Scientists Say ‘Gluten Sensitivity’ May Not Be Attributed To Gluten, But Another Ingredient


Scientists have been sounding the alarm that “gluten-sensitivity” may not even exist unless you actually have coeliac disease. But, a perceived sensitivity to gluten is likely attributed to another ingredient that is commonly found in bread too.

“Gluten was originally assumed to be the culprit because of coeliac disease, and the fact that people felt better when they stopped eating wheat,” Peter Gibson of Monash University told New Scientist. “Now it seems like that initial assumption was wrong.”

Studies have been pointing towards “gluten sensitivity” not being a real thing. However,  plenty of people seem to have upset stomachs when they eat bread and may have falsely attributed their pains to gluten.  Now, a new study shows that those stomach problems may have nothing to do with gluten, as scientists suspected, but there’s another wheat component to blame.

Coeliac disease manifests as an immune response to gluten, a family of proteins found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Based on various studies, the prevalence of coeliac disease in an average population is only around 1.3 percent. Yet the percentage of people who report adverse stomach symptoms when they eat wheat is significantly higher than those with a legitimate case of coeliac. The exact prevalence of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) as it is called, is still unknown, although a recent study suggests it could be as high as 13 percent.

This has prompted scientists and doctors to look into the possible culprit since it’s unlikely to be gluten.  According to Science Alert, Gibson and his team have performed extensive research into NCGS, and discovered that short-chain carbohydrates (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols – also known as FODMAPs) – could instead be responsible.

All of these ferment in the gut, which causes bloating and other unpleasant symptoms. A study published in 2014 showed that a diet low in FODMAPs can reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel disease. Now Gibson’s team has also drawn a correlation between adverse gastrointestinal symptoms and a type of FODMAP carbohydrate called fructan.

Fructan is in a number of foods; including bananas, garlic, onions, and cereals. Scientists began the study by recruiting 59 people who don’t have diagnosed coeliac disease, but who eat a strict gluten-free diet due to a perceived gluten-sensitivity. The participants were given seven-day supplies of specially formulated muesli bars – one type contained gluten, one type contained fructan, and one type contained neither (the control placebo).

Divided into three groups, the participants would eat one type of bar for seven days straight and record any irritable bowel symptoms in a specialised questionnaire. Then they had a week’s break to allow any symptoms to dissipate, and moved on to the next type of bar.

The study was double-blind, as neither the participants nor the researchers knew which type of bar they were eating on any given week.

At the end of the trial, all 59 people had eaten all three types of muesli bar, allowing the researchers to compare the reported symptoms with the actual contents of what the participants had eaten. –Science Alert

The researchers discovered, compared to the placebo, the fructan bar triggered 15 percent more bloating and a 13 percent increase in gastrointestinal symptoms. There was no difference in scores for these symptoms between the gluten and placebo groups.

The results point to the real reason why people who go on a gluten-free diet to ease symptoms of NCGS often can’t make a full recovery. Fructans are found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley, but they also appear in other foods, including artichokes, asparagus, garlic, and onion.

This research has been published in the journal Gastroenterology.

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Contributed by Dawn Luger of The Daily Sheeple.

Dawn Luger is a staff writer and reporter for The Daily Sheeple. Wake the flock up – follow Dawn’s work at our Facebook or Twitter.