One recent health and wellness trend is the demonization of gluten, which naysayers believe could be linked to everything from autism to Alzheimer's disease. This silly little protein is found in grains like wheat, barley and rye and is also used as an additive in everything from dressing to veggie burgers; but is it really worth worrying about?

The short answer is, probably not. Gluten is only scientifically proven to be dangerous to people who have a wheat allergy or celiac disease, a disorder in which the body creates antibodies against gluten that damage the intestines. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, weight loss, poor appetite, bloating, anemia, malabsorbtion, rashes, and growth delays in children. If this sounds like you or your child, your doctor will probably be able to diagnose or rule out the condition with a simple blood test.

However, some health experts posit the existence of a more nebulous "gluten sensitivity" which could affect between .5 and 13 percent of the population, with a few extremists even saying that gluten is dangerous for most people. Alleged symptoms of this sensitivity can include digestive discomfort, neurological and mental disorders, and a chronic pain condition called fibromyalgia.

Since no formal test for gluten sensitivity exists, the only way to find out whether you have it is to see if removing gluten makes you feel better, which means that the improvement could also be due to the placebo effect or for reasons unrelated to gluten, like the fact that a gluten-free diet is also usually lower in digestion-unfriendly FODMAPS or the potentially devastating effect of simple carbohydrates on blood sugar levels on overall health.

Public figures like author David Perlmutter have attempted to blame gluten for conditions ranging from epilepsy to diabetes, but other experts are still skeptical that gluten is really the villain its been made out to be, pointing to a lack of evidence to back up these excessive claims. However, some studies have indeed tentatively suggested that a gluten-free diet may benefit a small subset of patients with schizophrenia and autism.

The good news is that while cutting out gluten in an attempt to cure your digestive or neurological problems is a long-shot, it's also unlikely to do you any actual harm; it may even indirectly benefit you by steering you away from processed and high-calorie foods.

The only real risk of avoiding gluten is that many gluten-free products are just as unhealthy as the carbohydrate heavy products they're intended to substitute for, so it's easy to overindulge in them while still neglecting foods like fruit, vegetables, and lean meat that really are healthy. Gluten-free foods are also less commonly fortified, so you may want to keep an eye on your vitamin intake if you've cut it out.

Luckily, if you do have celiac disease or even just feel like following the hype, 123Diet's drops and most of the foods we recommend are gluten-free anyway. You only really have to worry about the optional mini toast and grissini sticks, both of which can be easily replaced by gluten-free substitutes.

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