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The Cult of Gluten has finally been revealed to worship false prophets… for profits. Let’s deal with one prophet at a time.

Uninformed devotees of gluten free diets, like the Paleo Diet and Wheat Belly Diet, believe that eliminating gluten (a composite of two classes of protein, gliadin and glutenin found in wheat, rye and barley) is healthy and will lead to weight loss and wellness. Like so many cult “beliefs” this one’s false. For the more than 2 million people (about 1 in 133) in the United States suffering from Celiac Disease, avoiding gluten is a matter of life or death. Eating gluten triggers their immune systems to attack their own cells and tissues, especially the lining of the small intestines. For the rest of us, avoiding gluten by cutting out breads, pastas and cereals doesn’t provide any proven health benefit. People may lose weight on a gluten free diet, but that’s because they’ve cut out junk food and desserts, not because they’ve eliminated gluten.

The vilifying of gluten, which gives bread and other baked goods their characteristic elasticity, is senseless. Yet gluten free groupies continue to believe gluten is evil. Let me be clear, gluten is not evil. Gluten is not unhealthy. Eliminating gluten will not make you skinny, increase longevity, cure cancer or improve your sex life. As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Food Psychologist, I give all readers who do not have Celiac Disease or diagnosed wheat, rye or barley allergies permission to leave the gluten free cult and enjoy a crusty baguette or bowl of Wheaties. It will not hurt you.

New research conducted by Dr. Peter Gibson, a professor of gastroenterology at Monish University and Director of the GI Unit at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia published in the journalGastroenterology provides convincing evidence that Gluten Intolerance (aka non-celiac gluten sensitivity) is not a genuine condition. In the double-blinded, randomized placebo-controlled trial, subjects were first fed a diet low in FODMAPs (a type of carbohydrate that can upset the digestive tract) for two weeks. They were then fed three rotating diets — 16 grams per day of added gluten (high-gluten), 2 grams of gluten and 14 grams of whey protein isolate (low-gluten), or 16 grams of whey protein isolate (placebo), one per week. Subjects reported worsening gastrointestinal symptoms on all three diets whether they contained gluten or not. “We could find absolutely no specific response to gluten,” said Gibson.

A report published by Gibson and two of his colleagues in the journal Allergy and Asthma concluded: “While celiac disease is a well-established entity, the evidence base for gluten as a trigger of symptoms in patients without celiac disease (so-called ‘non-celiac gluten sensitivity’ or NCGS) is limited… Furthermore, mechanisms by which gluten triggers symptoms have yet to be identified.”

In spite of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, the anti gluten cult continues to claim gluten triggers rheumatoid arthritis and encephalopathy (brain diseases like dementia) and that going gluten free improves digestive health and fosters weight loss.

When a group ignores verifiable scientific evidence to preach their “beliefs,” this behavior is characteristic of being in a cult.

Here’s where the false prophets… for profits come in. A survey conducted by the consumer research firm NPD Group found that 30% of adults said they were trying to avoid or cut back on gluten in their diet. Why? Who told them gluten is bad?

A significant amount of this gluten free frenzy is being ginned up by giant food manufacturers to pad profits by acting as false prophets, preaching gluten abstinence in the absence of any meaningful scientific or medical research. The U.S. gluten free retail market is estimated to be worth as much as $10.5 billion and is projected to rise 48% to $15.6 billion by 2016.

Foods labeled as gluten free are often highly processed and stripped of important nutrients including vitamins and minerals. Unlike foods made from wheat, especially whole wheat, gluten free products are low in fiber, which benefits both digestive and cardiovascular health. Gluten free foods can be high in calories, fat and sugar and aren’t necessarily any healthier than regular products. And much to the delight of food manufactures, anti gluten groupies are paying on average 242% more for gluten free products than regular foods. That’s some big time profits… for a false prophet.

There’s nothing magical about gluten-free that results in weight loss, increased wellness or a clearer mind. So enjoy that slice of real pizza. The next time someone who does not have Celiac Disease tells you they are on a “gluten free diet” ask them why. Then show them this article and give the poor soul some bread. That’s the first step of deprogramming them from the false set of beliefs propagated by the false prophets of the Gluten Free Cult.

Dr. Ellen Albertson, PhD, RDN is a psychologist, nutritionist, licensed wellness coach and founder of www.SmashYourScale.com, the website for women who want to achieve health and happiness without destructive diets.  Dr. A is at @eralbertson on twitter and on facebook at www.facebook.com/SmashYourScale.