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Dieititan:  Nick Dunn     Diet:   Gluten Free – final thoughts

 

GOING GLUTEN-FREE…..

When selecting this diet from a hat at our Christmas party I felt relieved. I had picked the easy one. I don’t eat much gluten anyway. This will be a breeze. I have to be honest here as say that this diet was downright annoying when I was out. I went hungry at a party that didn’t have any GF options. I argued with family members as they thought I was being difficult with my ‘dietary’ requirements. I was taunted by my friends with burgers and cakes and beer! And when I realised my favourite chocolate brand (not naming any names) had a ‘may contain traces of gluten’ statement on the packet it was nearly the straw that broke the camel’s back. I must confess strict gluten-free diet is not as easy as it seems!

Weight – NO CHANGE

There was an insignificant change in weight (-0.5kg) over the 3 week period. There is fairly consistent evidence showing that people adopting a GFD often gain weight however as this has only been investigated with those with true coeliac disease (likely related to improved macro and micronutrient absorption) this was probably not relevant in my case. There was only a slight reduction in fat mass and lean mass which was insignificant.

Diet – I ATE MORE!

There was an 18% increase in total calorie intake on the GFD. When taking a closer look there was a big shift in carbohydrate and protein intakes. My carbohydrate intake reduced by 25% and sugar intake by 40%. My protein intake increased by 30%. Interestingly my fat intake was unchanged with a minor reduction in saturated fat intake. The reduction in carbs was likely due to a less GF options being available when out and even more likely due a reduction in beer consumption (!). So despite my calorie intake increasing, my carbs and sugars decreased and weight remained stable. I’m not sure what this means but it may suggest that a higher protein diet (even with increased calories) with a lower carbohydrate intake may have prevented weight gain.

Fatigue, happiness, sleep and vitality

My fatigue, happiness and sleep scores were unchanged after 3 weeks of the gluten-free diet. My vitality score went down 3 points which was probably unrelated to the diet and more related to a busier period at work and some other external factors however even this change was clinically insignificant.

Pathology

There were reductions in most of my cholesterol levels (total, LDL – the one we want to keep down – and trigylcerides) with the reduction in LDL cholesterol the only significant result. My HDL cholesterol increased but this wasn’t a significant change. As my saturated fat intake had decreased this may have been a factor.  Currently, there is no evidence in the literature that a GFD will positively impact on your cholesterol levels. The general thought is that those adopting a GFD may actually increase their intake of sugar and possibly fat which theoretically would adversely affect lipid markers. There was a reduction in

Liver function tests (LFTs) however once again this was insignificant and my insulin growth factor and fasting blood glucose were unchanged but low to begin with.

Microbiome

Results soon to be released by the lab. Watch this space!

Final thoughts

My initial thoughts when asked about whether following a GFD would make me feel any different have probably not changed now the trial is over. I didn’t feel any better. My pathology didn’t alter significantly and my weight was stable. Avoiding gluten when eating out or in social occasions was more challenging than I anticipated, I’ll give it that, and unless there were consequences for me consuming it I see no reason to go to the effort to avoid it. Gluten-free diets have unfortunately become somewhat of a fad. The vast majority of people who are GF genuinely do not tolerate it but there is those who avoid it because of some perceived ‘unhealthiness’. From my experiences eating  gluten if you aren’t affected by it is not a problem. The sooner people realise this, the quicker we can improve the public’s awareness of why a gluten-free diet is essential for people with genuine coeliac disease or Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, (most importantly the awareness of those working in the food or hospitality industry) and not something to be laughed or viewed as the person tryng to be difficult.