Gluten-free diets have become popular in the last few years, with almost three million Americans following a gluten-free diet. This is an interesting number, given that 82% of the population have not been diagnosed with any related health issues.
People with celiac disease or those suffering from gluten intolerance should indeed steer clear of foods containing gluten. But now, a new study demonstrates why those who are healthy and have no issues with gluten shouldn't feel the need to stay away from it.
How did the study come to this conclusion?
Conducted as a double-blind, randomized trial test - considered to be the most reliable style of tests to date - a group of 28 healthy volunteers ate gluten-containing flour over a two-week period. A double-blind, randomized trial is one where neither the volunteers nor the researchers know whether the flour, in this case, contained gluten or not.
28 volunteers were divided into two groups and were asked to follow a gluten-free diet for the 14-day trial. Each person was given an amount of flour to consume twice a day - some had flour containing gluten, others had the gluten-free version.
At the end of the trial, which was tightly controlled and carefully regulated for bias, the volunteers were checked for any abdominal pain, reflux, indigestion, diarrhea, and constipation. Their feelings of fatigue were also gauged.
The volunteers had no history of any gut issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome, and were carefully monitored over the trial.
"Gluten Does Not Induce Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Healthy Volunteers: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo Trial" https://t.co/Gi5Jg44Ybp cc @BenjaminLebwohl @DrJenGunter— Timothy Caulfield (@CaulfieldTim) August 27, 2019
For most, the #glutenfree diet is: not necessary, possibly harmful, & more expensive.
Ignore hype! pic.twitter.com/3Juml1OXwj
The results? There was no difference between healthy participants.
What this suggests is that avoiding gluten makes little to no difference to a healthy person.
People suffering from gluten issues are a different story
In stark contrast, when those with gluten intolerance were monitored during the trial, 90% of participants relapsed during the tests.
For those with celiac disease, the problems linked to consuming gluten can be tremendous. It can go so far as destroying the inner lining of the small intestine, infertility, nerve damage, and seizures.
These symptoms are rare, luckily, with less than one percent of the total U.S. population suffering in this way. That said, it can be a serious disease, not to be taken lightly.
For those without any gluten intolerances, however, and according to this new trial, it's safe to say consuming gluten poses no threat to them.
The findings of the study were published on Thursday in Gastroenterology.