Those of us who live a gluten-free lifestyle tend to roll our eyes at another celebrity who tweets their adoration of going gluten-free. And not that it couldn’t be helpful in the marketplace. But often times the self-righteousness of a celebrity barking at their fans about some new ‘acai-berry, Paleo, gluten thing’ comes off as no more than a publicity booster and annoyance. However, educating people and restaurants and widening the number of gluten-free products is always a good thing, so we’ll just do a subtle eye roll and post anyway.
“Is there gluten in that?”
Parents of teen girls may be hearing that more often at the dinner table, thanks to Miley Cyrus. The young actress and singer, who clearly has lost some weight and recently shared a photo of herself longingly sniffing but not eating from a hamburger bag, fought off eating-disorder rumors this week with a tweet: “For everyone calling me anorexic I have a gluten and lactose allergy. It’s not about weight it’s about health. Gluten is crapppp anyway!”
Later, she added, “everyone should try no gluten for a week! The change in your skin, (physical) and mental health is amazing! U won’t go back!”
Trendy advice? Definitely. Sales of gluten-free foods have been booming for the past several years and Cyrus is just the latest celebrity to join the bandwagon. But good advice? Probably not.
It’s not that gluten intolerance isn’t a real problem. It is and it is becoming more common, even in the severe form known as celiac disease. People with that immune disorder must swear off all foods containing any trace of gluten — a protein in wheat, rye and barley — or endure a lifetime of bloating, diarrhea, fatigue and increased risks of fragile bones, internal bleeding and other health problems. Others, with a milder sensitivity, also feel better without gluten. (There’s no such thing as gluten allergy per se, though some people are allergic to wheat).
But “there’s nothing magical about eliminating gluten,” if you don’t have those problems, says Heather Mangieri, a registered dietitian in Pittsburgh and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
And it is a bad idea to diagnose yourself or cut out huge swaths of food choices without medical advice. One reason: If you really do have celiac disease, it might not show up on tests once you are on a gluten-free diet. Another: you risk vitamin and mineral deficiencies if the strict diet isn’t well planned.
Finally, though Cyrus did not explicitly say the gluten-free diet helped her lose weight, that’s the message fans are likely to take away — and it’s bogus, Mangieri says. “We actually see people gaining weight on gluten-free diets,” she says. That’s because dieters craving bread, waffles and cookies may load up on gluten-free versions that add fat and sugar to make up for lost taste and texture.
There are healthier substitutes, but Mangieri doubts many of Cyrus’s teen followers will take up buckwheat and quinoa.
Of course, almost all of us would feel better if we traded brownies and white bread for a diet richer in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whatever whole grains we can handle. Maybe some celebrity could share a picture of herself eating and enjoying a meal like that — and urging followers to do the same.