New research, published in the journal Nature Communications, finds that a diet low in gluten may also benefit the health of people who are not allergic to it. However, the benefits are not down to the mere absence of gluten.
In autoimmune conditions, such as celiac disease, the body’s immune system reacts to gluten by targeting the small intestine. Those with gluten intolerance, or gluten sensitivity, report that the protein triggers gastrointestinal symptoms, even in the absence of celiac disease.
However, an increasing number of people are adopting a gluten-free diet, even if they do not have celiac disease or gluten allergy. But some recent studies have suggested that doing so may have adverse health consequences, such as raising the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Researchers, led by Professor Oluf Pedersen, at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, set out to investigate whether a diet low in gluten is beneficial for people who are not allergic to it. A randomized trial of 60 healthy Danish adults aged between 22 and 65 years old who did not have celiac disease, diabetes, or any other disorders adhered to an 8-week-long low-gluten diet and high-gluten diet respectively, with a 6-week washout period in between.
The low-gluten diet consisted of 2 grams of gluten per day, while the high gluten diet was comprised of 18 grams of gluten daily. The washout period involved a regular diet with 12 grams of gluten daily. The two diets were similar regarding the number of calories and the quality of the nutrients they contained. However, the composition of fiber differed as the low-gluten diet also contained less fiber from wheat, rye, and barely, as these are primary sources of gluten.
The researchers examined the changes in intestinal fermentation by performing the metabolic profiling of urine samples and monitoring diet-related changes in the participants’ gut microbiome. Overall, the study found that a low-gluten diet changed the participants’ gut microbiome, reduced their gastrointestinal discomfort, and resulted in a small weight loss. The researchers think the digestive changes, such as reduced bloating, are caused by the alterations in gut bacteria and function.
“We think that our study is a wake-up call to the food industry. Gluten-free may not necessarily be the healthy choice many people think it is. Most gluten-free food items available on the market today are massively deprived of dietary fibers and natural nutritional ingredients,” cautions the professor.
We all react to gluten, some obviously much worse than others. This is primarily from overexposure. The gluten content in wheat, for example, has increased over 400% during my lifetime.
As the research indicates, the real issue is obtaining healthy fiber in the diet. So as you decrease the grains, just increase the fruits and vegetables. They are much more nutrient dense than all natural grains anyway.
A low gluten diet is a great alternative for those that do not have celiac or a gluten allergy. If you do go low gluten remember than all plants contain fiber. Make sure you have a good mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber when reducing the grains in your diet.
November 20, 2018 NIH