This day in age everyone knows gluten free people and many people go gluten free without even knowing what gluten is. In all honesty, the only thing I know about gluten is that it is in bread-y things and everything without it tastes weird. This blog gives me the opportunity to research the science of celiac disease and to see if everyone would benefit from going gluten free. Because gluten-free diets benefit so many people, I am guessing that it would be healthier for everyone to go gluten free.
Now, if you are like me, then you might be thinking to yourself, what the heck even is gluten? According to this Celiac Disease Foundation article, gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale (a grain that is a cross between wheat and rye). Usually gluten is put in things to help it keep its structure and shape (acting as a glue).
A list of important foods/drinks with gluten can be found here.
If you looked at the list, you may have noticed some of a college students favorite foods are on that list (french fries, chocolate milk, BACON, beer, vodka). Many college students could have celiac disease and not even realize it (i.e. the possible stomachache from what is thought to be a hangover, could potentially be something else)
According to the Current Opinion in Gastroenterology Journal article, “Celiac disease is an immune-mediated enteropathy triggered by the ingestion of gluten in genetically susceptible individuals” (Catassi). In small words: gluten=bad. But what happens when people with celiac disease eat gluten? An article at Celiac Central states, when people with celiac disease eat gluten their immune system responds by damaging villi in the small intestine, which are responsible for absorbing the nutrients into the bloodstream. When these villi become damaged they can no longer preform this task leading to malnourishment. Not being treated for celiac disease or continuing to consume gluten can lead to harmful diseases like autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, and cancer.
So if gluten has the potential to do major harm to the human body, should the general public adapt a gluten free diet (GFD)?
I wanted to research this topic because of an article I found in the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, they observed a study where ten healthy subjects went gluten free for a month and their body showed a significant reduction in a number of beneficial bacteria. Obviously this study is not entirely realistic. First, it’s way too small; ten people can in no way completely encompass all the healthy people in the world. Second, a month is a very small time span; for an effective study the subjects would need to be observed over a longer period of time. However, this is one of the only studies I could found that was done on the effects of a GFD on healthy people. There needs to be a significant jump in the research being done in order to fully answer my question.
In his study, Peter Gibson, a professor of gastroenterology at Monash University and the director of the G.I unit at the Alfred Hospital, in Melbourne, recruited thirty- four people with irritable-bowel syndrome (IBS), who had mentioned that not eating gluten made them feel better. They conducted a double-blind study where half were given muffins with gluten and half without. The conclusion was that most who ate the gluten responded with the return of pain. Again, this is still a small study and it only proves that people with IBS could benefit from eating gluten free, not all healthy people.
I predict that many studies are in the process of being conducted because of the popularity of a GFD. Other research that I have found that rejects a GFD for healthy people are as follows. In Michelle Pietzak MD’s article, published in the Journal of Parenteral & Enteral Nutrition, she explains many different diseases and the way they react to a gluten free diet. Many of the diseases she studied benefit from a GFD, but she comes to the conclusion that the general public should not all go gluten free. She does note the apparent inability for human’s to digest gluten well, but she believes that there is no reason for the general population to have a gluten-free lifestyle if they don’t currently have the diseases she looked into. Although, she does state that more research needs to be done on the topic.
Dr. Sheila Crowe, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Gastroenterological Association and a professor in the division of gastroenterology at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, stated here, that although “there’s a modern concern that gluten is somehow not good for us…there is little evidence proving going gluten-free means good health.” Katherine Talllmadge, R.D stated in her article, that adapting a GFD without needing to can be harmful because many gluten-free foods are low in important vitamins and minerals like fiber, iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and zinc. Many people also believe that obtaining a GFD directly correlates with weight loss, but according to that article there is no research where people without a gluten allergy who go gluten-free lose weight.
For this being such a big question in today’s society, most of the evidence for this topic is against the general public going gluten free. However, almost every researcher or doctor recognizes the fact that there needs to be more studies and research done on the topic in order to come to a definite conclusion. Based on my research, I found that usually the only people that benefit from a GFD are those that have an allergy to gluten or some other disease that has been proven to benefit from the diet change. So, that’s good news for those of us who like to keep our bread, bacon, french-fries and chocolate milk filled diets!
Sources (that don’t work as hyperlinks because they are from the library):
Catassi, Carloa, and Alessio Fasano. “Current Opinion in Gastroenterology.” Current Opinion in Gastroenterology 24.6 (2008): 687-91. Ovid. Web. Sept. 2015.