upper waypoint

Is a Gluten-Free Diet Beneficial to Your Health?

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

Featured Media Resource: VIDEO: What the Heck Is Gluten? (AsapSCIENCE)
Learn about gluten and its effects on people with celiac disease.

Do Now U

Do you think a gluten-free diet is beneficial to health, even without celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten? #DoNowUGluten

How to Do Now

To respond to the Do Now U, you can comment below or post your response on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine, Flickr, Google +, etc. Just be sure to include #DoNowUGluten and @KQEDedspace in your posts.

Learn More about Gluten

[media-credit standalone=0 name="traaf/Flickr" align="alignright" width="240"]Bread made with wheat contains gluten. [/media-credit]
Bread made with wheat contains gluten.

Do you make a point of eating gluten-free foods? According to the Institute of Food Technologists, “gluten is a protein that naturally occurs in a number of grains such as wheat, triticale, barley, rye and oats.” Gluten is actually a large protein formed from two smaller proteins, glutenin and gliadin. Gluten is formed when the two smaller proteins are hydrated and join together to form a new protein. It is responsible for giving bread its chewy texture and can be found in a wide variety of foods including everything from salad dressing to beer.

[media-credit standalone=0 name="Matt Lavin/Flickr" align="alignright" width="180"]Gluten is a protein found in wheat. [/media-credit]
Gluten is a protein found in wheat.

For some people, going gluten-free is an absolute necessity. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the body’s ability to process gluten; the body mounts an immune response that attacks and damages the small intestine, preventing it from absorbing nutrients. About 1 percent of the U.S. population has celiac disease. Some people who do not test positive for celiac disease still experience gluten sensitivity. While not an autoimmune disorder, people with gluten sensitivity may have gastrointestinal symptoms similar to those with celiac disease.


In recent years, a gluten-free diet has become popular among people trying to improve their overall health status without the diagnosis of celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten. Some first-person testimonials suggest that removing gluten from one’s diet can improve digestion, facial acne and headaches. Like cholesterol in the 1980s and fat in the 1990s, gluten has been described as “latest dietary villain, blamed for everything from forgetfulness to joint pain to weight gain.” Some people argue that it is not the removal of gluten from one’s diet that makes it healthy, but rather that the gluten-free diet promotes an overall conscious awareness of what is being ingested. There are health risks associated with a gluten-free diet for people who do not have celiac disease, including a decreased intake of vitamins and minerals, or an increased intake of calories, which can lead to weight gain. The increasing popularity of a gluten-free diet is evident in the number of gluten-free products now available to purchase, but the reasons behind ditching the protein are not quite as clear.

Do you think eating little or no gluten is beneficial to one’s health, even without celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten?

More Resources

ARTICLE: University of Wisconsin- Madison, School of Medicine and Public Health
The Reality Behind Gluten-Free Diets

This article outlines what celiac disease is, the reality behind gluten-free diet claims, and the risks of a gluten-free diet.

WEBSITE: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Celiac Disease

This informational website explains celiac disease, and its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

Sensitive to Gluten? A Carb in Wheat May Be the Real Culprit

Gastroenterologists say sensitivity to a group of carbohydrates, called FODMAPs, may be mistaken for gluten sensitivity.

Go here for best practices for using Do Now, using Twitter for teaching, and using other digital tools.

This post was written by students majoring in nutrition at Lipscomb University.

KQED Do Now U is a bi-weekly activity in collaboration with SENCER. SENCER is a community of transformation that consists of educators and administrators in the higher and informal education sectors. SENCER aims to create an intelligent, educated, and empowered citizenry through advancing knowledge in the STEM fields and beyond. SENCER courses show students the direct connections between subject content and the real world issues they care about, and invite students to use these connections to solve today’s most pressing problems.

lower waypoint
next waypoint