Is a Gluten Free Diet Is Bad For Those Without Celiac Disease?
A study in the American Gastroenterology Association published November 6th, 2019 confirms similar research that shows a gluten free diet for the average person does not improve health and is likely to cause health issues. The research paper is titled Gluten Does Not Induce Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Health Volunteers
Unfortunately, the food industry is just like any other competitive market place and companies will use whatever angle they can to differentiate their product. That includes spurious claims about various ingredients, including gluten.
“…Although the gluten-free diet (GFD) is the best treatment for clinical gluten sensitivity (GS) (eg, celiac disease [CD], non-celiac gluten sensitivity [NCGS]), scientific opinion supports that gluten is safe for the general population. However, celebrity/athletic endorsement of the GFD has cultivated an image of gluten as “unhealthy.”
“Lifestylers,” “free from,” or “people who avoid gluten” are individuals who avoid gluten as a lifestyle choice. American market research, found that 44% of people buy gluten-free food for reasons other than GS, and that 65% believe that a GFD is generally healthier. This trend has driven the worldwide gluten-free industry from values of $1.7 billion in 2011 to $3.5 billion in 2016, and it is forecast to reach $4.7 billion in 2020.
The paper goes on to conclude that this is not a victimless crime. Those that publicly insist on gluten free foods actually diminish the seriousness in which those with real gluten intolerance are taken. As a result of them ‘crying wolf’ restaurants and food manufacturers take the needs of those with celiac disease far less seriously than they should:
“…The surge in gluten-free popularity has also encouraged an opposing belief that it is a “fad” diet. This is unfortunate for people with CD/NCGS, who express that they are not taken seriously in restaurants, and even face dismissive attitudes from nonspecialist clinicians. The drawing of a clear line between those who do and do not benefit from a GFD is needed to ground public and clinical perspective on these issues.
“…Gluten-free packaged foods contain twice as much fat, particularly saturated fat, more sodium and less fibre,” stated Emma Halmos of Monash University and Peter Gibson of the Alfred Hospital.
In Canada, 1% of the population has a celiac disease but 6% avoid gluten as a lifestyle choice and the numbers in other Western countries are similar. That is an issue.
“…Our results support the view that gluten does not appear to cause symptoms in individuals who do not have a physiological susceptibility to it (i.e., most of the population),” the researchers, led by Iain Croall of the University of Sheffield, write.
As the (gluten-free diet) is not only thought to be no healthier than a ‘normal’ diet, but has been suggested as overall suboptimal, there is possibly clinical justification in actively discouraging people from starting it if they have no diagnosable sensitivity.
…For many “lifestylers,” celebrity and influencer endorsements appear to provide sufficient proof that a gluten-free diet is worth adopting. Despite a mounting body of evidence, personal beliefs about this family of proteins have proven difficult to sway.
In a recent article in the National Post on this topic it was pointed out that serious research on any topic will have both detractors and conflicting results in other investigations. Comments included:
“…That’s true, there is no point going gluten free if you’re not celiac, and I’ve been there, tried it. Gained weight, felt sick. Found I was also missing the nutrients in grain, like B vitamins, magnesium, manganese, folates etc.
“…This is BS. Every time I eat gluten for several days in a row, I get some redness around my mouth. I stop eating gluten it disappears. This has happened too many times to be a coincidence. This is how gluten intolerance manifests for me. not gastrointestinal symptoms and fatigue. This so-called study is shortsighted. Intolerance will manifest is all sort of different ways.
Without more facts it is impossible to diagnose, but obviously the person in the second comment has some sort of sensitivity. The problem with the claim is that correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Perhaps the gluten containing foods this person eats also contain a food coloring or high sugar content that they are sensitive to. Alternately, perhaps this person has celiac disease and should be tested so they can know for sure.
Our societies fixation with outliers and oddities should not be pointed to as proof that scientific research is incorrect. While we can not be absolutely certain of… well, anything, we can use a scientific approach of double blind testing to understand our world and our biology. It may be trendy to go gluten free but it is more and more clear that choice is a costly mistake for tens of millions of people around the globe.