Food

New Study Claims Gluten Intolerance May Not Exist Separate from Celiac Disease

Results reverse earlier study, and are bound to stir controversy.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

A surprising new study on the phenomenon of gluten intolerance has come down on the side of saying it just does not exist. In other words, if you're not celiac, you're probably not gluten intolerant.

The study, conducted by Peter Gibson, a gastroenterology professor at Monash University in Australia, reverses the results of his own previous study in 2011, which concluded non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a real condition. But Gibson was not satisfied with the results of his original study and he and a group of researchers conducted a new one with 37 people with declared gluten senstivity and irritable bowel syndrome, giving them four separate diets, according to Real Clear Science. First the participants were fed a baseline diet of meals low in fermentable, poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates, or FODMAPS, for two weeks.

Next the participants were given one of three diets for a one-week period:a high-gluten diet, which had 16 grams per day of added gluten; a low-gluten diet, which had two grams of gluten and 14 grams of whey protein per day; and a control diet, which had 16 grams of whey protein isolate per day, according to the study.

All of the participants reported feeling worse, with increasing gastrointestinal symptoms, regardless of the diet they were assigned. This phenomenon is sometimes cheekily called the "nocebo" effect.

Science has gone back and forth on the subject of gluten intolerance, with some, like food writer Michael Pollan suggesting gluten-free diets are a fad diet. "Gluten, I think it's a bit of a social contagion," he told HuffPost Live recently. "There are a lot of people that hear from their friends, 'I got off gluten and I sleep better, the sex is better, and I'm happier,' and then they try it and they feel better, too. The power of suggestion." On the other side of the equation is the controversial MIT scientist Stephanie Seneff , who claims she has discovered the cause of gluten intolerance in the herbicide glyphosate. Then there are the thousands of Americans and others who swear that their health has greatly improved after cutting gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye and barley, from their diet.

Worth noting also is that the subjects in the Gibson study did report feeling fewer stomach problems after eating the baseline  low-FODMAP diet, which is a common prescription for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.

As the Gibson study says:

"These data suggest that NCGS, as currently defined, might not be a discrete entity or that this entity might be confounded by FODMAP restriction, and that, at least in this highly selected cohort, gluten might be not be a specific trigger of functional gut symptoms once dietary FODMAPs are reduced."

The results from the study were published in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association, last year, but are only receiving wide publicity now. 

 

 

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