Just the mention of gluten invokes the kind of fear in some people usually reserved for things like guns, flying, not succeeding in life, and BPA.
Since a consensus of three large studies in 2010 implicated gluten as the culprit in something coined “Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity,” health nuts and conspiracists alike have jumped on the anti-gluten train. Suddenly, EVERYTHING we ate was poison. And (since us Americans simply cannot live without our pasta or bread) everything suddenly was gluten-free with a $3 surcharge.
To be fair, there is a small percentage of the population that has a negative reaction to gluten (it’s estimated to be about 11-13%) compared to those who suffer from celiac disease (about 1%).
However, 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 turns out that it’s not gluten.
The study, spearheaded by researchers from the University of Oslo in Norway and Monash University in Australia, determined that gluten may not actually be the catalyst for digestive and lethargy issues.
According to Peter Gibson, one of the scientists at Monash University, due to the fact that sufferers of gluten intolerance complained about mild health symptoms that often mimicked celiac disease (and, subsequently, the fact that these symptoms ceased as soon as they stopped their gluten intake), it only made sense to connect the dots between the two.
“Now it seems like that initial assumption was wrong,” Gibson admitted.
Gibson and his team’s new research points the finger at a sugar chain called fructans that are also found in wheat, barley, and rye.
In the study, 59 non-celiacs who ate a gluten-free diet were asked to incorporate specially-formulated cereal bars into their daily food intake. One bar contained gluten, another contained fructans, and the third had neither. The participants were split into three groups, with each person eating one bar per day for a week. They were instructed to eat said bar for a week, take a seven-day break, then eat another kind of bar for a week, stop – rinse and repeat. The participants were not told what was in these engineered food bars.
The results revealed that the bar containing just fructans induced bloating 15 percent more and gastrointestinal symptoms 13 percent more than the control bar.
However, responses to the gluten bar proved to be undetectable when compared to the control bar.
These findings strongly suggest that everything we know about gluten might be completely wrong. Fructans – not gluten – may very well be what’s causing that cramping, bloating, bowel irritation, and intestinal issues you feel upon consumption of certain starches. This is great news for people that enjoy foods that are low in fructans but high in gluten (such as soy sauce).
This may, however, be frustrating if you have a kitchen full of gluten-free wraps and bars that actually contain fructans.