluten free diet? ‘

A gluten free diet involves avoiding all gluten which is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley’ (125 ).

This includes avoiding foods such as pasta, bread, pizza, cake, biscuits and any other gluten containing foods. Gluten can be hidden in foods such as sausages and sauces, so make sure to always check the label if you are advised to avoid gluten (click here for more information) (1 ).

Why would someone be on a gluten free diet?

A lifelong gluten free diet is the treatment for those individuals with coeliac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis (5 ).

These are both autoimmune diseases which means that gluten causes a reaction from the immune system (125 ).

Some individuals suffer from non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. This is not an autoimmune disease, however the gut can react to products containing wheat, rye or barley (2 ).Therefore, these individuals will benefit from a reduction in these types of products.

Other individuals follow a gluten free diet for other reasons such as to lead a healthier lifestyle or to lose weight (25 ).

Unfortunately, current scientific evidence does not support this rationale and therefore it is only advised for those people with coeliac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis, or a sensitivity to gluten, to avoid it from their diet.

A Comparison of Some Key Gluten Free Products

  Hovis medium Sliced wholemeal bread (800g) Sainbury’s
gluten free
brown bread
(560g)
Genius
gluten free
brown bread
(535g)
BFree Wheat
and Gluten
free high
fibre brown
seeded loaf
(400g)
Price per 100g 11p 43p 52p 75g
Fat per 100g 1.8g 5.5g 6.6g 5g
Saturated fat per 100g 0.4g 0.6g 0.5g 0.6g
Salt per 100g 0.9g 0.96g 0.9g 1g

I compared a standard brown loaf with that of a gluten free brown loaf as an example of the differences in cost, fat, salt content of these products.

This highlights that if you do not medically require it, following a gluten free diet may be more expensive for you and may not be as healthy as following a normal diet (234 ).

Why do gluten free products contain more sugar, salt and why are they more expensive?

Gluten free products can often be higher in fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar. The reason for this is often due to extra ingredients being added to improve the overall taste and texture of the product (2 ).

Some studies suggest that the higher amounts of some ingredients may also be required due to chemical differences in using grains which are naturally gluten free, in particular higher amounts of fat may be required in order replace the role of gluten in the product (2 ).

Prescriptions – the changing nature of the GF prescription

Your GP can sometimes prescribe staple gluten free products if you have been clinically diagnosed with coeliac disease (6 ).

However, in England the prescribing rights are currently changing, some commissioning groups are restricting or withdrawing the products which are able to be prescribed by your GP (6 ).

Click here to look at the map to find out more about your area (6 ).

In Northern Ireland, gluten free products continue to be prescribed by your GP (6 ).

Summary

Overall, if you do not have a medical reason for following a gluten free diet then it is currently not advised for you to do so. Gluten free diets can be more expensive and higher in some nutrients such as fat, salt and sugar. However if you do have a medical diagnosis which means you are advised to follow a gluten free diet, then it is certainly healthier to do so.

Written by Dietitian Bethany Florey

Reviewed & edited by Dietitian Kirsten Crothers

If you are getting digestive health symptoms and are not sure what to do, why not contact me today for a free 15 minute consultation?

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