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Is Being Gluten Free Trendy?

"...there's a perception that gluten-free equals health. It's just not the case."

Over the last five years of so, you've probably heard of someone who is newly considered as "gluten free." You may have even had some friends going on gluten-free diets, even though they don't have a wheat allergy.

Gluten-free versions of almost every popular wheat product imaginable are popping up, and products that were naturally gluten free have begun touting bragging about it.

And you know a fad diet has started when the celebrities start going after it. NPR reports:

Scarlett Johansson has gone on the record as a fan of gluten-free cupcakes from the trendy, vegan Babycakes Bakery in New York. And Elisabeth Hasselback has tweeted about her gluten-free pizza outings. And, of course, there's Gwyneth Paltrow.

Gluten is a wheat protein that helps make food elastic chewy. According to Celiac.com, at least 1 in 133 people have gluten intolerance, also known as Celiac's disease. A 2009 Mayo Clinic study (via ABC News) found that prevalence of Celiac's disease is four times more prevalent today then it was 50 years ago.

NPR goes on to report an early 2011 survey by Packaged Facts, a research group, reveals the different reasons of why people try gluten-free diets:

Some say they think it will help them shed a few pounds. They figure if they're giving up wheat, they're cutting carbs. But it usually doesn't work this way.

Leffler's research is finding that often times, people gain weight on gluten-free diets. Sometimes, if people are giving up pizza, they'll compensate by eating something extra — say, ice cream. "It's a common coping strategy," says Leffler.

"I think there's a perception that gluten-free equals health," Leffler told me. "It's just not the case." Just because there's no gluten in a food doesn't mean it's not loaded with calories, fat and sugar.

Listen to NPR's full report:

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