Gluten-free diets for weight loss?

Gluten-Free Thursday: Ricotta Pecan Spinach Salad

Gluten Free Thursday: Ricotta Pecan Spinach Salad (Photo credit: Love.Sasha.Lynn)

Diet myth – Gluten-free diet for weight loss?

Shelley Rael, registered dietitian nutritionist from Albuquerque, New Mexico and I had a chance to talk about many diet myths. This was our fifth myth—our topic was gluten-free diets for weight loss. To watch the video, scroll to bottom or click here.

Neily: The gluten-free diet has gotten really popular as a weight loss diet. Will people lose weight on the gluten-free diet?

Shelley: Sure, because they’re cutting out a lot of foods that they normally eat. If they went on a fat-free diet they could theoretically lose weight if they’re cutting out (fat) or if they went on a sugar-free diet (and cut out sugar). I am not an expert in gluten-free but I am an expert in fad diets. This appears to be one of the biggest trends right now. All these foods are gluten-free—some of which never had gluten to begin with, like peanut butter and fruit. I saw something today that said this fruit is gluten-free. Gluten is the protein that is in certain grains—it’s not ever going to be in fruit. But what people do, people hear that gluten-free is the way to go because they hear it from the media or their friend or something…

Neily: Or some celebrity…

Shelley: Yeah, celebrity or pseudo-celebrity. But they don’t have celiac disease or they don’t have a need to go gluten-free. What they are doing—like we talked about with some other myths—when they cut out carbohydrates or refined grains or foods that have gluten, they’re cutting out a big portion of their regular diet. So yes, they will probably, initially, lose weight because they just cut out this huge part (of their diet). If I cut out the sugar and cream in my coffee, I’d probably lose weight because I’m cutting out something in my normal diet.

Neily: Gluten-free is such a huge industry now. There are so many gluten-free products. If you go gluten-free with fruits and vegetables and the non-wheat whole grains and lean meats—that’s a really healthy diet and you probably could lose weight. But when you start adding other food, for example junk food…gluten-free junk food is still junk food.

Shelley: Exactly. When any other fad diets come along—like I said this gluten-free is, I believe, a fad for people who don’t need to be gluten-free. Whatever comes up next they’re going to be cutting out—in all likelihood—an entire food group, they’ll lose weight. A lot of things I’ve seen and read about gluten-free foods is that they are actually higher in calories than their regular counterparts. So it’s not necessarily the healthier way to go if you don’t have the disorder (of celiac or gluten sensitivity).

Neily: Gluten sensitivity may be an issue for some people. And for some to experiment, they might feel better. It’s fine to experiment. But, of course, if they have celiac and they go on a gluten-free diet (before getting tested), it’s not going to show up on a test. But as far as sensitivity, if somebody is going to try gluten-free, it may make them feel better or it might be the placebo effect.

Shelley: They might be eating better. Doing it is not going to be harmful necessarily but it’s mostly unneeded. It’s not necessary for most people to do.

Find more on gluten-free here, here, and here.


Jennifer “Neily” Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Wellcoach Certified Health Coach



  1. Just because it's organic or gluten-free does NOT mean it's healthy - […] But another segment of the population is following a gluten-free diet for weight loss. Read my interview with Shelley…

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