The Start of the year is a time when people do strange things with their diets! So, we thought we would put together an evidence based mini-series on the most common nutritional myths, so you can feel empowered and not be pressured into choosing to do something because everyone else is doing it. We’re starting off this series with a big one: gluten!
So, what is the deal with gluten? Is it bad for you, do you need to avoid it? If you’re a celiac, then yes, but read on. If you’re not a celiac…then still read on!
The ‘gluten is bad for you’ myth comes from people proclaiming that the quality of wheat today is not as good as it used to be. It’s probably compounded by anecdotes from people who cut out gluten, but also make a conscious decision to improve other areas of their diet, perhaps not eat as much junk food, remove a few FODMAPs (sugars that cause bloating), and inadvertently find themselves in a calorie deficit (calorie deficit = weight loss) – and attribute any improvement to only removing gluten.
But, what does the science say?
“In 24 adults with hyperlipidemia, increased consumption of wheat gluten for 2 weeks on a weight maintenance diet reduced serum triglycerides by 13%” – Jenkins et al. (1999)
“A short term gluten free diet had no overall effect on performance, GI symptoms, well-being, and a select indicator of intestinal injury or inflammatory markers in non – celiac endurance athletes” – Lis et al. (2015)
“Self-reported non celiac gluten sensitive patients followed a low FODMAP diet for 2 weeks, then received a high gluten (16g gluten per day), low gluten (2g gluten per day) or a control diet for 1 week. The low FODMAP diet improved IBS symptoms, the gluten diets did not have an effect” – Biesiekierski et al. (2013)
But, what about studies on actual celiac patients? Does removing gluten lead to weight loss? Actually, the opposite is seen:
“Gluten free diet treatment significantly increased body fat stores” – Capristo et al. (2000)
“Of patients compliant with a gluten free diet, 81% had gained weight after 2 years” – Dickey & Kearney (2006)
So, is gluten the bad guy? I would still continue to avoid gluten if you are a confirmed celiac. You may just need to have a greater eye on your total calorie consumption to avoid any weight gain.
If you are a non – celiac, but think that gluten does ‘affect’ you – then it is more likely that you are mis-attributing the symptoms of wheat sensitivity to an intolerance to some FODMAPs, and you should maybe try a low FODMAP diet to alleviate any IBS symptoms. And if you’ve lost weight from cutting out gluten, it’s because you inadvertently put yourself into a calorie deficit.
If you've recently cut out gluten, you may not have needed to!