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Ask Tufts Experts December 2012 Issue

Q: I keep seeing new products labeled "gluten-free." I understand this is important for people with celiac disease, but should everybody try to eat gluten-free?

Answer :  Robert M. Russell, MD, emeritus professor at the Friedman School, replies, “The answer is no. In celiac patients there is an immunologic reaction against a component of gluten that is contained in wheat, rye, barley. So, a gluten-free diet is fairly restrictive and expensive to maintain. That being said, if you are having a problem with intermittent abdominal bloating and pain, unintentional weight loss or chronic diarrhea, you should consult your doctor, who can now diagnose celiac disease with a simple blood test. A gluten-free diet will result in a prompt lessening of symptoms in those who have been diagnosed with clinical disease. Although many people with celiac disease are asymptomatic, there is no good evidence that a gluten-free diet will benefit most people in any way.”

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