Food and Behaviour Research

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10 July 2014 - New Scientist - Time for some grains of truth about wheat and gluten

The current epidemic of gluten intolerance says more about our psychology than our physiology

FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:

This article appeared in print under the headline "A grain of truth"


See also: 

30 July 2014 - The Independent - How gluten-free became more than just a fad

For recent research on non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, please see:

Genuis et al, 2014 - Gluten sensitivity presenting as a neuropsychiatric disorder.

Aziz et al, 2014 - Coeliac disease: noncoeliac gluten sensitivity--food for thought.

Is it plausible that something that has been a staple food for centuries should suddenly turn out to be so bad for so many?

For a handful of people the answer is yes, either because they are allergic to wheat or because they have an autoimmune disorder called coeliac disease. But for the rest of us the evidence is weak. There are no end of anecdotes of the "it worked for me" variety. You may benefit from reducing your wheat intake, but probably not because your digestion is troubled by gluten. Being careful what you eat – and cutting back on white bread, cake and beer – will pay dividends whatever your diet.

But the endorsements of a gluten-free diet are obscuring some important considerations. People with coeliac disease are warned of the risk that their diet could be deficient in key nutrients. Gluten-free foods are often short on fibre and high on sugar. And cutting out gluten totally is complicated, inconvenient and often expensive. All told, gluten-free diets look like yet another passing fad. Once the craze fades, something else will take its place, because the popularity of such diets has more to do with our psychology than our physiology.