For the 3 million Americans who suffer from Celiac Disease, going on a diet that’s free from wheat gluten is a necessary way of life. For those dealing with a sensitivity to gluten, going on a diet that’s free from wheat gluten is a means of feeling better physically.
For celebrities whose bodies tolerate it just fine, going gluten-free is simply a fad.
That was the message on this morning’s edition of the “Today” show, which investigated the latest diet craze among today’s leading ladies. Carbs may be back in vogue (for the most part), but gluten is out for many A-listers, including Gweneth Paltrow, Rachel Weisz, Mary Louise Parker and Anne Hathaway as well as former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton, who served gluten-free cake at her recent wedding. In addition, chefs at a popular L.A. restaurant currently are preparing a gluten-free menu for an upcoming Emmy Awards after-party in order to meet attendee-demand.
It’s unknown whether these celebs have legitimate aversions to gluten. However, gluten-free appears to be the latest in a long line of fad diets to hit Hollywood. (Move over Atkins; there’s a new sheriff in town.)
According to “Today,” 5% of Americans have a gluten intolerance, and one in 33 Americans has Celiac Disease -- that’s not to mention the fact that 95% of Celiacs go undiagnosed. As a result, the gluten-free market is expected to hit $1 billion this year. Gluten-free products have improved dramatically in taste over the years, as reported in Candy Industry and Retail Confectioner. Offerings such as Glutino chocolate- and yogurt-covered pretzels, Ian’s Chocolate Covered Wafer Bites, Popcorners, and Snikiddy and Michael Season’s brand snacks are good examples of this flavor profile improvement. Meanwhile, gluten-free bakeries are popping up all over, even in my town of Evanston, Ill. There, you can get a loaf of bread that’s wheat-free, but delicious (or so I’m told by my neighbor, whose daughter was just diagnosed with Celiac).
However, that doesn’t meant that everyone should go gluten-free -- especially as a means of losing weight, points out “Today” show guest Dr. Raj Roshini, author of “What the Yuck?! The Freaky and Fabulous Truth About Your Body.”
A gluten-free diet actually can result in weight gain, Roshini says, since gluten-free foods are not necessarily low in calories and often boast higher contents of fat and sugar as a means of masking undesirable notes and holding the end product together. Not only is gluten-free a hard diet to follow (especially when eating out), but it’s also an expensive one. Many products contain hidden sources of gluten, too, so label-reading becomes a difficult deed for die-hard followers.
As a food editor, I’ve been pleased to see that manufacturers and retailers are catering more to the gluten-free needs of a certain population .As for the gluten-free wants of weight-obsessed celebrities … please. To each their own, of course. But I’ll take my glutin-based snacks (and carbs, for that matter) straight-up, thank you very much.