Gwyneth Paltrow slams gluten in her new cookbook - but is it just a 'fashionable' diet?

Kim Hookem-Smith
Yahoo Lifestyle
4 April 2013

Gwyneth Paltrow, in her new cookbook It's All Good, has once again proven that she is not gluten's biggest fan.

While she doesn't go into how gluten has affected her or her children (who are also on low-gluten diets), it's certainly not getting a look-in in her new recipe book.

And that's not the only missing ingredient. As well as eschewing gluten, Gwynnie has also managed to ditch dairy, meat and deep sea fish (no, we don't know either), and yet still manages to find ingredients to actually cook with. Which is no mean feat, though perhaps makes for a mean feast.

But though everyone loves to hate on GP and her arguably out of touch recommendations for modern life (an 'everyday bracelet for ideal layering' for $350, anyone?), she's not the only celeb to wax lyrical about a gluten-free diet for everything from weight loss to energy levels.

[Related: 10 top health tips to feel amazing now]

She, Miley Cyrus, Jessica Alba and Victoria Beckham have all reportedly cut gluten from their diets. But if you're not coeliac, is there any benefit to removing gluten-containing food groups from your diet? Or could it actually do you more harm than good?

Gluten is a protein found in many grains (including those that make bread and cake), pasta, many cereals and often in products you may not expect, such as processed meats, beer and cous cous, though this is by no means a comprehensive list.

Nutritionist Marilyn Glenville, who has just launched her book Natural Solutions to IBS, explains that coeliac disease, an allergy to gluten, affects only about one per cent of the population, while gluten intolerance is estimated to affect around 10 per cent.

To confuse matters, some people are allergic to wheat, which is not the same thing as coeliac.

[Related: Is healthy eating making you fat?]

"People who've taken a proper test will know if they're coeliac and they take gluten out of their diet for medical reasons. It causes very bad health over a long period of time - bad skin, mouth ulcers, weight loss, diarrhoea," Marilyn tells us.

"Gluten sensitivity is different. Over the past few years there's been more awareness and information around people who are sensitive to it but not clinically allergic.

"They can experience some of the symptoms but the gluten causes no damage to the large intestine, as is the case for coeliacs."

For people who have noticed digestive problems such as bloating and discomfort, an elimination diet is recommended, under medical supervision or that of a professional nutritionist.

"Taking out wheat might be a starting point, as you may have a IgE antibody reaction to wheat proteins, rather than gluten specifically," Marilyn explains.

"Wheat can be difficult because it's changed over the years. The strain used in commercial bakeries now has a very high gluten content, very different from the spelt wheat we traditionally ate."

[Related: Claire Nasir's motivational plan for weight loss and healthy eating]

Taking gluten out of your diet is a dramatic step if done properly, Marilyn cautions.

"It involves taking out a lot of the grains and seriously affects your food choices. Plus you'll be losing a good amount of fibre, which you'll need to get from other sources such as quinoa and brown rice."

"It’s fine to try no wheat and see if that helps but I think if someone's really thinking about gluten sensitivity they need to take a test or go through the elimination process with a trained nutritionist.

"You have to substitute the nutrients that you would normally get from gluten-containing foods. It has the potential to be quite an unhealthy move."

In conclusion, if you think you're reacting to something in your diet, either have a test, try cutting out smaller food groups one at a time and noting how you feel or see a nutritionist.

[Related: My experience parenting a gluten-free child]

And if the gluten-free life appeals for, shall we say, aesthetic reasons, (and we're not condoning this) don't call yourself coeliac or gluten intolerant - people who really have the condition don't appreciate it. And do make sure you're getting all the nutrition you need for a healthy diet from alternative foods.

"It does seem to be a fashion statement at the moment," Marilyn says. "They come around. A few years back we had that anti-candida diet, controlling yeast, but for same reason – weight loss. But it's not healthy, sustainable weight loss."

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