I recently interviewed Celiac disease nutrition guru Lara Field about this current dietary trend. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She completed her Master’s of Science degree and dietetic internship from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. During her internship, Field completed additional specialized pediatric training at the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and John’s Hopkins in Baltimore.
Lara Field is the owner/founder of FEED – Forming Early Eating Decisions, a private nutrition consulting practice. She has over a decade of experience in clinical practice at two of the top ranked pediatric hospitals in the country, Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago (formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital) and University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital. She has specialized in pediatric nutritional care including pediatric gastroenterology and the gluten free diet for her entire career. Field is also board certified as a specialist in pediatric nutrition (CSP). She is also the pediatric nutrition advisor for the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center and frequently educates patients, family members, and nutrition professionals on the gluten-free diet.
Brooke: What is gluten and where is it found?
Lara: Gluten is a general name for the protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Not just in breads, cereals and pasta, gluten may be found in a variety of food products including soups, sauces, lunch meats, and many processed foods as a result of cross contamination in the
Brooke: Is eating a gluten-free diet the new fad?
Lara: Considering a growing percentage of our population is becoming obese/overweight, many are constantly searching for a “cure” to overweight/obesity. Unfortunately, some have been misguided. There is no evidence based information that shows eating gluten-free will aid in weight loss, on the contrary, there are a lot of reports on how eating gluten-free actually encourages weight gain! Many of the processed gluten-free products are made with refined grains/sugars including tapioca starch, potato starch, rice/rice starch. I recommend to avoid eating a large quantity of these starches, since excess consumption leads to weight gain. At this time, the only documented reason to be on a gluten-free diet is if one has Celiac disease.
Brooke: Who should be following this type of diet?
Lara: As above, only those with Celiac disease should be on a gluten-free diet. There is a lot of research investigating non-celiac gluten-sensitivity, however this is still being investigated. Others that may be on a wheat-free diet are those with IgE-mediated wheat allergy.
Brooke: Should consumers go gluten-free if they don’t have any allergies or an intolerance?
Lara: Going gluten-free puts consumers at a health risk. This is always the case when one category of food is excluded from the diet. Specifically, many gluten-free grains are not enriched with vitamins and minerals. As an example, most consumers receive a large quantity of B vitamins from gluten-containing fortified breads and cereals.
Brooke: What are the benefits of consuming products with gluten if you don’t have any diet restrictions?
Lara: As mentioned, gluten-containing foods not only contain vitamins and minerals (B vitamins, iron, folate), but also are a great source of fiber and whole grains which are important for digestion and a healthy gut. There are gluten-free grains that contain fiber such as quinoa, buckwheat, and brown rice. However, many consumers do not regularly consume these products on a daily basis.