New health fads could be doing more harm than good, experts say

Doctor: If you don't have gluten allergy, you shouldn't avoid gluten

New health fads pop up every day and there’s never a shortage of people jumping on the bandwagon. But how much do we really know about how good or bad these health trends are?

You might be surprised to learn that some of these health fads can actually hurt you. 

The number of Americans who are gluten-free has tripled in the last decade. If you’re not allergic to it, Dr. Amitava Dasgupta, a toxicologist with the UT Health Science Center, Houston, said avoiding gluten could be harmful. 

“If you don’t have a gluten allergy, there is no need to go for gluten-free food,” Dasgupta said.

Low-gluten diets are linked to Type 2 diabetes and heart disease as well as deficiencies in iron, folate and fiber. 

Juicing can be dangerous too. Juices are packed with calories and sugar, with none of the fiber in whole fruit. Research shows juicing ups the risk of high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. 

“There is no scientific evidence that juice can cleanse the body from toxins,” Dasgupta said.

Doctors also worry about the rise of coconut oil, a saturated fat. 

“First of all, it’s a source of fat and calories that most people don’t need. It just makes you fat," said Dr. Jim Shoemaker, an internal medicine specialist and professor emeritus with St. Louis University.

It also causes a toxic reaction in the liver. Shoemaker said your body is actually programmed to defend against it.  

“I think taking extra coconut oil is not a good idea,” Shoemaker said.

He doesn’t think vitamins and supplements are a good idea either. 

“I think people really might be exposing themselves to dangers by taking excess vitamins," Shoemaker said.

Excess vitamins make proteins less soluble in cellular fluid, leading to protein aggregation. 

“When the proteins aggregate or stick to each other or ‘misfold,' that causes diseases like Alzheimer’s and, interestingly, also diseases like Type 2 diabetes,” Shoemaker said.

Unless you’re deficient in a vitamin and your doctor prescribes it to you, "it’s probably not wise to take these extra supplements and vitamins,” Shoemaker said.

Medical experts agreed that most people get plenty of vitamins and minerals from their diet and do not need to take supplements at all unless they have a true vitamin deficiency.