A recent study claims that people who are gluten-sensitive may not actually be as sensitive as they think they are. Instead, something else may be the culprit, and it’s not gluten.
The study, led by researchers from the University of Oslo in Norway and Monash University in Australia, was published in the journal Gastroenterology.
About 13 percent of people claim to be gluten-sensitive, with symptoms including a bloated feeling after eating foods like bread and pasta. Just 1 percent of people, however, have a recognized disease called coeliac disease, which can cause a severe autoimmune reaction that includes symptoms such as diarrhea and indigestion.
“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 from Monash University told New Scientist. “Now it seems like that initial assumption was wrong.”
Gluten sensitivity remains highly controversial. Some research has shown that non-ceoliacs show no difference in symptoms between food that does or doesn’t contain gluten. Nonetheless, it has since spawned a number of food lines that are gluten free.
This study backs up some of that earlier research, pointing the finger at a sugar chain called fructans rather than gluten. Both are found in wheat, barley, rye, and more.
In the research, 59 non-celiacs who ate a gluten-free diet were asked to eat special cereal bars. One type contained gluten, another fructans, and the third had neither. The participants were split into three groups, with each person eating one bar a day for a week, before having a week’s break and then eating the next bar. They didn’t know which bar was which.
The results showed that the fructans bar triggered bloating 15 percent more than the control bar, and gastrointestinal symptoms 13 percent more. However, the gluten bar was found to be no different from the control bar.
This suggests that gluten sensitivity may not be correct and that fructans may instead be the cause. This could open up foods that are low in fructans but high in gluten, like soy sauce, while also lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes for people that were on a gluten-free diet.