Gluten-free diets are all the rage right now, but how much do people really understand about what amounts to a major lifestyle change? Researchers at the University of Florida set out to get to the bottom of the public's misconceptions about the buzzy protein that's found in wheat, barley, and rye.
They had 97 study participants taste-test two types of of cookies and two types of chips, then take a survey about their perceptions of gluten-free diets. Although one option in each pair was labeled "gluten-free" (while the other was marked as "conventional"), none of the foods actually contained gluten.
Researchers were trying to figure out if people perceived a difference just because of the labels—even though the items were identical. Subjects didn't find any significant differences in overall likeability, taste, or texture in any of the food, but they did think products that were labeled "gluten-free" were healthier overall.
The abstract was published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (the full study text hasn't yet been released), and we talked to researcher Caroline Dunn, M.S., R.D., to get the scoop on people's top misconceptions about eating gluten-free.
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Myth 1: It's a Weight-Loss Guarantee
A full 32 percent of study subjects agree that doctors prescribe a gluten-free diet specifically to bring about weight loss.
"People who follow a gluten-free diet usually eliminate a lot of carbs, so it wouldn't be surprising to see weight loss," says Dunn.
At the same time, the popularity of a gluten-free diet means carb-filled substitutes are popping up, so you still may not see the scale budge if you substitute your normal fare for these stand-ins.
"People champion this diet because ideally, by removing a lot of junk food, you'd consume more fruits, vegetables, and lean meat products," says Dunn. "You can do that without eliminating gluten and probably see some of the same results."
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