Gluten-free diet craze

      AP Photo

      Kelly Courson has been gluten-free since 1996. She says that stripping gluten from her diet solved all of her gastro-intestinal problems.

      "In two weeks it was like a miracle cure," explained Courson.

      Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It’s used in everything from soups and sauces to breads and pastas, cakes and cookies – mostly processed foods.

      When Courson was first diagnosed, there weren’t many gluten-free products on the market.

      "You had to drive a long ways to get it,” explained Courson. “Like it wasn't at your local grocery store."

      Today, gluten-free products are everywhere. Cookies, popcorn, chips, bagels and cupcakes are available at most markets. Even some restaurants, like Lilit Café in Bethesda, Maryland are offering gluten-free menus.

      And Hollywood A-listers like Gwenyth Paltrow, Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian are boasting about losing weight with a gluten-free diet. But for everyone following this latest trend, watch out.

      "In actuality there's a lot of processed foods, sweets, that are gluten-free that actually have a high amount of fat and sugar," explained Carol Casco, a Clinical Dietician at Washington Hospital Center.

      ABC7 did some comparison shopping:

      Regular Breyers Chocolate Ice Cream
      • 140 calories
      • 7 grams of fat
      • 17 carbs a serving

      Gluten-free Breyers Chocolate Ice Cream
      • 180 calories
      • 7 grams of fat
      • 27 carbs a serving

      When it comes to waffles, the gluten-free kind has 30 more calories and nine extra carbs. In cookies, gluten-free means more calories, more fat and more carbs.

      The bottom line: doctors say it really only helps to go gluten-free if you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

      The gluten-free craze has also become a marketer’s dream. Some have even started to label their products as gluten-free, even though they never contained gluten in the first place.

      To learn more about the gluten-free industry and celiac disease , click here for the ABC7 Guide to Gluten.