Wellness: Why Philly’s Gone Gaga for Gluten-Free

Wheat loss hits close to home

If you’re the kind of person who pays attention to fad diets — and who isn’t? — you’ve definitely heard about gluten-free. Gwyneth’s done it. So has Zooey. Gluten-free menus, bakeries and “cleanses” are appearing all over town, making Philly’s health-arati wonder: Can I lose weight by going gluten-free?

[sidebar]

Truth is, gluten-free diets aren’t all that glamorous — and don’t work for everyone. Gluten, a protein in wheat, rye and barley, negatively impacts a small, but not insignificant, population. Effects range from mild sensitivities (bloating, headaches, mood swings, digestive ailments) to celiac disease, a chronic, genetic auto-immune disorder of the small intestine that can cause weight loss, vitamin deficiency, digestive difficulties and severe malnutrition. Diagnosed with a blood test and bowel biopsy, celiac is treated with a gluten-free diet.

Anthony DiMarino, director of Jefferson Hospital’s new Celiac Center, cites three possible culprits in an increased incidence of celiac: the large amount of gluten in today’s average diet; a possible change in gluten’s chemical makeup, making it harder to digest; and, thanks to society’s germ-free obsession, weaker immune systems. He also says that once diagnosed, celiac patients usually gain — not lose — weight.

Still, some people with gluten sensitivity may slim down by going gluten-free. That’s how Bridgeport health coach Jennifer Fugo lost 20 pounds. She insists, however, “If you’re not sensitive to gluten, it won’t work. I lost inflammation, not fat.”

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.