Associated Conditions, Symptoms

Can Gluten Cause Obesity?

5 Comments 12 May 2009

Can Gluten Cause Obesity?

The following is an excerpt from my book The Gluten Effect by Drs Vikki and Richard Petersen:

“Contrary to classic medical opinion, gluten intolerance is not associated with weight loss the majority of the time.  In fact, it is simply the opposite.  Gluten-sensitive patients are overweight approximately forty percent of the time due to various direct and indirect factors. Because of the misperception that most individuals suffer weight loss when they have gluten sensitivity, a greater number of people go undiagnosed.  This perception needs to change.”

If anything stands in the way of a person getting properly diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, it’s weight.  Why?  Because we are trained that celiac disease, one manifestation of gluten sensitivity, is associated with dramatic weight loss.

The medical profession tends to “pidgeon-hole” certain diseases.  We are taught that celiac is associated with weight loss, fatigue and diarrhea.  Therefore if a patient comes in with obesity, celiac is mentally crossed off the list of possible problems to rule out.

This is one of the many reasons we wrote our book.  Not only are 95% of those suffering with celiac disease never diagnosed but the percentage of those with gluten sensitivity who continue to suffer undiagnosed is about 99.8%.  This must change as too many people are suffering needlessly.

And more from our book: “According to the Centers for Disease Control, 66% of all adults over the age of 20 are overweight or obese.  32% are overtly obese.  For children, 18% are categorized as overweight.”

These numbers are staggering!  And what’s even worse is that these people are never considered to be gluten sensitive; the very problem that could be at the root cause of their obesity.

In order for your metabolic rate to be normal and burn the calories you take in, adequate nutrition needs to come into the body and be absorbed by your cells.  In our country, where food is very available, consumption isn’t usually the problem.  Absorption however can often be. Here’s how:

  • Remember that gluten sensitivity causes malabsorption due to the damage it creates in the small intestine.
  • If the food goes into your mouth but never adequately arrives at your cells; your cells are essentially starving.
  • When the cells are inadequately fed they tell the body to lower its metabolic rate.
  • This results in a person who while not overeating continues to gain weight. Their body just doesn’t efficiently burn what it consumes but instead “holds on” to it.

The stress of the cells being “starved” causes this decreased metabolic rate and is one of the reasons those suffering from gluten sensitivity suffer from obesity.

The good news is that the situation is resolvable. Properly identifying gluten sensitivity and removing gluten from the diet allows the small intestine to heal.  Once healed, nutrients again begin to be absorbed properly and the cells, now receiving adequate nutrition, increase the metabolic rate and weight loss ensues.

It doesn’t happen overnight – but it does happen.

- who has written 7 posts on Gluten Free Fox.

Dr. Petersen, a Chiropractor and Certified Clinical Nutritionist, is Clinic Director for HealthNOW Medical Center located in Sunnyvale, CA. Dr. Petersen has been in private practice for over 20 years. HealthNOW consists of a team of doctors specializing in internal medicine, clinical nutrition, chiropractic and physical therapy. HealthNOW designs treatment programs tailored to the individual with the goal of achieving optimal health by identifying the root cause of a patient’s health condition. Dr Petersen is co-author of the book: The Gluten Effect – How “Innocent” Wheat is Ruining Your Health. As a national lecturer, Dr. Petersen appears regularly as a speaker in Silicon Valley and is also a national, as well as international, radio personality. To learn more visit or

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5 Comments so far

  1. nora says:

    I would have a question: I am interested in gluten free diet , due to post menopausal weight gain. How do you see the connection of the gluten and weight gain in post menopausal women ?

    Thanks n


  2. Hello Nora,

    There can be a connection with gluten and post-menopausal weight gain. Gluten intolerance puts stress on the adrenal glands, in addition to many other systems of the body. The adrenal glands not only dictate one’s metabolic rate, but they also control hormonal balance.
    Therefore, in the presence of gluten intolerance and menopause, the adrenal glands can be highly stressed with weight gain being a possible result.
    Please feel free to contact me regarding any more questions and I’d be happy to offer you a complimentary consultation if you are ready to take steps to improve your health.

    To your good health,
    Dr Vikki Petersen
    Author of “The Gluten Effect”

  3. Donna says:

    I am 60 years old and have suffered with obesity all my life. Now at this age fatigue, depression, swelling, well the usual list of symptoms have set in. I have been diligently searching for what I am doing wrong for the past 2 years. I finally decided to stop consuming gluten about 5 days ago. What a dramatic difference. I have dropped 12 pounds(yes, 12 pounds in 5 days), my ankles are not swelling, my leg pain is almost non- existent and I just feel better than I have in a long time. My experience has been that no doctor could see past my weight issue and the usual calories in/calories out syndrome. So I researched & figured this out for myself. I can tell you it is the best gift I have ever given myself. I will never eat gluten anything again. The weight just drops by itself. I actually feel full when I eat, something I don’t ever remember experiencing before. If you have been struggling with obesity, especially if you have been struggling for most of your life, I highly recommend you give this a try. Obviously what you are doing is not working so why not! I actually never took any medications for any symptom because like I said I could never find a doctor.
    Feeling great and medicine free!

  4. Jesse says:

    I’m a 5ft 2″ woman and went from 100 to 170 lbs in one year without over eating at the age of 28. I was an athlete and Pilates teacher. I was devastated and in so much pain. I found out I have celiacs disease when my sister got diagnosed July 2011. I’ve been gluten free since then and I’m 140 lbs now. I feel so much better and I know I have more recovery to look forward to. I’ve suffered so much and as I get better everyday I see what horrible head trip it’s been. I literally thought I just woke up fat and lazy and sad. I had no idea I was accidentally poisoning myself everyday. I am so grateful that GF bloggers educate me everyday where my dr’s all totally failed me.

  5. sstacey says:

    I finished reading your book two days ago and today my daughter and I went glute.n-free! We discovered a milk allergy in her a few years ago but often after eating she complains of intense pain directly behind her navel. It lasts anywhere from one to five minutes. Could this cramp for lack of a better word be caused by the gluten affecting her small intestine? At the end of the day her belly is extremely distended and I’m proud to report that it remained flat while avoiding the gluten. Thank you for your work. I am going to ask the allergist for celiac and wheat allergy testing since ped refused because my daughter is at her weight limit. Thank you!

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