Consumer Reports

Hidden Risks of Going Gluten-Free

Is gluten-free marketing a healthy choice or a hoax?

About seven percent of Americans can’t eat gluten because they have celiac disease or a diagnosed gluten sensitivity. But how good is a gluten-free diet for everyone else?

To find out, Consumer Reports reviewed nutrition labels for more than 80 gluten-free foods.

Consumer Reports’ Deputy Health, Patricia Calvo, who oversaw the study says, “People think that going gluten-free will help them lose weight or get better digestion and a whole host of other health benefits. But when Consumer Reports looked at those gluten-free products and found that they’re not necessarily healthier and they may be less so.”

One concern is some gluten-free foods contain more fat, sugar or sodium than their regular counterparts. And products made of enriched-wheat flour provide essential nutrients like iron and folic acid, but you don’t get those in many gluten-free foods.

Another important worry is many of the gluten-free products that Consumer Reports analyzed contain rice flour or other rice-based ingredients. In Consumer Reports’ tests of rice and rice products in 2012, the lab found that most contain arsenic, often at worrisome levels.

The bottom line is a small percent of people need to eat gluten-free foods. For everyone else, there’s little evidence that a gluten-free diet is a healthier choice. And one more disadvantage to going gluten-free is nearly all the gluten-free foods Consumer Reports purchased were more expensive than a regular counterpart.

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