The popularity of the gluten-free diet has sky-rocketed over the past few years. People without gluten-related disorders are thought to be driving the increase in popularity. Mass media and celebrities have promoted the gluten free diet (GFD) for health maintenance and weight loss. These claims are not backed by scientific evidence.
Thus far, there is no data to suggest that it is harmful to avoid gluten. However, there may be nutritional implications.
Gluten-free products tend to be lower in fibre, iron, folate, and B vitamins. Survey data suggests that individuals on a GFD consume significantly lower amounts of folate, B12, iron, calcium and vitamin D when compared to those on non-restrictive diets. Individuals on GFD tend to also avoid dairy which could explain the lower calcium and vitamin D intakes.
Individuals with gluten related disorders (celiac, wheat allergy, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity), are a distinct group of people who should be on a GFD. If you have digestive problems and feel like a GFD would be beneficial, talk with your doctor. Otherwise, if you were thinking of going gluten-free “just because”, there probably isn’t a lot of benefit. A GFD is expensive and likely won’t lead to weight loss. Lastly, you could put yourself at risk of nutritional deficiencies which require long-term supplementation.