Gluten and belly fat

Two unrelated questions (aha! surprise!)

Is there such a thing as “belly fat”? I’m barraged by advertising that implies that belly fat has a different provenance than fat anywhere else (too much food, too little exercise) and can be reduced by means other than less food, more exercise. Is there anything special about the fat you carry around your midsection?

Why is gluten bad? If you don’t have ciliac disease, is there any reason everything seems to come in a “gluten-free” option? (I’m reminded of an episode of 30 Rock, where Liz Lemon is briefing someone who’s been held captive in North Korea for a year on everything she’s missed: “Well, we all seem to be allergic to gluten now.”)

I’ll take a crack at the first question. Someone will be along shortly if I have it wrong.

As I understand it, fat is fat, and where it tends to accumulate on one’s body depends on a number of factors, including genetics and gender.

For example, men tend to gain weight around their mid sections, and women in other places. Since men have more fat around their bellies it can take quite a while to burn it off by exercise alone. Remember that men gain weight there preferentially.

I know of men who drink a lot of beer and have a hugely distended belly as a result. I assume this comes from many years of drinking high calorie alcoholic beverages, but I don’t think it’s the only way it happens…

As far as gluten goes, gluten is a component of wheat (and some other grains) and some people have a sensitivity to it that causes gastric issues. Gluten is not inherently evil any more than sugar is inherently evil. Most people digest gluten just fine.

Companies are marketing to those people with gluten digestion issues (real or imagined) by labeling their products gluten free, which is their right.

As an aside, I saw a can of Coke the other day with a gluten free label on it, even though there are no grains used in Coke as far as I know. You could label an apple gluten free too… but anyone who knows what gluten is would know that apples don’t have it.

“Gluten is bad for everyone” is one of many current … is there a word for the opposite of a panacea? It’s one of nutrition pseudoscience’s roots-of-all-evil. Others include: Milk, refined sugar, refined food, cooked food and food (see breatharianism). Gluten is does at least have some drawbacks for some people, but evidence for it being bad for everyone is scarce to non-existent.

Gluten is only a issue for a small minority, and it has nothing at all to do with “belly fat”.

There are two differences in body fat that I am aware of.

Fat stored around the middle is harder on the organs, and therefore is more likely to lead to heart disease. This is, I think, a major reason why men were for a long time more likely to die of heart disease than women, because (as dolphinboy noted) men tend to add fat around their middles more than women do.

The other difference is between subcutaneous fat and (I can’t remember the other term so I’m just going to call it) body fat. Subcutaneous fat is sort of attached immediately under the skin, and has no bad health effects, although it might not look good. Body fat is what bulks one up and is what one loses and gains most when one’s weight changes.

So belly fat is more risky to your health than other kinds of body fat, of which it is a subset. It’s pretty hard to target fat loss on your body, so in order to reduce belly fat you need to just reduce fat overall.

Which is why I said they’re two separate questions (I could have started two threads…)

Here’s a primer on fat. The article describes:

abdominal (visceral) fat (this is the “belly fat” you mentioned)
epicardial fat
subcutaneous fat
ectopic fat
brown fat

Subcutaneous fat, apparently, is relatively harmless. The same is not true for visceral and epicardial fat, which are linked to some serious diseases.

An excess of visceral fat is called abdominal/central obesity. It’s not clear what causes an excess accumulation of visceral fat as opposed to other types of fat.

Maybe not:

Certainly, one can lose weight on that diet. That doesn’t make ingestion of gluten a health issue (for most) anymore than ingestion of bacon.

*If you can stick to *a gluten free diet, and not just switch everything to a “gluten-free” version- then most could lose significant weight. Note those first few words.

How many mice and how large were the differences between the gluten eating and gluten free group? Also, what was the gluten replaced with? The abstract is a bit short on all information on the strength and relevance of the results.

So in other words…did the mice lose weight because they went gluten-free, or because they went low-carb? Yeah, if I replaced all the bread I eat with green vegetables I’m sure I’d lose weight too.

Both diets were high sugar/high fat and the mice were permitted to consume as much as they liked (more or less the Standard American Diet).

I don’t have full access to the study but several of the charts are posted here:

Gluten - lets just say that a single study that compared high fat with lotso gluten vs high fat with no gluten is not quite enough to make a case, as interesting as it may be. For right now its applicability to human health is at best highly speculative and the fad of gluten free seems to be without much basis. I’ll eat my seiten without worry.

Machine Elf and Roderick did fine jobs explaining that fat in different locations is associated with different risk. Of note exercise helps the body preferentially lose the most dangerous fat (visceral or central belly fat).

Here are a few more anti-gluten studies:

Gluten free does not equal low carb. I eat gluten free and I had a bagel for breakfast this morning. Lots of carb-y goodness.

Lots of good information on this topic at I went wheat/gluten-free in 2012, and doing so has had a very good effect on my health.

And sorry but a pretty unimpressive bunch of studies they are.

So was wheat always a nutritional dead end? Or is it only recently with the advent of genetically modified grains?

Thirdly, it could be much ado about nothing.(my guess)

I have an aunt with severe celiac disease. (This happened quite suddenly following a bout of gastroenteritis.) She has lost a lot of weight mainly because she simply finds the gluten-free starches less appetizing and eats less of them. She told me she would give a lot for a real bagel.