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gluten-scaled

Intake of gluten-containing foods can be very harmful to people with celiac disease, but it causes no gastrointestinal symptoms in people without a related disorder, a double-blind, randomized controlled trial (DRCT) published in the September issue of Gastroenterology by a group of British researchers confirms.

The research is particularly relevant because of its methodological rigor and because it addresses a topic that, for many people, is still a source of great confusion. In fact, perhaps influenced by the dietary choices of some celebrities, 44% of Americans buy gluten-free foods for reasons other than celiac disease, and 65% believe that avoiding this substance is synonymous with healthier eating.

The British study debunking this belief looked at 28 participants, 21 of them women, with an average age of 38, all of whom underwent serologic testing to rule out celiac disease.

The authors divided them into two groups, both of which were educated by a dietitian and put on a gluten-free diet for two weeks, at the end of which any gastrointestinal symptoms, abdominal pain, reflux, episodes of indigestion, diarrhea and constipation were assessed; a visual analog scale was also used to measure “overall fatigue.”

Next, the researchers randomly assigned participants to add flour sachets with or without gluten to their food, twice a day for two more weeks. The daily dosage, for the intervention group, was 14 gluten proteins.

Comparison between the two groups showed no significant differences in symptoms with the exception of episodes of diarrhea, which were reduced among participants who had consumed gluten, a fact the latter was considered abnormal by the authors themselves.

The results of the study thus suggest that gluten does not cause gastrointestinal symptoms in most people, but the British researchers remind that there are many people with undiagnosed celiac disease and recommend that if they have problems, they should be tested for the disease.

Source: Croall ID, Aziz I, et al. Gluten Does Not Induce Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Healthy Volunteers: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo Trial. Gastroenterology. 2019 Sep;157(3):881-883.

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