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Can Miley Cyrus' gluten-free diet help you lose weight?

April 10, 2012 at 2:20 PM ET

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Responding to rumors of an eating disorder after her recent weight loss, Miley Cyrus took to Twitter to defend herself, saying it was her gluten-free diet that's behind her thinner frame. Here, she poses backstage during Muhammad Ali's Celebrity Fight Night XIII on March 24 in Phoenix.

Rumors of a possible eating disorder because of her recent, sudden weight loss made Miley Cyrus to take to Twitter. The real reason she says she's looking so thin? A gluten-free diet.

Although Cyrus didn’t say she specifically cut gluten in an attempt to lose weight, she did tweet the following to her millions of followers:

 

Cyrus is not the only one who's recently hopped on the gluten-free train. In recent years, avoiding gluten -- the common term used to describe the special proteins found in grains including wheat, rye and barley -- has become in vogue. Food manufacturers are lining shelves with gluten-free products galore, thanks in part to best selling books like "The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide" by "The View" co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck. The market research firm Packaged Facts projects the market for gluten-free foods and beverages will grow to more than 5 billion dollars in 2015 -- up from an estimated 2.6 billion in 2010.

But is going gluten-free a healthful way to lose weight?

"There’s absolutely no evidence that a gluten-free diet promotes weight loss," Karen Ansel, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "However, there is data that indicates that following a gluten-free diet can result in a diet that's low in key nutrients -- especially iron, zinc and B vitamins such as folate and niacin.”

In fact, eating too many processed gluten free foods can make you put on a few pounds. Rachel Begun, a registered dietitian living with celiac disease and food industry consultant, says, “People who go gluten-free may gain weight if they rely mostly on highly-processed gluten free foods, many of which tend to be higher in fat, calories and sugar than their gluten-containing counterparts." Ansel agrees, and adds, “Gluten-free foods also tend to lack fiber that fills us up and can help us manage our weight.”

Begun recommends a gluten-free diet only for those who have been diagnosed by a physician to have celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity or another gluten-related disorder. She also recommends that they include plenty of fresh, wholesome, nutrient-dense foods including gluten-free whole grains, including quinoa, brown and wild rice, amaranth and sorghum, and to seek out fortified gluten-free products.

For the rest of us, a healthful diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy and lean protein foods, limited added sugars and solid fats, and regular, consistent, enjoyable exercise seems to be the ticket -- albeit not the trendiest one -- to a healthier heart and a more toned, slim physique.

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More by Elisa Zied:

Sweet and toxic: Is sugar really 'poison'? 

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Elisa Zied is a New York registered dietitian and contributor to msnbc.com. To follow, pin, like, or learn more about Elisa, visit www.elisazied.com

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