Gluten-Free Diets May Not Be a Healthy Choice, Scientists Tell The Reason Why

A Chinese dish.
A Chinese dish. (photo: Pixabay)
By M. GraceNovember 18th, 2018

People suffering in allergies have to keep a strict gluten-free diet. But nowadays, even non-allergic people are now opting for a low-gluten diet. This diet trend has sparked a debate on whether it is recommended for people without allergies.

According to a report posted on November 17, researchers from the University of Copenhagen looked into that concern and posted the study in the journal of Nature Communications.

In the study conducted, the scientists show that a low-gluten but fiber-rich diet changes the gut bacteria and decreases bloating and is linked to modest weight loss.

The researchers took a random, controlled, cross-over trial with 60 middle-aged Danish adults participating in the study. They compared the participants' diet for two weeks and have them tried the low-gluten diet (2 g gluten per day) and a high-gluten diet (18 g gluten per day), separated by a washout period of at least six weeks with habitual diet for 12 g of gluten per day. The two diets were balanced in calories and nutrients including the dietary fibers.

"We demonstrate that, in comparison with a high-gluten diet, a low-gluten, fiber-rich diet induces changes in the structure and function of the complex intestinal ecosystem of bacteria, reduces hydrogen exhalation, and leads to improvements in self-reported bloating. Moreover, we observed a modest weight loss, likely due to increased body combustion triggered by the altered gut bacterial functions," explained the leading principal investigator of the trial, Professor Oluf Pedersen.

According to the researchers, the effects of the low-gluten diet in healthy people is not because of the reduced intake of gluten but rather because of a change in dietary fiber composition.

"More long-term studies are definitely needed before any public health advice can be given to the general population. Especially, because we find dietary fibers - not the absence of gluten alone - to be the primary cause of the changes in intestinal discomfort and body weight. By now we think that our study is a wake-up call to the food industry. Gluten-free may not necessarily be the healthy choice many people think it is," said Pedersen.

"Most gluten-free food items available on the market today are massively deprived of dietary fibers and natural nutritional ingredients. Therefore, there is an obvious need for availability of fiber-enriched, nutritionally high-quality gluten-free food items which are fresh or minimally processed to consumers who prefer a low-gluten diet. Such initiatives may turn out to be key for alleviating gastrointestinal discomfort and in addition to helping to facilitate weight control in the general population via modification of the gut microbiota", he concluded.

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