As long as you’re not suffering from Celiac, gluten is probably fine for you.
“Gluten” is an umbrella term for a mixture of various kinds of protein found in some grains. We’ve written extensively about gluten and gluten intolerance before, because there is a lot of general interest in gluten.
Although it’s harmless for most of us, gluten can cause a lot of headaches for some people — or more specifically, bellyaches. However, the term “gluten intolerance” seems to be used improperly in many instances, and the market is taking advantage of this.
‘“Lifestylers,” “free from,” or “people who avoid gluten” are individuals who avoid gluten as a lifestyle choice. American market research found that 44% of people buy gluten-free food for reasons other than gluten sensitivity and that 65% believe that a gluten-free diet is generally healthier. This trend has driven the worldwide gluten-free industry from values of $1.7 billion in 2011 to $3.5 billion in 2016, and it is forecast to reach $4.7 billion in 2020,’ the study reads
This has also fueled a counter-movement that this is a “fad” diet — which, while true for some people, is unfortunate for people actually suffering from Celiac Disease. Sufferers often report that they are derided by restaurants and even some nonspecialist clinicians.
The study wanted to assess whether there is some downside to consuming gluten in healthy people. For this reason, a team led by Iain David Croall at Sheffield University undertook the first double-blind randomized controlled trial of gluten (via gluten-containing flour) in healthy controls. A double-blind trial is a trial where neither the researchers nor the patients know what they are getting, which eliminates potential biases.
The trial measured how daily ingestion of the flour (containing 14 g of gluten) affected a range of symptoms over 2 weeks. There were no significant differences between the gluten group and placebo group.
The results suggest that for people not suffering from any form of gluten sensitivity, a gluten-free diet does not offer any benefits — and might actually be ower quality, as it avoids some common and balanced foods.
“Our results support the view that gluten does not appear to cause symptoms in individuals who do not have a physiological susceptibility to it (ie, most of the population). As the gluten-free is not only thought to be no healthier than a “normal” diet, but has been suggested as overall suboptimal, there is possibly clinical justification in actively discouraging people from starting it if they have no diagnosable sensitivity,” the researchers conclude.
However, things might not be so clear-cut. Previous research suggests that not gluten itself is causing the issues. Instead, a carbohydrate named fructan might be to blame for triggering gluten sensitivity.
The study was published in Gastroenterology.