Study debunks 'myth' that lifestylers benefit from going gluten free

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Will this be the demise of the gluten-free trajectory? Pic: GettyImages/Avector
Will this be the demise of the gluten-free trajectory? Pic: GettyImages/Avector

Related tags Gluten-free

A UK study has discredited the perception that following a gluten-free approach could help improve the health of people who do not suffer from celiac disease.

Researchers have found that going gluten free offers zero health benefits to ‘lifestylers,’​ or healthy people who avoid gluten as a choice.

The study – published in Gastroenterology – accedes the gluten-free diet (GFD) is the best treatment for clinical gluten sensitivity (celiac disease and non-celiac sensitivity) but found the consumption of gluten does not generate symptoms in the general population.

Perpetuated by celebs

They claimed celebrity endorsement of the GFD has cultivated an image of gluten as ‘unhealthy.’

According to Mintel, 65% of people who buy gluten-free food for reasons other than sensitivity believe it to be generally healthier. This has propelled the sector from $1.7bn in 2011 to over $3.5bn in 2016. It is forecast to reach $4.7bn in 2020.

Researchers from the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, the University of Sheffield and the University of Reading said their study is the first to use a double-randomized controlled trial to analyze the health benefits of the GFD.

Thirty healthy adult volunteers were given two flour sachets to add to their diet twice daily for two weeks, while otherwise continuing their GFD.

The flours – provided by the Dutch Organic International Trade – contained either organic gluten or a gluten-free blend (rice, potato, tapioca, maize or and buckwheat flour).

Participants then completed a Gastrointestinal Symptom Rating to measure abdominal pain, reflux, indigestion, diarrhea and constipation, while a visual scale measured ‘global fatigue.’

The researchers concluded gluten does not cause symptoms in individuals who do not have a physiological susceptibility to it – that is, most of the population, as only 1% of Brits suffer from celiac disease.

The results are certainly having an affect on the gluten-free trend.​ Katya Witham, global food & drink anaylst at Mintel, told this site that it is on the decline and there is a clear shift towards other diets like paleo and even FODMAP.


Gluten Does Not Induce Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Healthy Volunteers: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo Trial

Authors: Iain David Croall, Imran Aziz, Nick Trott, et al

Gastroenterology, 2019, ISSN: 1528-0012, Vol: 157, Issue: 3, Page: 881-883


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