Is gluten intolerance officially a myth? Are we all just being hypochondriacs who need to get over ourselves and eat a sandwich?
Well…no, not quite.
The study that just launched a thousand headlines proclaiming the demise of gluten sensitivity is here. The researchers tested 37 patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), but without Celiac Disease. First, the patients ate a low FODMAPs diet for two weeks (including total elimination of wheat) – and almost all reported an improvement in symptoms.
Then the study began, with the participants still on the low-FODMAPs diet and total wheat elimination. The researchers also tested three experimental conditions: “high-gluten” (16 grams per day of isolated gluten); “low-gluten” (2 grams of gluten and 16 grams of whey); and the placebo group (16 grams of whey). There was no significant difference between the “high-gluten” group and the placebo group, suggesting that gluten per se was not actually the cause of the IBS symptoms.
So far, so good. But let’s put this in context:
- It measured one potential effect of gluten on one (albeit common) specific digestive disorder. The study showed that gluten elimination is not a cure for IBS, not that gluten sensitivity doesn’t exist.
- Wheat elimination still helped. Whether it’s the FODMAPs, the gluten, or something else entirely, all of the subjects did better on a wheat-free diet.
It’s good to have this research; hopefully it can help us learn more about FODMAPs, IBS, and how to help people suffering from functional bowel disorders. But it doesn’t prove that “gluten sensitivity is bunk.”
Want more? From Wheat Belly, here’s a list of all the other stuff in wheat that you may want to avoid. Here’s Chris Kresser’s take on the study (including some practical tips for determining whether you’re sensitive to gluten or something else in wheat), and here’s a different perspective from Mark’s Daily Apple exploring all the things that have to do with gluten outside the gut.
Enough with the gluten already? Check out everything else that’s been going on lately:
- This is great: a flowchart to help you decide whether you’re choosing the healthiest sweetener. Sugar is sugar, no matter where it comes from, what celebrity endorsed it, where you bought it, or how “natural” it is.
- From Scientific American, a provocative question: what if we all stopped trying to lose weight? What if we could all focus on healthy behavior (which is under our control) rather than some ideal weight (which isn’t under our control, at least not directly).
- If you’ve been avoiding a long list of gluten “cross-reactive” foods, you’ll want to read this: the “19 gluten cross-reactive foods” list is a myth.
- An editorial in the New York Times explores the idea of a bodyweight “set point,” the reasons why calorie-counting doesn’t work, and the possibility that overeating is a consequence of obesity, not a cause of it.
- Stress doesn’t just throw your mental health off its game; it can actually make you physically ill.
- Nerd Fitness presents a beginner’s guide to cholesterol: it won’t be quoted in any biochem textbooks anytime soon, but if you want a quick overview, this is a good read.